How automation can help MSPs navigate the digital age

Hugo Roseiro
July 5, 2019

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are uniquely positioned to become innovative leaders in the IT space. But in order to do so, they must reinvent themselves and their offerings to help customers reach their ultimate goal; digital transformation.

This is not the first time that the evolving landscape and changing market has demanded providers to adapt.

According to Stephen Moss, President of Services at PCM, the first major shift occurred over a decade ago when transaction-oriented value-added reseller organizationsdeveloped full-blown remote support capabilities. MSPs then began to take root, but were soon challenged and forced to diversify their services.

That time has come again. Today’s technology-dependent society demands continuous growth and digital transformation, and for MSPs, that means making profound changes to business processes and billing.

A race to the bottom

The commoditization of traditional MSP activities means that MSP services are no longer unique, with providers facing more competition every day. Some typically go against two or three competitors on every deal, owing to lower industry entry barriers as well as competition from those in other markets also expanding their services due to similar strains.

According to Paul Tomlinson, Managing Director of Mirus IT, increased competition has resulted in the average price per seat across Mirus IT’s entire base being reduced by 5% over the last four years.

It seems as though MSPs are facing the same fate of many businesses in the telecoms and IT space–a race to the bottom.

Investing in new technology

However, it is not the case that both old and new MSPs are battling for the same number of contracts.

Last year’s CRN Trends Report revealed the appetite for outsourcing and managed services is actually rising. The end users questioned, currently entrust an average of 32% of their IT estate to third parties, but expect this figure to rise to 48% within five years.

So with more business to bid for, MSPs may just yet have a lifeline. But to win a deal with such competition, MSPs must stay ahead of the curve. Luckily, competitive and free markets historically fuel creativity.

Stephen Moss, President of Services at PCM, wrote: “I believe competition will drive innovation into the Managed Services Provider space for years to come. Customers, partner companies and original equipment manufacturers all benefit when the MSP community innovates and I believe the next 3 years will be some of the brightest and most active.”

Like many companies looking to digitally transform, MSPs must introduce new technologies to remove inefficiencies and costly overhead whilst adjusting their business models, vendor relationships, and workforce.

This feels somewhat counterintuitive as, due to the changing environment, MSPs are hesitant to invest in new technology.

And while every move an MSP makes should be tactical and add value, being overly cautious could be equally as counterproductive as it puts providers at great risk of losing out on investments that, down the line, could evolve into something of great value.

Exploring and implementing new technology will relieve some industry pressure, allowing MSPs to deploy better services across a wider spectrum and deliver more seamless experiences for customers far beyond their traditional reach.

Automation helps grow a bootstrapped business

While MSPs must expand their portfolio, by offering services that merge legacy services with new solutions to capture additional revenue and value, they must also be mindful of the costs associated with next-generation tech.

As a result, at a time where companies across the board are trying to reduce costs, exploring and implementing new services may feel unrealistic. But the first step in equipping your MSP for the future is to shift from reactive to proactive decision making, which instinctively means widening services.

Some growth hotspots include virtual data protection officer services, security, and Windows-as-a-service, but automation is one of the easiest ways to add value.

This can be done at low to little cost. Capitalizing on out-of-the-box services, such as the SpeakIntelligence webshop, will help bootstrapped MSPs increase revenue and appeal to targets beyond the traditional customer base.

Free to install, the SpeakIntelligence phone number ordering and telephony solution acts as an extra source of income for MSPs looking to package a traditional product in an innovative way that avoids being characterised by long sales cycles and compliance issues.The SpeakIntelligence automated widget is particularly effective because it’s a guilt-free addition to any MSP’s portfolio, where customers would otherwise determine the service mix.

And for those already offering telephony and managed voice solutions, the SpeakIntelligence widget would enable you to dramatically reduce operational expense and downsize your workforce, if not completely collapse the team looking after such services.

Hybrid service providers thrive

While installing an automation tool may not feel intuitive, having a safety net in today’s market is critical. In fact, this is one reason why many MSPs don’t fully transform their business but instead use a hybrid model.

Brian Sherman, president and founder of Tech Success Communications, said: “As long as you can make the model work for you and your clients, no one should criticize which model you go with. Of course, efficiency and profitability will obviously play a major role in long term success, which is why the services that drive recurring revenue are so attractive.”

For example, Carolinas IT’s move towards more as-a-service offerings has meant a much more stable business model, despite still unfolding.

The company’s CEO Mark Cavaliero said: “We still sell a lot of equipment, but the growth of equipment sales, especially large servers and storage, has been very slow, whereas cloud sales have continued to increase briskly. I doubt we’ll ever be fully transitioned to only selling cloud-based solutions. There are too many opportunities out there where cloud is not practical or feasible for a given client’s requirements.”

Why SpeakIntelligence is great extra revenue

In a mature market, phone number ordering and telephony solutions are tried and tested. Even with the rise of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), many enterprises and their customers still prefer to pick up the phone. And almost all businesses still require business phone numbers, but now also demand a variety of contact centre and call handling options, as well as convenient international numbers for a better customer experience.

SpeakIntelliengece’s automated telephony solution builds a smarter way for MSPs to work, earn additional income, and stay competitive. Not only can MSPs add an extra service to its portfolio, but can do so without the pain points of existing telephone providers–meaning those that install the widget are already ahead of the curve.

Utilizing pre-negotiated contracts across borders, the SpeakIntelligence widget fast-tracks otherwise lengthy, arduous, and repetitive processes to ultimately deliver better service, faster, and without exhausting resources.

Beyond benefits like expedited development and time getting the extra service to market, service providers won’t need to disturb their NOC engineers or technicians, instead just insert a few lines of code on the relevant website page and launch.

It’s about more than innovation

Evolving your propositions and exploring extra streams of revenue is critical in any MSP success in the digital economy.

Aside from offering MSPs a great extra source of revenue and greater offering to attract more customers, providers that are not at the forefront of strategic initiatives won’t be able to attract the best talent or the best customers.

What’s more, research has long suggested that “high-growth MSPs share a determined, continuous focus on finding areas of growth and competitive value”, and are much more likely to offer emerging services.

SpeakIntelligence is a direct, automated and customer-centric tool that simply sits on any website, acting as not only an extra source of income but a staple of innovation. This will show prospects that your MSP business thinks creatively and can deliver new products using new technology for better solutions. While reinforcing your value to existing customers, your MSP business will be top-of-mind when more traditional work comes in.

Download our whitepaper "How Automation Can Help Telecoms Providers Survive And Thrive"

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