As you manage your MSP business, it’s vital to minimize unplanned and unexpected work, especially if they result in unpaid work.
You can’t price your services profitably unless you can confidently estimate the staff resources required to meet your contracted obligations. Any unexpected client work directly impacts your bottom line for the worse.
So, how do you protect your business from hidden gotchas or last-minute snafus?
Here are eight steps most often cited by highly profitable MSPs:
- Full up-front network discovery and audit: There are many ways for your team to be hit with unexpected work: different assumptions on which servers are included in the service plan; divergent expectations on whether mobile devices are covered (and, if so, which devices and what ‘covered’ means); misunderstandings on what equipment is under warranty. So, start out on the right foot, with all infrastructure under service – including OS, hardware configurations, versioning, and patch history – fully audited and verified with the client.
- Continual network discovery processes: You need to continually keep up with your clients’ changing infrastructure and network landscape. A client may spin up a workstation for a special project out of the scope of the contract and forget to tell you. But without an up-to-date picture of their infrastructure, how will your helpdesk staff know this? They won’t ―so you end up providing support that’s not covered in the SOW or in your staff allocation plans.
- Standardization: Insist on standardized device configurations (including the actual devices) and software sets. These are much easier to manage, troubleshoot and rebuild when issues do occur. While you’re at it, mandate standardized policies and processes for software updates and downloads. If the client resists standardization, or refuses to replace hardware that’s out of warranty, you can still support them, of course. However, you should raise your pricing for non-standard configurations to accurately reflect the extra staff time it will take to support these devices and configurations
- Actively manage patch scheduling: First and most importantly – do patching routinely and consistently. This is the single most-effective way to maintain security and performance levels. In addition, create a patch-management plan for each client, which identifies the most critical updates (including security-related patches) and those which can be delayed and batch-applied later. Finally, consider rolling out patches within each client on a rolling basis to further mitigate any residual risk in applying patches.
- Automation: Automate as many tasks as possible to reduce the possibility of human errors and to speed change processes. Systematic tasks should absolutely be automated but also consider implementing automated responses and user self-service to deal with frequently occurring issues and requirements. Review trouble ticket logs on a regular basis to identify any systematic issues that might be resolved via an automated response.
- End-user training: Take a proactive stance toward end-user training, particularly with respect to security and new application deployments. Consider producing simple written guidelines to address common issues, such as password management, that can be easily accessed and readily understood. Again, reviewing trouble ticket logs can help identify issues where targeted end-user training could minimize recurring problems.
- Speaking of security: Tighten up security to minimize malicious or inadvertent breaches, which require an all-hands-on-board remediation that can kill your profitability. Secure access to systems and devices with multi-factor authentication to make knowledge of passwords alone inadequate; secure sensitive information using encryption; implement a robust system for single sign-on and one-time-use-only passwords.
- Go back to Step 1: Repeat as necessary.
As Step 8 implies, you can’t complete these steps once and call it a day. They need to become an ingrained part of your client relationship management process. By employing them consistently, you will be able to predict more precisely the technical- and engineering-staff time needed to support each client.
This capability will, in turn, enable you to optimize your staff utilization and confidently increase the number of clients your team can profitably manage. Finally, you’ll be able to support new service offerings and generate more revenues, from both new and existing clients, without big increases in your workforce. To learn more about the best way optimize profitability, read a special whitepaper: How to Price, Market, and Sell Your Managed Services Offerings by Charles Weavers, MSPAlliance’s CEO.
*Originally posted on MSPAlliance.
Author: Miguel Lopez