The successful managed service providers (MSPs) of the future will harvest feedback from their employees and customers' employees to improve their offerings in the same way large enterprises do, according to AVG sales manager Pat McKay.
McKay was offering tips on how MSPs can boost sales and profits at a time when the market is becoming increasingly crowded and margins are coming under greater strain.
During the Q&A session of a recent CRN audio conference, McKay said the MSP model had its roots in the enterprise market and smart MSPs looking to evolve should continue to take their lead from blue-chip firms.
If MSP 1.0 is about proactive monitoring through use of tools such as RMM, MSP 2.0 demands MSPs assume the role of virtual CIO, McKay said.
"[Under 2.0], they will know their customers' strategies and will understand the goals of the business, and will be able to leverage technology to help them get there," he said.
"I guess for 3.0, in the future, I would look back at enterprise again and what they are doing with their customer bases and employees. Enterprise-class companies engage with their employees – not just to make sure they are happy and working well but because they understand that's where a lot of the expertise is and they can gather great data.
"The answer to being a perfect MSP is in the heads of your 20, 30, 40 customers and I think great MSPs will start to engage their employees or customers' employees on how to be better and win new business."
McKay agreed with the consensus that the North American MSP market is ahead of the UK, "but not in the way you think".
"I don't think North America is ahead when it comes to use of technology or the expertise available," he said. "I think that's top notch here. But my experience tells me [North American MSPs] embrace the second part of the managed services model a bit better, and that is the selling and communicating their value to a new prospect".
Drilling down on how to reach the holy grail of becoming a virtual CIO, McKay advised MSPs to start by "looking up what it means to be a CIO".
"In my opinion, the CIO becomes that bridge between the technology and the strategy of the business. So you have to ask 'OK, I know the technology, but do I know the strategy of the business'?" he said. "If you can understand what hurdles are stopping them from achieving their goals, then you can start to be a CIO and start leveraging technology to help them overcome them. If you can work with customers like that, the next MSP that knocks on the door will have some pretty big shoes to fill. VCIO is a way of protecting your margins by being great."
One MSP on the call likened selling managed services to IT organisations reticent about outsourcing all or part of their functions to a third party to "asking turkeys to vote for Christmas".
McKay said MSPs should counter this by emphasising how they can complement what the IT department does, rather than replace it, perhaps by positioning themselves as a third line or expert in a certain area.
"And from an AVG perspective, it's difficult for an internal IT department to know everything there is to know to keep their employees safe and secure," he concluded.
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