By Captain's Chair
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has swallowed some businesses whole, with many Managed Service Providers (MSPs) being among those facing existential challenges. Yet, some have fared better than others. Why?
For an MSP whose value proposition to its clients was based on its ability to be physically present onsite and fix problems as they arise, the pandemic may have immediately disrupted that business model. However, for MSPs that had already been moving to remote services, the pandemic may ironically have enhanced their value by validating the vision of the future they already had pre-COVID-19.
Comfortable With Discomfort
Positioning your MSP to be on the right side of history — no matter what disruptions will be encountered in the future — requires being comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
For many MSPs, it may be a real challenge to revise one’s business model and become more agile, partly because it may not reflect the way the MSP sees itself. For many startup MSPs, the ability to fix problems as they occur — i.e., an emphasis on technical and mechanical knowledge — may be seen as a core strength. But there’s a payoff awaiting MSPs able to help their clients navigate future uncertainty by moving to a more holistic, consultive approach, one that may leverage more strategic thought than before.
A key trait for successful MSPs is understanding what clients are really paying for, which is helping to be prepared and avoiding future problems. It’s also the ability to respond confidently when something as potentially crippling as a pandemic or other major problem occurs.
Problem Decomposition and Pattern Matching
When disruptions and paradigm shifts occur, such as office operations turning on a dime to temporary (or even permanent) remote work arrangement, Problem Decomposition can be a helpful first step. This involves breaking down problems into smaller, more approachable blocks, circumventing emotional roadblocks (e.g., “What are we going to do now?”) with logic. It’s a key aspect of a flexible, solutions-oriented approach — one that will bear fruit in terms of greater client satisfaction.
Pattern Matching can then be used to make those smaller blocks less daunting by matching what is currently observed to past experiences. It’s a method of embracing the unknown based on some aspects that are familiar.
In the case of MSPs during the COVID-19 era, an example would be some firms lamenting not being able to see their customers in person, or having minimal in-person contact. But successful organizations are able to match the new patterns with equivalent examples from the past, such as having previously served a customer in another country. While that experience may have just been a tangential, one-off solution, reframing it for use in the present can be a fruitful pivot.
No Crystal Ball
Notably, this doesn’t involve having a crystal ball. Preparing for a pandemic or other disruption is not the same as predicting one. There will always be unforeseen challenges. The key is being dynamic enough to weather it — having a personality as a company that’s comfortable with the discomfort of the unknown.
It’s valuable to be able to visualize and quantify the current landscape at any given time, in order to accurately analyze and discuss it. That is part of what drove us to create the Captain’s Chair dashboard in the first place — a desire to use data, a planning mindset, and easy-to-understand communication techniques to create a product to help MSPs be more successful.
Seeing the IT landscape — and the needs of clients — as perpetually dynamic helps to create a business paradigm designed to keep MSPs agile and ready in response to new challenges. Along with greater client retention, the payoff will include making the next major disruption — be it on the level of the pandemic or not — tenable for tech firms who have groomed themselves to be ready for the unpredictable.