MSPs, Are You Ready for the New Channel?

UPS management

The IT industry is in the midst of a profound transformation as ongoing trends and emerging technologies such as hybrid cloud environments, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and edge computing gain momentum. For many managed services providers (MSPs), this transformation means stepping into areas outside of your comfort zone, raising questions on how to stay relevant as changes accelerate.

The transformation will put to the test whether MSPs – and the IT channel as a whole – have truly readied themselves for a service-based approach to technology delivery and consumption. Newer technologies more than ever will require an understanding of customer business needs and objectives, and how to best support them with IoT and AI applications on hybrid cloud and edge environments.

If your approach is to just make another sale and move on to the next one, that will limit your chances at succeeding in what is essentially becoming a new IT channel. Instead, a long-term customer engagement mindset is needed in addition to a deep understanding of each individual customer’s situation.

To be fair, this approach isn’t foreign to the MSP model, whose success hinges on delivering services on multiple-year contracts. Getting this right requires intimate knowledge of the customer environment to best support the business and to propel it forward. The challenge, however, is to apply the model to technologies that are new – and, yes, even scary – to MSPs. Even embracing the cloud has been a slow-going process for MSPS, many of which weren’t sure whether to view it as friend or foe.

To stay relevant going forward, MSPs must assess their strengths and weaknesses, learn the new technologies, and refine their business partnerships.

Conduct a Self-assessment

Relevance in the new IT channel starts with soul searching. Every business must engage in self-analysis at pivotal times to understand what it is capable of. At this current juncture, if you’re an MSP, you need to conduct a thorough assessment of capabilities, strengths and weaknesses so you can make smart decisions about investments in human and technical resources to leverage emerging trends and technologies. This will help you determine which areas of new technology to pursue and whether to focus on specific verticals.

Learn New Technologies

While MSPs need to focus less on technology and more on the customer business when strategizing with customers, this doesn’t mean you needn’t learn about emerging technologies and trends. You still need to learn about AI, hybrid clouds, edge and IoT so you can can support customers. One way to acquire the necessary knowledge is to earn certifications in edge and IoT technologies.

This will require time, effort and money, but it’s a necessary investment for any IT provider wanting to successfully participate in the new channel. MSPs will have to make some choices in this area because AI and IoT will be purpose-built for specific industries, so a vertical focus will be advisable in many cases.

Refine Partnership Strategies

Traditional channel relationships at their most basic level involve a technology vendor, channel partner and end customer. In some cases channel partners forge relationships with each other to fill skills and technology gaps. As we move toward a connected world, with cars, appliances and all manner of devices using the internet to send data, different players will be involved. For instance, MSPs might forge relationships with car dealers and manufacturers, medical device makers and appliance companies to seize opportunities in all these areas to manage devices. This is bound to create a more intricate web of partnerships but once tried and tested, these new channel infrastructures should deliver lucrative rewards.

As customers launch edge and IoT projects, there will be no shortage of opportunity for MSPs in the new channel. You can get started by leveraging these IoT- and edge-related resources from APC by Schneider Electric, including the new Edge Computing Certification, which will help place you ahead of the path to revenue in these new, growing areas.