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MSPs will struggle to keep up with market changes

Channel must adapt to changing customer requirements, warns MSP evangelist

Managed Service Providers will struggle to keep up with the pace of technological change, according to a leading voice in the MSP community.

Dave Sobel, MSP evangelist at software company SolarWinds MSP, said he was concerned by MSPs’ ability to not only keep up with the rapid growth of technology, but to acquire the business skills required to maintain customer relationships.

“I worry about solution providers’ ability to keep up with the transformational changes, because technology is moving so fast and spreads so ubiquitously,” he told Microscope.

“Ten or 15 years ago, technology wasn’t as key to business. Every business today is a technology company at some level; they use technology to deliver healthcare, or financial services, or plumbing, heating and air-conditioning. You no longer having an IT guy conversation, you’re having a real business conversation. That continues to be the challenge; can the solution provider keep up with that and move fast enough? Can you do both at the same time?”

Being tech savvy is no longer enough for success, agreed Simon Beckett, director at UK MSP DynaCom IT Support. “You also need a deep understanding of your customers’ needs and expectations.”

“We ensure that each customer has a service level agreement in place, and that they understand and are happy with it. Only this way can we balance keeping our customers happy and run a profitable business.”

Specialisation

Sobel said the changes to the MSP space were leading some MSPs to specialise in a vertical, technical speciality, or demographic.

“They’re finding their own particular way to engage with the market, and not be ‘all things to all men’, which is a lot harder than it’s ever been,” he said.

Beckett said that MSPs needed to be strategic in how they grew and attracted customers.

“As a business, we don’t specialise in one particular vertical, but that doesn’t mean we don’t think carefully about who our potential customers are and their specific needs. For example, a small business working out of an office is going to have quite different needs to an industrial laboratory. Or a financial business may have specific security needs in order to meet regulations. So, while breadth is important to us, we also need to make sure we can meet specialist needs before we support them.”

Sobel maintained that the core role of the MSP always has been, and would continue to be, that of the trusted advisor.

“These SMBs want to know they’re making a good decision…that’s the core thing. The joy of technology is that every year we say technology is cheaper and faster and you’ll spend less. But every single year IT spend goes up. What it is, is that customers are getting way more value.”

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