Lessons Learned at Zenith's Executive Workshop - Lessons #1-2
The Zenith Executive SmartStyle Workshop, held Dec. 8-9 in Pittsburgh, attracted 40 Zenith Infotech MSP (managed service provider) partners from across the country to discuss ITaaS – IT as a Service. If you're not familiar with ITaaS, make a New Year's resolution to learn everything you can about it. There isn't a technology or vertical market that hasn't been affected by this trend already.
Barb Burk, Sr. Director of Marketing, Zenith Infotech
Day 1 of the event divided the attendees into small groups where they were asked a series of detailed questions about their business – their successes, their challenges, and their expectations for the future. On Day 2, the group leaders presented their findings from the day before. One attendee described the event as "a brainstorm in a peer group environment."
Here are two lessons from the Zenith workshop that will be helpful to solution providers aiming to grow their business:
Lesson #1 – The cloud will change your business – but not radically and immediately: Solution providers should not expect to see "a fundamental shift in operations," said Frank Bauer of Zenith. "It will be an adaptation of skill sets." As one MSP told the group, "We've been changing for years and this is the newest change. We just have to learn about it and then convince our customers. It's just like anything else." Another MSP added, "It's not revolutionary, it's evolutionary – we're continuing to evolve."
A first step to take in this evolution is conducting an internal needs analysis of your business in areas such as technical capabilities, sales and marketing, help desk services, and hosting. For example, what are your staff's advanced networking skills, data center skills, and cloud-specific skills? If you're lacking in an area, vendors such as Zenith offer training and education. The good news is that even with all this change going on around us, you're in control of your destiny. "Only you can determine where you are today and where you need to go," said Bauer.
Lesson #2 – Offering 24/7 service has more advantages than disadvantages: The conclusion of the majority of MSPs at the workshop (after a robust discussion) was that MSPs should offer 24/7 service. One MSP said, "You're doing a disservice to your customers if you don't get them up and running ASAP." Driving the point home, another MSP said, "If you don't get off your ass at 3AM to solve the problem, I'm going to steal your customers."
Other data points regarding 24/7 service included:
- Some in the group were concerned that offering 24/7 service would add too significant a burden to their business. One MSP who has been offering 24/7 service for four years spoke up and said that it's been a minimal cost to his business. The after-hour calls he's received have been less than 1% of his total calls. "Don't worry – you won't get 80 calls a night," another MSP noted. "Offering 24/7 service increased customer satisfaction well above what it cost me." What could also minimize the burden on your business is partnering with a solutions provider who would provide that service or outsourcing the job to a managed services vendor.
- The general sentiment was that offering 24/7 service is, at the very least, an effective marketing tool. Downtime doesn't happen frequently at 4AM, but prospects will find the option of 24/7 service appealing.
- Clarity with your 24/7 service is important. Make details of your service clear up front to both your customers and your employees. For example, let your customers know if you'll offer a complete help desk 24/7 or only service for major emergencies. You'll also need to let them know the cost structure for after-hours calls. Among the details your employees need to understand are when they should start billing the customer and how the employee will be compensated for a 3AM call.
Bonus Lesson! BSM/MSPtv Webinars will focus on the cloud in 2011: Business Solutions and MSPtv will cover cloud computing in-depth in 2011. Watch for these upcoming Business Solutions Lunch-and-Learn Webinars on MSPtv (www.MSPtv.net) and the Business Solutions Managed Services Resource Center (www.BSMinfo.com/msp):
- Where Is Your Place In The Cloud?
- How To Find Customers For Your Hybrid Cloud Solution
- Selling The Cloud (Or How To Pitch IT-as-a-Service)
- How To Bundle Hybrid Cloud Into Your Managed Services SLAs
- Security & The Cloud
- Have Mobile Workers? Why You Need To Cloud
For additional lessons learned at the Zenith Executive Workshop:
Lessons Learned at Zenith's Executive Workshop – Lessons #3-4
Lessons Learned at Zenith's Executive Workshop – Lessons #5-6