With major Managed Services hosted separately by CompTIA and the Managed Services Provider Alliance on tap for May, you can expect to hear a lot of the grousing from solution providers about the lack of profitability they are seeing when they first move their business towards a managed services model.
For the most part, a lot of solution providers doing the complaining are only providing rudimentary remote monitoring services as the core element of their managed service. The problem with that is that remote monitoring is at best already a commodity if not something the customer expects to get for free because it really is more in the interest of the solution provider to know what’s going on with the customer’s IT operation than it is in the customer’s interest.
This tends to leave a bad taste in the solution provider’s mouth because they still have to incur the cost of setting up the service. The good news is that the major providers of managed service platforms such as N-Able, Level Platforms and Silverback are raising the bar by moving to provide a richer set of services that solution providers can resell above and beyond remote monitoring.
But even more interesting is the rise of relatively new vendors in the channel that are promising to give solution providers even richer sets of tools for delivering managed services. For example, Nimsoft is setting itself up as a competitor to Kaseya in that both companies sell IT services platforms that solution providers can deploy themselves to deliver a wider variety of classes of service that are richer than what can be found in other platforms. For example, Nimsoft enables remote monitoring that can scale all the way up to providing remote database administration.
Another recent entrant of note is Streamcore, which offers a platform for optimizing traffic based on technology originally developed for France Telecom. Unlike basic application acceleration appliances, the Streamcore technology can be used to set up a set of policies to optimize application traffic across an entire network at a pretty granular level compared with application accelerators that are based on point-to-point appliance models. That should be of interest to solution providers that need to guarantee levels of service in pretty dynamic end-user environments.
And of course, no service is ever going to be profitable if it crashes, resulting in untold number of customer service calls that raise costs with every passing minute. Given that, solution providers might want to take a look at next generation predicative analysis tools from companies such as Integrien that discover the interdependency between applications so you can actually be alerted to a pending problem before it happens.
And finally, solution providers would do well to consider how open a particular managed services platform really is because what one customer wants today is unlikely to be what another customer wants tomorrow. That means you need to have an IT services platform in place that can easily expand to not only support any number of devices, but also allow for the delivery of other software-as-a-service offerings that may complement the ones you already offer.
Most solution providers have probably never heard of Nimsoft, Streamcore or Integrien, which is exactly the point. If you’re going to build a truly profitable managed services business, you may not need the level of sophistication offered by these tools. But you most certainly need to think a lot deeper about what types of services you are going to offer now and down the road that can provide more profit than basic remote monitoring. It’s fine to get started with remote monitoring so long as you realize that it’s the equivalent of training wheels for running a real managed services business where the entire name of the game is to provide guaranteed levels of service so the customer never needs to call for help.
Because every call from the customer is another dollar off the bottom line.
Michael Vizard is editorial director of Ziff Davis Media’s Enterprise Technology group. He can be reached at email@example.com.