Winner of MSP of the Year award at CPI's MSP Innovation Awards in New York, MA Polce's president Michael A. Polce answers our five crucial questions for MSPs
1. What will the successful MSP look like in three to five years' time?
A successful MSP will not just be an IT support organization. It will be one that exemplifies more of a business model with clients - one that embraces at least three key elements: cloud services; technology adoption/change management; and cybersecurity. Cloud is inevitable and MSPs need to be able to offer cloud services as part of their overall strategy.
Most organizations are a hybrid of on-prem and cloud. MSPs need to understand that not all clients are alike and that you must approach each one with an open mind to guide them with the right combination. Technology adoption, change management and how you consult with your clients is going to set the stage for enabling them to take advantage of technologies such as Office 365 and Share Point. MSPs also have an opportunity to work with clients in a more intimate fashion by first understanding their business processes and the reliance on technology and then consulting with them on a business intelligence model that takes advantage of these technologies. Compliance and cybersecurity are most likely the biggest game changers for most MSPs. They will have to offer more of a managed security service offering that at least provides the rudimentary foundation for good security posture - one that can support a business in its quest to understand as well as adopt frameworks and best practices for managing cybersecurity-related risk.
2. What has been the most important development in the MSP space over the last 12 months?
The rise in cybersecurity-related incidents resulting in breaches and interruption to client's IT services. We are in the midst of a war and it is up to all businesses to understand that they must embrace compliance and an effective security framework to not only protect their own business but to potentially protect their clients. It is the MSP's responsibility to guide these clients.
3. If an MSP had to invest in just one new technology, which one should they pick and why?
I would suggest they select a SOC service. This would allow the MSP to take more of a proactive approach to good cybersecurity posture and provide necessary information and reporting to allow the client to manage and mitigate potential security exposures.
4. Do you think MSPs should be outsourcing core functions such as their helpdesk and security services?
I think MSPs should be outsourcing core functions such as their helpdesk and security services - especially security services because not many MSPs have a bona fide security practice but having one is paramount. It's also very difficult for any MSP to be able to offer all services on their own. A good MSP should offer 24x7 support services, for example, and it is not always feasible or cost effective for the primary employees of an organization to be able to carry out these services. I also think that every MSP has their strengths and weaknesses. A successful MSP needs to recognize these and address them accordingly. Outsourcing or partnering with an organization that specializes can be a prudent strategy.
5. What's the biggest threat to an MSP business today?
The biggest threat to an MSP business today is the client. It's difficult for even the best MSPs and MSSPs to keep up with the changing landscape of IT and cyber.
Security today is even more difficult for a business that does not specialize in IT. The challenge for MSPs today is to not only educate these businesses, but to get them to adopt technologies and frameworks that are going to help them in their business and, more importantly, to protect them.
In our experience, because we do such a good job supporting the client, it is often difficult to get them to invest in new technologies and to change their practices in how they utilize and leverage IT. When an MSP can't get the client to understand and invest in these technologies and practices, it presents a liability to the MSP. A successful MSP today needs to work hard at educating their clients by staying in front of them and being proactive with reporting, for example; that shows the client first-hand what you are doing for them on a regular basis.
Getting clients to invest and stay current with technology is equally as important. We believe the best way to do this is to work with the client in creating a technology road map with budgeting and other creative ways to off-set capital investment, by leveraging equipment rental programs or other methods to accomplish the same goal without big capital outlay. This helps them to have a better vision of where they need to go and what it will cost them. Unfortunately, there will always be clients who no matter what you do, will not want to keep up. At that point, you as the MSP need to make a decision as to whether or not that client is worth the threat to your business.