When it comes to Managed IT, there’s a lot of talk about “the stack”. That’s the bundle of products and services that you offer customers. The problem is that most of the vendors in your stack are also now doing business directly with small businesses as they are forced to bypass channel partners that demand too big of a piece of the pie while offering little in the way of added value. What to do?
Here’s a good example of a simple stack. Assume your small business customer has less than 30 office employees. They likely need:
- Productivity Software
- Disaster Recovery
- Document Management
- Accounting Software
There are other software tools that a Managed Service Provider (MSP) needs to be an MSP. They need a Professional Services Automation (PSA) tool like ConnectWise or Autotask. They need some Remote Monitoring and Management Software (RMM) like SolarWinds and a few ancillary pieces that help you do remote desktop to troubleshoot/fix what we call PEBCAC errors (Problem Exists Between Computer and Chair).
As a small business owner, I feel compelled to speak about why I don’t have an MSP manage my business. I am the oldest person in my company, by more than a decade. When your employees are mostly twentysomethings and early thirtysomethings, the employees generally have their own laptops and mobile devices. In some cases, I provide employees with a monthly technology expense to cover some of their needs here. We have gone out of our way to subscribe to almost all the software we need. We do not have a server in the office, as there is really nothing that would reside there. A sample of my monthly subscriptions include:
- G Suite for email and online collaboration
- Adobe Creative Suite
- Zoom for online meetings
- AWS for offsite disaster recovery
- Avast for Security and Firewall
- Office 365
- Hubspot CRM
- Constant Contact for Email Marketing
- Quickbooks Online for Accounting
None of these decisions were difficult IT decisions requiring consultation. They were natural decisions to facilitate key aspects of our business. What’s also key here is that the above products either reside in the cloud or when they need to update, they do so automatically.
Would I pay a monthly fee to source these products from a reseller? Probably not.
Would I pay for a helpdesk to call if I have issues? Why, when the vendors already do that?
I do not have any IT staff. True, I have less than 20 employees, but aren’t most of your customers small? This is why I have such a problem with pundits spouting on about the need for print resellers to go into Managed IT: is there a business case here? The movement from server to cloud and the ability for most vendors to contract directly with businesses has demystified technology. A simple Google search provides you with a list of possible vendors, consulting with peers on their experiences, and potentially expert reviews of products allow most customers to now self service their IT.
Even today, my Zoom subscription informed me I had a critical update, my Mac OS provided me with another update, which it did while I worked, then took 5 minutes to reboot, which it did while I went off and made a coffee. What value would an RMS subscription have added to this exchange?
Where can you add value?
Stuff. Sell or finance stuff. The CV-19 caused an immediate run on hardware like laptops, desktops, home MFPs, displays, microphones, headsets and phone handsets. BILLIONS of dollars of product sold in a matter of hours. The resellers that benefited from this immediate bonanza had an online presence. Customers needed to self serve products and NOT use a salesperson or manual process. Most dealers had 1000s of customers that could have given this business to you, but they couldn’t because you weren’t online. People forget that 50% of IT for small businesses is still STUFF. Hardware. Things with a serial number, things that may need service, STUFF THAT CAN BE FINANCED.
I think you need managed services. It won’t be a big moneymaker, but it will put you into a position to solve your customers’ problems and sell/finance more stuff to your thousands of customers. None of it matters, by the way, until you have your products online. Solve that problem, and managed services might be a good future plan for your business.