The MSP space has changed dramatically over the past several years. A combination of increased demand for managed services, and an ever-growing list of services MSPs are delivering to their customers, has created a massive opportunity for the market. But, with opportunity comes challenge. In this case, that challenge is being able to not only deliver managed services, but reacting in near-real time to customer needs and delivering immediate resolution. The good news is just as modern technology is driving new services, it is also enabling MSPs to meet the challenge of speed and profitability. Service Tree and This Solution CEO Paul Azad will be addressing these topics at MSP Expo in Ft. Lauderdale, and took a few minutes to share a few of his thoughts on the MSP space and how his businesses have been able to adjust to market trends and demands.
Please tell us a bit about the latest news at your company:
Obviously, our most exciting news is the launch of Service Tree PSA into the U.S. channel. We’ve been working toward this point for several years now, and we’re really looking forward to engaging with the MSPs and other technology professionals in the States. Our goal from the beginning has been to offer our peers a better PSA—a services automation tool redefined to provide more data, more scale, more knowledge sharing and more automation.
What pains are you taking away for customers?
When you run an MSP, you are constantly searching for the right balance of products, people, workflow, service levels, ticket response times—honestly, the number of moving parts can be overwhelming. With ServiceTree, we are using the knowledge and data inside our partners’ businesses to create simple paths to efficiencies. By capturing the data unique to your company, applying question trees and leveraging our patented Open Next technology, ServiceTree eliminates guesswork and supports workflows that get the right ticket to the right tech at the right time.
Our solutions streamline day-to-day operations, reducing frustration from senior leadership down to the newest technician. Managers have all the data they need to prioritize resources, technicians complete work aligned with their skill set and experience level, and customers enjoy exceptional service in line with their contract level. Plus, refined, standardized processes help the entire business run more profitably. It’s a win-win-win situation.
How is cloud acceptance changing how your company or your customers operate?
Because of the cloud—or more accurately, the Internet—our ability to deliver service anywhere on any device is seamless. That capacity is a double-edge sword. On one hand, we can proactively monitor and respond to problems before they impact our customers, as well as respond to tickets or provide updates. The service levels we can tackle remotely have brought an entirely new level of customer service to the technology support market. On the flip side, that accessibility can bring two types of pressure to bear on MSPs, and not managing that can have dire consequences for businesses.
In today’s fast-paced, cloud- and Amazon-enabled world, our customers expect everything to be only a click away, including service and support. That means the days of 24- or 48-hour SLAs are gone, and the reality is that most customers want, at the very least, immediate confirmation you are aware of a problem—and ideally, an incredibly quick resolution. For some businesses, that has meant growing staff to unprofitable levels, since they haven’t mastered time management and team utilization levels. ServiceTree is an example of a tool purpose-built to help deliver that level of customer service while keeping the MSP organization streamlined and profitable.
That level of customer service has become the pivot point for differentiating one MSP from another as cloud-based tools and Internet-fueled accessibility opens the door to worldwide competition. The ability to deliver service anywhere means your competition now stretches well beyond your ZIP code. Through remote access and tools such as ServiceTree, an MSP in my home country of Australia could offer your client in the U.S. a better experience, unhindered by distance. Enabled by the cloud, my techs can peer into our client’s environment just as easily as the hometown IT company, raising the bar on customer service and adding tremendous pressure to operational efficiencies that allow MSPs to meet or exceed their SLAs.
While I firmly believe that our customers want to do business with people they know, I also understand that, as the local MSP, I still must be competitive. We don’t want to compete on price—and you may not be able to as competition from places such as India and the Philippines move in, so you need to deliver the service to move past pricing and on to the value of a trusted business partner.
How is open-source changing technology and how your company does business?
Open source is great, and we have both used and worked with OS projects. The key thing is that most businesses that jump in and use OS software don’t consider the hidden cost—time. We find that smaller businesses see OS as free and, while that’s great in terms of access, the reality is that when you add the time to get the tool/application working to the point you need, the cost is often quite high. OS projects have a place, but generally, they’re not the right fit for our MSP customers.
What implications does AI have for your business and your customers?
As you might be able to tell from our tool, we believe in the power of data. Pairing that data with intelligence that identifies patterns, speeds decisions, help automates areas of a business that are susceptible to human error—that could change the way operate for the best. It’s fascinating the way AI can digest and apply data, faster and far more accurately than humans. While ServiceTree is an example of that on a small scale, it’s clear to see the impact it has on how a business runs—enabling more service, better service. For business leaders such as myself, having the data and analytics to see where our human and technical talent can be best applied can change the trajectory of our business—in an incredibly positive way. With the efficiencies gained using applied data, we can see improvements at each and every step of our work.
Is SD-WAN changing the way you and/or your customers operate? How?
