Day 472 of quarantine (ok maybe 47). Daily call topic with the Everything MSP group: What are you doing at your MSP to improve your business practices that will help you for the long term?Every mic came off mute at the same time. When the dust settled, here were the answers:
- Improve data quality
I took notes to share because they were speaking our language.
As MSPs we are all about process and automation and now is the time to take a look at our processes to see if there are practices we are doing manually that we could automate. There is an interesting nuance in the IT space around “manual” and “automated.” If you look at the process improvement model, you see that to truly have a transformative process, it must move from manual past digital to automated. So often in the IT world, even the manual processes are somewhat digital but just because something is done digitally does not mean that it is automated. And that is where we need to focus in order to transform.
For example – if you have processes in place where you are capturing data in a spreadsheet or in multiple spreadsheets or tools and then merging or aggregating the data, this is not automation. Automation is when the tool does that work for you. And transformation occurs when that tool provides insights to make your business more efficient or profitable. So take an inventory of your processes and see where they fall on the spectrum.
The interesting piece of the conversation around consolidation is that it started as a discussion on expansion not consolidation. The question posed was: Are there tools that I already use that I could implement more broadly? And in doing so, would it eliminate a need for other tools? Case in point, several MSPs realized they were paying for a warranty look-up tool, but their vCIO/QBR tool included that feature. As a follow up from the previous week’s discussion where we demonstrated how the assessment component of the Lifecycle Insights vCIO package could easily capture and analyze customer health data, it was clear that MSPs could save money and be more efficient by taking a closer look at their own tech stacks.
At the start of each call there is a quick check-in on how everyone and their businesses are doing. A few MSPs in the group had niche businesses that were aligned to verticals highly impacted by the quarantine – such as dental practices. These MSPs are taking their time to diversify in a couple of ways.
- Broaden client base: It is no secret that IT skills are in high demand right now. MSPs who lost business in one area are looking for markets that are in high demand right now with growing IT needs. They are also looking to those businesses who are struggling to help them automate in areas to reduce overhead. They have often found services they were offering their clients (such as set up and training on Zoom/Microsoft Teams) has brought in additional revenue for the short term.
- Broaden stack offering: The unexpected down-time has given them an opportunity to see what other technologies they could offer to existing clients. Clearly work from home solutions are top of mind, but that extends beyond devices. Companies like OITVoip have shipped audio/video components (like webcams and microphones) for clients now wanting a more professional work from home office. TruGrid has been hard at work outfitting clients with remote access tools. Employee project management and tracking solutions are other offerings that MSPs have added to their stack options for clients.
Everyone was also in agreement that non-billable time should still be productive time. Now is the time to cross-train so there is no single point of failure. Ask yourself if there are higher level skills that a tier 1 tech could learn. Moving that work to a less expensive resources makes for a more profitable business. It also helps grow the employee and expands their potential.
Several of the MSPs said that they combine the element of training with improving their documentation. As techs and engineers learn new skills, they are accountable for updating documentation. One MSP said that it was an expectation that 10% of their time (everyone on the team) would be spent “spring clearing” their documentation and processes.
Improve data quality
In the land of documentation that needs updating, asset inventory was at the top of the list. In the first few weeks of working from home, businesses scrambled to send devices out the door. Now is the time to tidy up asset lists! This is not simply a practice in good record keeping. It will help you focus on client needs in the future and ensure projects for your business and team.
It was very clear that the MSPs with a focus on the future are using their time wisely. In the smarter not harder category, one said “it is not the time to start a revolution, begin an evolution.” Because the more efficient and effective our products and processes and people become, the more profitable the business becomes.
Stay safe, stay healthy, stay productive!