How to Select Which Msp Services to Offer

By: Sean DAniell
One of the recurrent challenges facing small to very small MSPs, is what services to offer. Some services, e.g. providing on-site break/fix across 6 continents with a 1 hour turnaround to the Fortune 10, are obviously a stretch (although it can be done in an economical fashion with the use of subcontractors and/or partners). Other services such as providing MS Exchange email services, are obviously no brainer can dos. So, how do we know what to offer?

One way, is to look through the IT department in our own company, to see what services we provide to the enterprise. Many MSPs start out in a different line of business, such as an ASP, or a CRM/ERP software vendor. Having the skills and resources needed to run these services internally, shrewd IT departments may decide to lower the internal cost structure of their operations by performing limited services for their existing clients, often at the behest of the client. Later, further motivation to continue to expand these service offerings is demonstrated by a strategy of transforming IT from a cost center into a profit center.

As we look around, we notice common internal services that we may perform quite well, but actually are resource intensive. For instance:

1. Service Desk. In an ITIL compliant environment (you are ITIL compliant aren?t you?), the Service Desk is the center of the universe. Most of your clients face almost insurmountable challenges in operating their Service/Help Desk smoothly, mostly due to internal politics and lack of maturing processes.

2. Desktop build and restore. As part of an organization directly responsible to external clients for providing a product such as software or advice, one of our competitive advantages is the flexibility of our personnel. Directly enabling this flexibility is the speed and availability of our PC systems (desktops, laptops, etc.). As a competitive player in our industry, we would have some type of system to keep our PCs operating smoothly, such as LANDesk, Altiris, etc. (this is not an endorsement of any product). Can we not offer this service to our customers thereby lowering their annualized costs and learning curve, and our COGS?

3. System disposal. How often have you had a client ask about disposing of antiquated systems? How often have you had to do this for your organization? Just enough to be a pain. Why not volunteer this as a service? Granted, normally disposal costs are minimal, but it does take manpower and research ? two resources you have already optimized by finding disposal endpoints (e.g. vendors, schools, organizations) and manpower (temp work organizations, vendors, etc.). Use these contacts on a larger scale.

4. Voice/Data Networking. Once your network engineers have cleaned up the mess you inherited from your predecessor, you will find that your maintenance is automated, your alerts decline substantially, and your network engineers spend approximately 50% of their time on projects, 25% of their time on maintenance, and 25% of their time helping other modalities/silos. Why not put them to use lowering your IT cost footprint? Good network engineers are hard to find and expensive to source. You can provide this networking capability at a fraction of your client?s costs. An added bonus is that this service will enable you to actually learn your client?s architecture (not an opportunity to pass up). As you learn your client?s architecture, you will find more opportunities to assist them with their internal challenges.

5. Security. Now we are getting into the big gun challenges. This is a modality which scares EVERYONE. If you can do this well, by all means offer it. If you even have a hint of a qualm, pass. A little profit now will not offset a major lawsuit later. That said, if you are on top of your game, this is an opportunity to make a substantial positive impact for your customer, and perhaps save their business (which directly results in a continuing stream of income to your business). Be meticulous, and I would recommend having the knowledge garnered by point #4 above, before committing to this offering.

And we can add storage, application, data center and other services, almost ad finitum.

The above is not a comprehensive list of services, it simply shows the justification or reason for being able to offer given services, as examples. A general rule is that any service offered in your enterprise internally, should be able to be made into a service offering. Further offerings would be created, designed and provisioned according to expertise, market need, resource availability, costs and enterprise focus.
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