There is constant pressure on Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to continually respond and evolve their offerings to ensure they remain competitive. Caught in an ever changing IT landscape with new service providers and the inexorable migration to SaaS, an MSP’s offerings need to continually evolve and new service offerings added, to remain relevant to their customers’ needs.
In such a volatile and rapidly evolving market, it can be difficult for organisations to plan and communicate changes effectively to their staff. For any change, be it organization-wide or smaller business groups, it is critical to success to ensure staff understand what the business is intending to ultimately achieve, and that they buy in and support the change. Planning an organisation-wide, large-scale change can be quite daunting with its potential impact on the organization, especially on how to juggle multiple priorities not only daily but long-term strategically; so the larger the change, the more critical it is that the change is successful.
For instance, an MSP implementing a new Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) solution will need to consider that this will ultimately change how the business ‘thinks;’ that is, how it markets, costs and delivers its services. But if the right RMM vendor is selected, it will also provide new service offerings due to the additional functionality offered in the RMM product suite such as Backup, Antivirus, Two Factor Authentication and Advanced Monitoring.
There are ways to avoid making costly and ill-prepared changes and by leveraging the methodologies and steps below, you will increase the likelihood of a successful change within your organisation.
Checklist of the 7 Principles to Managing Effective Change
- Listen to and understand what your customers are asking for. For a large body of MSPs, they are time poor for research and development of new services as their focus is spent on ensuring and delivering their existing services to their agreed Service Level Agreements (SLAs). The MSP can then be caught off guard when a client requests new services to complement a new business initiative or, worse yet, a competitor has presented a service that the MSP does not yet offer. It is important when entering into a new service that an MSP understand what the client requirements and expectations are so the new service can deliver to and potentially exceed the expectations in a cost effective way for both parties.
- Assess if and how you can meet these requirements. To deliver a new service, will an MSP need to invest in new technologies or does the current product suite offer this as of yet unused feature? If new technologies are required, what is the CAPEX or ongoing OPEX required? Does the technical team have the skills to help develop and support the service or will additional resources or training be required? Is the service delivered during business hours or is there a broader support scope, such as 24×7 that may affect operational costs? May outsourced NOC services for out-of-hours coverage be needed to support the service? By answering these questions, MSPs can not only better define and price what the solution or service will be, but also what changes are required inside their organisation and be able to adapt to the change accordingly.
- Invest in people skills and transition. The success of any change is not just about the technology, but the adoption of the change by the teams that will ensure its ultimate success. Adoption of new technology will both change operational processes ─ potentially boosting a team’s effectiveness ─ as well as being recognised as a competitive differentiator for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and MSPs. The technology implementation process should also have a corresponding training plan. A new technology may be set to revolutionise the business, but if staff are not effectively trained, or only a small subset of the team have the skills to manage and use the technology, the deployment will not achieve the benefits the MSP planned and likely the service will ultimately not meet the end clients’ needs.
- Evaluate investment(s) over an established period of time (ROI). New service offerings or changes to operational process ─ for instance adopting automation ─ will have an immediate cost as the automation is developed and implemented, but also an ongoing investment for maintenance in both the technology platform and staff skills. This will also benefit the business through the operational improvements, increased scalability of the existing support team, and consistent service delivered to the customers, which all can increase profitability without an increase in an MSP’s overhead.
- Identify how or where you need assistance. MSPs will not always have the skills in-house to deploy new technologies and service offerings. It is important to identify early on if contractors or a vendors’ professional services should be engaged to help manage and speed the delivery of the change. For instance, organisations wanting to adopt ITIL or ISO 27001 will generally not have the skills in-house and it may be cheaper and quicker to have specialist contractors involved to deliver these changes.
- Document and share with the team. Document what the outcomes the change is to deliver to ensure that, as any unforeseen challenges arise, your staff can make the right decisions to ensure the end goals are met. Once documented, it is also critical to communicate to all stakeholders, and documented for easy reference. Staff – facing all the competing priorities in a day-to-day workload – will likely not remember a small note in a team meeting three weeks ago, but if the change is documented and progress updates and completion announcements are made, this will ensure the change is front-of-mind for staff.
- Review and track your progress regularly. Changes, whether large or small, must be handled like any project – with a clear timeline, key milestones defined, and regular reviews. Once the change is implemented, you should make sure that there is ongoing review (ROI calculations, staff feedback, etc.), to ensure it has been successfully adopted, is delivering to expectations, and is running in accordance with the overall business goals. These reviews need to be communicated to the team and can form the basis for additional and ongoing changes if needed.
In today’s current technology and customer landscape, the need to continually and rapidly evolve is a given for the success and health of any MSP. With planning, analysis and communication, MSPs can ensure that the required changes succeed (while also minimizing pain) within their organisation and, most importantly, improve their relationships with their clients and drive business success.
As Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, says, ‘Change before you have to.’
If you’re interested in reading more advice on how MSPs can thrive in a fast-changing MSP environment, check out the Your Roadmap in an MSP 2.0 World.