Ensure Long-Term Client Support Through Diversity
Is it best for an MSP to align their business portfolio with one or two comprehensive IT vendors, be vendor/product neutral, or land somewhere in between? The answer to that question varies widely, likely shaped by the respondent’s role in the channel community. Few MSPs ever seem to enjoy long-term success when their offerings are closely tied to a single vendor’s portfolio—unless that company’s long-term objective is to be acquired by a strategic business partner.
Supplier diversity gives providers more flexibility when it comes to solving their clients’ varied business needs. When MSPs find new vendors that can help them assemble better solutions for their customers, they’re likely to engage in deeper discussions and a thorough evaluation of their options.
It’s not easy (or possible) to adapt certain offerings to meet the prerequisites of certain industries or clients, and sometimes the costs of customization far exceed the value they deliver. Rather than price themselves out of prospective contracts, or offering their customers with solutions that don’t meet their specific business needs, MSPs will search out better alternatives. By engaging new vendors who can offer the most suitable options for their specific requirements, providers often receive attractive pricing and gain access to benefits their current suppliers don’t offer.
When MSP’s expand their buying ecosystem, it can reduce their exposure to shortages and downtime. Successful providers typically build and maintain a backup vendor plan, screening and putting prospective partners through their paces with demos and thorough evaluations. Even if those vendors aren’t selected as a primary supplier, they’re services and products may be utilized with a subset of an MSP’s clientele. Online back is a great example of this approach; where one company is often selected to be widely implemented, with another supplier used for specific vertical market applications or with a select group of beta customers.
It’s always good to have options. Even the most stable and trusting MSP/vendor relationships can break down over unforeseen circumstances; from mergers and acquisitions (of either party) to insolvency and major service disruptions. In addition, no company (that I know of) can offer every product and service needed to support every business client. From managed print services to EMR (emergency medical records), today’s expanding MSP business community needs access to a growing list of suppliers with a variety of comprehensive support options.
That why solution providers have to continually assess their current affiliations and explore future supplier options. Whether an MSP pursues a relationship (or not) depends on several factors, including the:
- Uniqueness of a prospective vendor’s offerings
- Benefits of their channel program
- Support options (especially for atypical products and services)
- Warranties and assurance programs, SLAs
You Can Support it All
The largest hurdle most MSPs face when expanding their solutions and vendor portfolio is how to manage it all. The learning curve for new offerings and relationships can be ominous for providers, often causing delays in rollout and implementation. If the expansion is major, MSPs may need to recruit and train new employees, and educate their existing staff on the latest solutions and support processes.
That’s an expensive proposition for many providers. While proactive companies always look for new ways to better serve their clients, providing and supporting additional solutions (and managing a number of new vendor relationships) can be a costly proposition. That’s an area where a comprehensive outsource support partner can really help.
How can an MSP maintain their independence while subcontracting a part of their business? By contracting with a “white label” support company, providers can offer their clients a single, comprehensive service experience. From a customer’s perspective, the MSP organization sustains their business, no matter who answers the phone or responds via email. That allows small and emerging providers to expand their portfolio and vendors, while ensuring their service remains top-quality—without the growing pains or major investments required when you do it all yourself.
When an MSP expands its portfolio of services, or adds new vendors to the line card, a comprehensively trained and certified help desk and outsource service provider can cost-effectively fill any gaps. They can either augment a company’s existing support team or take over certain responsibilities, such as help desk calls or supporting specific technologies or business practices. That gives an MSP the freedom (and flexibility) they need to grow their business without breaking the bank.