Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

Excelling at anything, especially when it comes to IT, is often a matter of discipline. Without a consistent, structured approach to managing IT costs inevitably rise. Worse yet, it becomes next to impossible to automate the delivery of IT services across multiple customers. And as every managed service provider (MSP) should know by now, custom IT services are the death knell for profitability.

But perhaps most importantly of all, a structured approach to delivering managed services puts the provider firmly in control of the business because of the strategic insights it gains into a customer’s operations. The challenge is putting the actual processes in place to make sure that happens.

With those specific issues in mind, N-Able Technologies is releasing a series of updates to its core N-central MSP Platform that put MSPs on the path to gaining that level of control. According to N-Able Technologies CEO Gavin Garbutt, version 8.2 of N-central provides a single pane of glass through which MSPs can manage a much broader set of IT functions, including backup and replication technologies from CA Technologies and the ability to remotely control an end user’s desktop.

In addition, N-able Technologies is providing access to an MSP Technician Runbook that provides MSPs with a standardized set of processes for delivering a range of IT services. The ability to standardize the delivery of those IT services, adds Garbut, usually winds up being the difference between turning a handsome profit and poor house.

Longer term, Garbutt says these standardize services will also provide the foundation for consistently gathering information about the customer’s IT environment. That’s important, says Garbutt, because once the MSP has that data in hand, they can run a variety of analytics applications that will not only make the MSP more cost effective, but also provide strategic business insights to the customer. For example, the service provider should be able to predict future outages based on earlier IT system events. More ambitiously, the MSP should eventually be able to provide insights into the customer’s actual business processes. In short, Garbutt says that whoever owns the data owns the customer.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that customers won’t ever switch providers. But it does mean that that cost of switching gets higher with each passing day the MSP manages the environment. As a result, the longer the MSP services the customer, the more embedded that MSP becomes in the operations of that customer’s business.

IT management is obviously getting more automated. But if MSPs want to be able to leverage IT automation and predictive analytics applications they first need to gain real visibility into the customer’s IT environment. Once that happens they can start to work on maturing the customer’s IT operation using standardize services in order to make ensure that the customer is truly a profitable member of MSP’s IT service delivery network. Otherwise, it’s becomes apparent pretty quickly that some customers are more trouble than their worth. Even more troubling, the managed services business as a whole won’t scale, which means it’s only a matter of time before the whole business winds collapsing of its own weight.