Guest Column | July 30, 2014

The Automation Imperative: Three Steps To Success For MSPs

Automating For MSPs

By JP Jauvin, General Manager, N-able by SolarWinds

The future of managed services is as bright as it has ever been. A study by consulting firm MarketsandMarkets projects the industry to jump from $14.75 billion in 2013 to $265.05 billion in 2018. That’s about a 1700 percent increase. While this is incredible news, dramatic growth predictions like this often change the dynamics of an industry, making it much more competitive. And for managed service providers (MSPs), the dynamics are changing fast.

Traditional MSPs now find themselves competing with a new breed of MSP. Many established solution providers already specializing in VoIP, print/copier management, audio-visual, along with other technology companies, have started offering managed IT services as a way to generate recurring revenue  and diversifying revenue streams by looking for new ways to service existing customers. These are bigger, well-resourced competitors; and all are hungrily eyeing the attractive margins that have propelled managed services into the spotlight.

What can traditional MSPs do to protect their markets? Here are three steps in the right direction:

1. Increase Efficiency

The influx of competitors brings two certainties to the managed services market: greater commoditization of services and price wars. To remain competitive, traditional MSPs must deliver their managed services with razor sharp efficiency. They have to maximize technician utilization rates. Despite this harsh reality, few MSPs have been able to achieve the competitive productivity levels required by using traditional tools, which lack the scalability and repeatability offered by the next-generation automation solutions that are transforming the market.

2. Drag And Drop Automation

MSP Automation only makes sense if all the processes surrounding it are simplified. It has to be easy to implement and to understand — and that means it should not require advanced programming knowledge. Traditional custom “scripts” can be cumbersome, complex, difficult to understand and maintain. Automation engines that feature simple “drag and drop” functionality are the only solutions that can achieve the simplicity and efficiency MSPs require to compete. They allow you to automate simple, repetitive tasks or very complex automation processes. By capturing the knowledge of your most experienced workers, while decreasing your dependence on complicated scripting knowledge, you will be able to implement repeatable best practices at lightning speed, and make a major leap forward in delivering a better user experience to your customers.

3. Create An Automation Policy Library

Developing an automation policy library is the most critical step for automating the delivery of your managed services. Your RMM vendor should provide policies based on hundreds of available pre-defined, pre-tested, and reusable automation objects. Each object is developed to address a specific task that can then be combined into automation policies and applied to all of your proactive or reactive customers. To be effective, an automation object library must be comprehensive and provide objects that cover the breadth of the business and all areas of IT service delivery. The goal is to free up your technicians from spending time on routine tasks, and allow them to instead focus on providing higher value services and the best end user experience to your customers.

Which object categories make the most sense for your object library, and for driving an efficient, scalable IT business? Consider these for starters:

  • Policy Management
  • Systems Management
  • Local Account Management
  • Network Management
  • File and Folder Management
  • Registry Management
  • Event Log Management
  • Performance and Health Management
  • DNS Management
  • Hardware Management
  • Exchange Server Management
  • Active Directory

The bottom line is that it will take a complete service transformation for traditional MSPs to compete effectively against the bigger players that are now making their way into the market. All indicators point to automation as the answer. And while your customers might not realize the extent of your automation initiatives, they do expect you to deliver — on time, on budget and with the right results. The automation imperative is real: get on board today or risk losing out to the competition.

JP Jauvin is general manager of N-able by SolarWinds, a provider of remote monitoring and management (RMM) and service automation software.