From break-fix to the boardroom: enabling MSPs to scale
The early days of many MSPs’ (managed service provider) journeys were probably dominated by solving clients’ technical problems. But as MSP businesses grow and want to scale, the day-to-day challenges change.
There are plenty of platforms out there to help companies connect to and manage end-users’ hardware and software: automated push of updates, cybersecurity-related patches and installation, and remote desktop solutions that allow on-call agents to undertake the daily technical support that formed the basis of the entrepreneur’s vision.
What’s more uncommon is technology that companies in the MSP space use to manage the nuts and bolts that are essential components of a service-led organization. Items like payroll, invoicing for varying contracts, governance management in multiple sectors, and so on. These can be addressed with point products, but few come specifically for MSPs or large helpdesk functions in larger enterprises.
For the Tech Means Business podcast, we were lucky enough to speak to a specialist in the vertical: ConnectWise. It’s a company that began as an MSP, so developing solutions to the problems encountered day to day in the industry come as second nature.
Jake Varghese, EVP and General Manager at ConnectWise, and Dan Scott, Director, IT Nation Community for EMEA, talked about the changing strategies of successful MSPs and how ConnectWise helps them transition from an on-call fixer of technical headaches to a strategic partner that helps ensure business continuity and growth.
First we talked about easy wins for MSPs, if such a thing existed! Jake told us:
“One, there’s still way too many manual processes that MSPs rely on. Ticket handling, [and] billing documentation really take time away from the service that should [MSPs] should be offering. The second thing is, let’s imagine […] there are inefficiencies and they’re still doing a bunch of stuff repetitively, that they shouldn’t be once again, taking away time. That third thing that they realize is the resource allocation is not as optimal as it needs to be.”
There is commonly a “fragmented ecosystem,” Jake said. That’s not a problem in any way unique to MSPs, of course. A silo-ed product used to, for example, run issue ticketing won’t play nice with the separate billing system. “But then they realize that, gosh, I’ve got to think about sales and marketing. […] I’ve got to think about the optimal pricing model for services, and how do I continue to remain engaged with my end customer and inform them of the great service that I’m offering?”
Dan Scott draws the parallel between how IT in every business has evolved in its role and how MSPs should move too. He calls it “a journey from the server room to the boardroom.” Reflecting the increasingly strategic importance of IT means that MSPs have changed, too, growing from early break-fix models.
“Everyone’s had to mature and you see newer businesses, more startup businesses. Now, they’re born in a world [where] cybersecurity is table stakes. They’re born in a world of clients wanting more than just to have the PCs working under the desks. They’re born into this world of: ‘How do I how do I help you as a business deliver?'”
Successful MSP’s in 2023, Dan says, have “moved into delivering business-orientated objectives,” in the same way that the IT function in a huge enterprise enables the company to reach its goals. The only difference is that an MSP is usually outsourced – the objectives remain the same.
ConnectWise helps MSP companies integrate new and existing platforms for payroll, HR, tax submission, and more. But it’s a consolidated approach with the mantra of CPR: consistent, predictable, repeatable. For MSPs’ clients, those three words describe best-in-class service. And for MSPs, it means lowered costs through automation, fewer billing errors, resources going where they need to go, and helpful and proactive employees.
Getting to that situation takes time and objectivity, two elements often unavailable in a rapidly-growing business. Dan said, “In that rapid growth period, you can lose sight of say, cost increases, or net effect on gross margin as you as you move forward. And perhaps things get discounted [at scale] but that you didn’t realize. […] Irrespective of whether it’s a service issue, or a sales issue or a billing issue, for example, getting that formula right is, I believe, the key to success.”
Fixing issues in internal processes and discovering ways, for example, to automate work is part of what ConnectWise does with its clients. “If somebody’s running a business on an Excel spreadsheet, and moving into an application or into a platform for the first time, then there’s a really great opportunity to build process. [Let’s] sit back, let’s whiteboard it, let’s structure how a support process should look; let’s structure how a lead process should look; what an invoice process should look like; what an opportunity to project what process should look like, so that it’s seamless to your client,” Jake said.
Business modeling and consultation, plus establishing a clear vision of where the MSP wants to be, seem to be as important to ConnectWise as, for example, instilling cybersecurity systems. (Although it does also implement these especially designed for a one-to-many business like an MSP – something we’ve discussed with the company in the past.
Business consultancy from outside bodies is nothing new, of course, if that’s what’s required. But like the software and hardware ConnectWise will recommend and install, there are shades of industry expertise not available in the mainstream market. Jake Varghese said, “Based upon the fact that we started out as an MSP about 40 plus years ago, and then we realized that in the vast majority of MSPs, there’s a common set of problems, right, especially as they scale? So our approach is go with that connected stack approach, have a platform-centric approach, that not only aligns with the needs of your business, but enables you to scale the business as [it] continues to grow.”
To hear the full discussion, head over to the Tech Means Business page and reach out to a local representative from ConnectWise to learn more about the options and possibilities as your MSP takes the next steps in its journey.