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For many managed service providers (MSPs) the difference between winning and losing new business often comes down to whether they can convince customers that they can provide a higher level of service than the internal IT department.

The challenge, of course, has been actually proving that on a regular basis. With the release of version 3.2 of Report Manager from N-able Technologies, solution providers that base their managed services on the N-able platform are now gaining access to both stock and customizable reports about IT performance levels and the impact those services have on the customer’s organization.

According to Robert Grapes, director of product management for N-able Technologies, the basic idea is to allow the MSP to be as informed as possible about the customer’s IT operations. That information can then be used to provide strategic advice on everything from upgrades to the IT infrastructure environment to the modernization of the organization’s application portfolio.

Arguably, this kind of reporting capability is long overdue. But regardless of the amount of time it has taken to attain this level of capability, MSPs should get a lot more aggressive about applying it in order to solidify customer control.

Most organizations have little to no insight into what’s really happening inside their IT operations. They usually suspect that something is amiss, but proving it is another matter. They also generally don’t have a lot of faith in the internal IT staff, not because their hearts are not in the right place, but rather because the internal IT staff is usually not current on the latest technologies. In general, they have a sense that IT can help them compete more effectively, but they have no real concrete ideas about how to go about making that happen.

In short, that creates a significant technical and business consulting opportunity for MSPs. In addition to enlightening customers about what’s going on with their own IT shops, MSPs should be in a position to provide some comparative analytics relative to how a customer stacks up in terms of IT against other companies its size.

Studies shows that small-to-medium (SMB) companies have an appetite for emerging technologies that they perceive will help them compete more effectively against well-heeled rivals. That challenge is that given all the options available, most of those companies have little to no idea where they should be focusing their efforts.

Further exacerbating that situation is the complexity of their IT environments. With the introduction of virtualization many SMB companies are managing more “servers” than ever. Now many of them are considering cloud computing services that will only further complicate the management of their IT environments. Add into that mix mobile computing and most SMB companies become the digital equivalent of the proverbial deer in the headlights.

All the chaos and uncertainty surrounding IT at the moment creates a singular opportunity for MSPs to step up their game. Instead of just focusing on IT operations, MSP need to become strategic consultants. Assuming a reputation for reliability, most MSPs walk in the customer’s door with an air of credibility. The challenge up until now is that most MSPs lacked any real data to back that up.