In my previous post, I looked at why automation is essential for managed service providers (MSPs). In this blog, we’ll discuss how MSPs can use that automation as a point of differentiation, and how it can become an important way to help you stand out from your competition.
With customers increasingly expecting speed of service from their providers, it is essential to respond quickly to emerging issues. And the cost of downtime in the internet-enabled business world is increasingly disruptive for your customers. If a company has a situation with their IT network that requires urgent attention, they do not want to be faced with having to wait one or two days for the issue to be sorted because their MSP is triaging multiple urgent tasks coming in at one time.
On the one hand, with little or no automation in place an MSP’s ability to respond and deliver a service in an efficient and effective way can be seriously compromised, especially if they have a sudden rush of requests. On the other hand, the highly-automated MSP is able to triage and remediate issues much more quickly. Often, this is because they are able to either pick up basic issues before they become a problem via their remote management and monitoring (RMM) platform, or because they are able to automatically take the initial triage actions in response to an issue. In the latter scenario, MSPs can stabilize an emerging situation and then complete the remaining steps in a more efficient way.
For example, imagine a situation where your client raises a ticket to say that their server is running really slowly and this is impacting performance of a critical business system. Without any automation or remote monitoring in place, you would need to quickly dispatch a technician on site to start running a number of checks—from simple disk space and error checks to memory and CPU usage statistics and an inventory of which systems are running. Automation can easily handle some of these basic steps so that a number of different checks could be run in advance of having anyone arrive on-site. For example, you can set your remote monitoring platform to check for hard drive errors, flush out the DNS cache, clear out temp files to increase space, and run a disk defrag. All of these basic steps help put your customer’s network into a safe state before the technician even steps in the door.
You can also leverage automation to produce a list of processes that are running, determine which users are logged in, and gauge the processor and memory usage that these users are consuming. This vital information can then be forwarded to your technician before they arrive on site, dramatically reducing the amount of diagnostic time required for them to complete their task.
When you look at it this way, the MSP that does not invest in a sufficient level of automation is not going to be able to offer the same speed of service as the one that has automated these key remediation steps. They will not be able to respond as quickly, and they will have to rely on a higher degree of human intervention to get the network or systems into a stable state. This can lead to greater network/system interruption and increase the time it takes to get customers sorted out. It’s important to frame the benefits of automation in this way when you explain them to your prospective customers, so they understand there is a real business benefit to the automated services you provide.
Furthermore, from your own perspective, automation can help you with the efficiency of your internal operations—once you are more efficient, you are in a better position to expand and grow. The added capacity that automation affords can allow you to onboard new customers without having to increase your technical staff, which is a great way to expand your business footprint.
Automation can also be leveraged to drive competitive advantage. You can differentiate yourself in the market by adding additional services for the same price, offering expanded managed services within an existing contract. Doing more for your customer base than your competition, at the same price, and at the same level of profitability, can make a real difference to your business.
In an increasingly competitive landscape, MSPs should do everything they can to drive real business value for their customers. Automation offers one powerful way to do this. If you’re not already employing some level of automation in your MSP business you could well be restricting your growth—unlock your business potential by looking at what you can automate today and how your toolset can help you do that.
Greg Lissy is vice president, product management at SolarWinds MSP
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