Being in Australia means that we are, in some cases, worlds away from trends in other countries such as the U.S., both due to geographical reach and, in many situations, the size of our Australian IT market. We have yet to see SD-WAN play out in the market here, so we are currently watching and learning as other geographies grapple with it so we’re more prepared to work with that technology when it arrives.
What new opportunities does IoT bring your company?
As a techie, the more information I can grasp and examine and apply, the better the solution I can build. The same holds true for most businesses. If restaurant owners can track data from their food orders to refrigerators to menu specials to sales, they have the information they need to order more conservatively, to push those items most popular and/or drop those items not working out—all with the help of a steady stream of data enabled by IoT. For companies such as ServiceTree, the more information we can track and present to our clients about their business, the better workflows we can recommend and the better decisions they can make. So, for us, data is an incredibly valuable asset, and IoT solutions can help us uncover next-gen opportunities for ourselves, our solution and our customers.
What is the greatest opportunity facing your industry?
The adage that with complexity comes opportunity continues to ring true. As innovative technologies continue to evolve, businesses will find themselves in need of expert technology business partners, opening the door to IT businesses willing to play a part in the disruption of the status quo. Those business leaders who inspire their teams to move outside the box, use their skill sets and knowledge to deliver high-performance solutions to resolve business problems and enhance company’s competitive stance will continue to prosper. Having tools that provide use data to find those new opportunities more quickly will have an even greater growth arc, informed by information both in their own business and in their customers’ environment.
What is the greatest challenge?
For MSPs, the greatest challenge today is competition—and it’s coming in different forms that ever before. When I first started as an MSP in 2001, we were simply an IT support company. During those early years, the challenge was to educate prospective customers about why it’s more effective and efficient to outsource to an MSP versus using existing internal IT staff. Today, we’ve learned to communicate our value, so the new challenge is that our competition is no longer the MSP down the road or a couple suburbs away. Thanks to the Internet, we are now in competition with MSPs across the country and around the world. That wide-open competitive marketplace means it’s critical that we deliver services and support even more effectively and efficiently to our customers. The new competitive pressure on MSPs is the biggest reason we built ServiceTree. After analyzing the MSP space and identifying the trend where our competitors were now coming from around the world, I knew we needed a PSA that could help us do IT support better. ServiceTree was born out of the necessity to be more efficient, better utilize our resources and still be profitable as an MSP. The tool helped us quickly transform into the business we are today, and we remain a thriving, profitable MSP despite the pressure of global competition.
What do you hope to achieve at the event?
We are so excited about meeting the MSPs we will be working with as we launch our solution in the channel. As an Australian MSP, I collaborate with peers on my side of the world, but I’m just starting to meet MSPs in the U.S. We hope this event marks the start to building close partnerships with our peers in the U.S. in order to learn more about their businesses and what they are struggling with, then brainstorm ways we can help them overcome those hurdles with our solution.
Why should people come to ITEXPO and collocated #SuperShow events to meet with your company?
It is easy to read a product overview or to listen to a pitch, but to really understand how a tool works, you must see it in action. We’ll be running demos of Service Tree and have our team on hand to talk through individual business challenges with attendees in order to offer insight about how ServiceTree can help them resolve those problems and move forward as a more agile, data-informed MSP.
Why should your session be on the list of must-attend sessions at this year’s conference?
For MSPs, the ability to provide service at a level that stands apart from competitors is half the battle. Being able to do that and be profitable is the other half. Our solution helps MSPs win the battle—from the question trees and patented Open Next technology that allow your techs to focus on what is important and best suited to their skill set to the insights we offer MSPs to understand where they are making margin, where they aren’t and the small changes that can turn a cost into a win. I am no different than the attendees in the audience—I’m a business leader, a techie, an MSP—and I’m going to share how we’ve used this tool to revolutionize the way that our business, This Solution, operates. My peers will see a lot of themselves in me, and hopefully, will walk away with ideas on how to improve their business or at least look at it in a new light.
Please make an interesting prediction about tech in 2019?
The buzz in the industry over increasing rates of M&A continues to grow, and while I believe that trend is going to continue, it isn’t for the same reasons as many others have. M&A will continue as more, small MSPs get out of the game under pressure from overseas competition. I am not talking about Australian competition here, as we are facing the same trend. I’m talking about pressure from MSPs located in countries such as India or the Philippines, or MSPs with sales resources located in the U.S., but all the actual tech work done overseas. It was that trend in our market that drove us to build ServiceTree, which enables the type of operational efficiencies for MSPs to ride the wave of global opportunity, perhaps even participate in it, instead of being left behind.
Paul is clearly passionate about not only his business, but the MSP space in general. Anyone in the IT space should be sure to join Paul when he shares his experiences and lessons learned during his session, “Orchestrating You MSP Profitability
” at 11:30am Wednesday, January 30, 2019, at MSP Expo. If you haven’t yet registered to attend, don’t wait – register today.
Edited by Erik Linask