Those of us who have been in the channel industry for a period of time have seen a number of changes: acquisitions, opened and closed warehouses, new cloud technologies and the move from value-added to managed services. The industry is continuously making bets on technology partners to live up to tomorrow’s opportunities and build a tide that drives the next wave of innovation. Changes in our industry are inevitable and we recently welcomed our newest change to the industry—remote work.
The remote revolution is here. In the aftermath of global lockdowns and work-from-home policies, today’s businesses are increasingly dependent on digital infrastructure to meet the needs of their distributed teams. According to research by Enterprise Strategy Group, nine out of 10 organizations increased their use of public cloud computing as a result of the pandemic, with collaborative software tools like Slack and Trello connecting workers who could no longer meet in person at a physical workspace.
And yet, as the world slowly attempts to return to some semblance of normality, remote work looks set to stay. The pandemic sparked years of digital change in a matter of months, with worldwide public cloud end-user spending growing by 23% this year alone, and it appears that such evolution to the way we work will not be so quickly undone.
This shift spells major change for channel partners who are now tasked with integrating legacy systems with modern technology stacks, overcoming communication and information silos, ensuring connection speed and reliability, and expanding the security perimeter. For those who embrace the moment and successfully power the work-from-home experience, the spoils of a larger and more lucrative market await. Achieving this, however, will be no easy feat.
Why remote work is here to stay
After the rapid digital transformation of the past two years, it does not look like the new remote reality is going away anytime soon. The vast majority of companies have successfully onboarded new software tools and employees have proven that they are more productive when they work remotely, have fewer sick days and take less time off. According to a recent study, HR and managers believe more than one-quarter of the American workforce will still be fully remote next year.
At the same time, while some companies are not yet ready to adopt a permanent work-from-home policy, it is increasingly clear that hybrid work arrangements—that is, employees who do some tasks in the office and others virtually—are going to be a big part of the future of work. For example, one survey shows 99% of human resources leaders expect employees to work in some kind of hybrid arrangement moving forward.
As a result of this new paradigm, the remote revolution demands that providers adopt new tactical as well as digital transformation strategies to successfully evolve with the market.
What this means for providers
This new playing field is set to redefine the role of the MSP—from a provider that merely delivers IT services upon request to a strategic customer partner that can proactively suggest far-sighted solutions.
To best power the work-from-home experience, for example, providers will increasingly need to guide customers in their adoption of multi-cloud and hybrid cloud strategies, including infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and remote communications and collaboration software as a service (SaaS).
At the same time, to adequately offer these high-tech solutions, providers will need to bring their cloud know-how into the modern age. Educating team members in IaaS, SaaS and PaaS will be paramount to successfully building out an ecosystem and fully servicing remote customers. This is something that is already emerging as a blind spot, with more than half of organizations expected to fail to meet their company cloud adoption goals because of a lack of in-house skills and experience.
Further, as network perimeters expand outward, providers must also get up to speed with all things cybersecurity. Customers need confidence that their remote work solutions are not under threat from bad actors, while providers need to protect their reputation and data. In recent years, hackers have increasingly opted to target the MSP as a means of gaining access not only to that provider’s data but to that of their customers. For example, in July, the REvil ransomware attack against Kaseya VSA hit roughly 50 MSPs, with the attack soon spreading to as many as 1,500 businesses worldwide. Worse still, the hackers claimed to have hit 1 million endpoints in the attack.
Clearly, the remote work revolution demands that providers up their game, broaden their knowledge and deepen their skill sets.
Why time is of the essence
To sharpen their competitive edge and make the most of market opportunities, providers should take the necessary steps today to meet customer demands and adequately prepare themselves for the elevated expectations of tomorrow. Research reveals that those in the channel selling cloud are experiencing faster growth than those that are not, with those providers that are already innovating pulling away from mass-market, general-purpose MSPs.
Now and in the next few years, remote and hybrid work environments will generate new customer pain points and require new holistic solutions. The elite partners will be those capable of predicting changing client needs with intelligently bundled solutions to power the work-from-home experience. Importantly, time is of the essence, with experts predicting that the top 20 percent of MSPs in the coming years will command 80 percent of the market revenue gains.
How a PSA solution can help
It is in this context that a professional services automation (PSA) tool becomes mission-critical for MSPs. This software eliminates repetitive and time-consuming administrative work through automation and provides a central repository for organizing information. In addition, as customers continue to show a preference for small but regular payments, a PSA solution can enable providers to automate and facilitate subscription models for remote work solutions. In turn, this ensures a better customer experience through advanced finance automation solutions, simplifying product and service billing reconciliation, including more complex models like IaaS consumption.
Especially in the context of remote teams, a PSA solution can also offer the important ability to track and evaluate team performance and profitability in real time. This is made possible by capturing all interactions between clients and employees via ticketing systems to deliver insights into how each project is progressing. As a result, account managers can know whether the company is over or under servicing the client based on the stipulations of the contract and if there are performance deficiencies that need to be addressed. Likewise, a PSA solution also enables managers to determine if a project is profitable as it can track contract profitability based on individual employee cost and the actual time spent, allowing for future adjustments to maximize profit.
In addition, a PSA solution can help modern managed service businesses reduce administrative friction by centralizing information from disparate systems, including sales, finance and operations, into a single pane of glass. This enables service providers to streamline collaboration, communication and the exchange of information across all departments whether their employees are in the office or working from home.
Not all PSA solutions are built the same
The remote revolution is here—it is now incumbent upon providers to move with the market and successfully power the work-from-home experience. However, it’s important to make sure that the PSA solution you select provides all the features you need to be able to support remote work, unify business operations and enhance contract profitability. CloudBlue PSA offers all of these capabilities. To find out more about how CloudBlue PSA can help your MSP better adapt to the remote reality of today, visit www.cloudblue.com/psa or contact PSA@CloudBlue.com.
About the Author: Ben Chappell is the Americas Regional Sales Manager for CloudBlue PSA. He comes prepared with over 10 years’ experience in the channel. He started in the channel with SYNNEX, supporting HP, Dell, SonicWall, and others. Later, he created the channel team, offerings, MSP strategy and programs for a Master-MSSP focused on AI-driven security technologies. Having started with Ingram Micro Cloud as a Global BDE for strategic vendors – he’s bringing his passion for the MSP community into the Americas’ team for CloudBlue PSA. Based in Greenville, South Carolina, he’s immersed in life with his wife, 2 kiddos, and two dogs; coaching their sports teams, exploring in the Jeep, saltwater fishing, and testing his skills on new projects. Follow Ben Chappell on Twitter, LinkedIn or Website