Managed service providers are simply outsourced IT services and as such they need to transform just like any other IT shop, whether that’s changing your salesforce to be more social or listening to your customers better.
In fact, most IT shops, even the ones that aren’t service bureaus are turning to a customer-oriented philosophy. At the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium in Cambridge this week, CIOs talked a lot of the changing role of IT in organizations and it had a lot do with partnering with the business units instead of dictating to them.
As a service bureau, MSPs might not have exactly the same role but there are surely some similarities and you can draw from some of the same lessons. As Timothy Tsao wrote on the Midsize Insider blog, the MSP is being subject to the same pressures as the in-house IT department as technology is disrupting the role.
In the case of MSPs, it’s commoditization, a phenomenon that tends to happen when markets mature and there is little to differentiate the different players in the market. In that case, disruption usually follows and companies who can’t adapt or either get bought, merge or in the most extreme cases go out of business.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. This is not a fait accomplis. As Tsao writes there are ways to pull yourself from that abyss starting with finding ways to differentiate yourself from the competition. As Seth Godin said during a keynote address at the AIIM conference in March. speaking of differentiating your company from the rest of the market, “What we don’t need is yet another bird in the flock doing it the same way.” What he means is you need to try something different even if it’s a bit radical on its face.
In his post Tsao suggest some rather modest steps you can take, but what you don’t want to do is watch while your market gets undercut because as Godin also said at the same speech: “You know what wrong with the race to the bottom? You might win.” And that’s definitely a battle you don’t want to win.
The trouble is these days, most people think they know how to do your job. As Sanjay Mirchandani EVP, EMC said during a panel discussion at the MIT CIO Sloan Symposium last week, “I support 60,000 users and 59,999 think they have my job.” It got a big laugh from the mostly CIO audience because they recognized that all too well.
Your goal has to be to look at ways to make your MSP more indispensable whether that’s changing the focus of your of your sales approach or offering cloud services. You might want to try embracing social as well because you need to be listening to what your customers are saying because chances are they are on social networks talking to one another and even offering you ideas about new service offerings.
Whatever you do, do something because sitting still and hoping for the best is not an option. You have to be proactive and you have to start now.
Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.