We talk a lot about growth in our blogs: how to achieve scalable growth; ensure profitable growth; overcome growing pains; and most recently, the importance of having an effective NOC to support your growth.
Growth in all its shapes however depends on successfully resolving of one of the greatest MSP challenges: how and when do you take on the extra staff you will need.
Taking on more engineers in anticipation of growth can prove costly if this growth doesn’t happen to your timescales. On the other hand, hiring ‘just in time’ can leave you exposed and struggling to onboard new clients quickly and effectively while maintaining high service levels to your existing base.
Partnering for NOC resolves this dilemma, enabling you to access the skilled resources you need as and when you need them, rather than having to invest in new staff in anticipation of a growth that ultimately may not happen when you expect it to.
But partnering also mean changes – in the way you currently do things and in the roles and responsibilities of your in-house team.
Our most successful MSP partners manage this transition carefully, planning for the process and organisational changes that will reshape the in-house team and, crucially, winning hearts and minds along the way. These MSPs have a clear vision of where they want their business to go and a determination to bring their people along with them.
Making sure everyone shares the vision of your MSP journey
It is vital that all of your team understand why you are partnering for NOC and how it is going to help your managed services business.
Outsourcing elements of service delivery, such as NOC and/or Service Desk to a best-in-class partner, can help you to scale profitably and operate at a higher operational maturity level (OML).
If you’re not familiar with this concept as applied to MSPs, the below chart may help. Based on the Gartner MSP Maturity Model, it plots the stages in the MSP journey and the typical characteristics of the business at each stage.
The MSP journey involves moving from a reactive business model to an increasingly proactive and service-based model; from being remunerated for performing specific tasks to working much more strategically with your customers as a specialist advisor and strategic partner; from performing tasks perceived as low value, to projects considered of much higher value.
Partnering for NOC can help you to move up through the MSP Maturity levels and achieve this change of focus.
But what does this brave new world look like through the eyes of your service delivery team?
How have their day to day responsibilities changed? Where do they fit into the new organisational structure? Where do they go from here (hopefully not to a competitor!)?
NOC work is essential to proactively manage your customers’ infrastructure and minimise downtime. But it can be boring and repetitive work: tackling failed backups, updating anti-virus definitions, cleaning up disks – wading through the white noise of alerts day after day. A big benefit of partnering for NOC is that your engineers lose a lot of this daily grind. But not all will see it that way.
Introducing any major change to the way you operate your MSP business is likely to bring a level of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) among your staff – particularly if it is perceived as a sneaky way of replacing your in-house team.
This is why the ‘winning of hearts and minds’ is so important.
You need to be aware of potential concerns and ensure that everyone buys in to the new NOC partnering model, from senior management right through to the people at the coal face. Everyone needs to understand why it’s good for the business – and good for them too.
We all talk happily about partnering for NOC being an opportunity to ‘redeploy’ your engineers to higher-value areas. We point to time ‘freed up’ to develop the customer relationships so essential to selling in new services and to take on a more strategic vCIO role. With our 24/7 service, your team will be spared the burden of out-of-hours coverage and benefit from the fact that we work while they sleep.
It’s the specifics of implementing this that are so important to get right: what will be the new roles of your service delivery team, do they have the right skills to fulfil these – and do they want to?
|With your NOC partner now responsible for routine monitoring, maintenance and remediation, some of your core service delivery team will still be needed to manage the process and the day-to-day relationship with the partner, escalating issues internally where required.|
|Your service delivery team will not lose touch with the coal-face, being called upon to resolve any escalated issues and overseeing client onboarding by the NOC partner. But they will have more time to carry out specialist projects for customers.|
|Some of your service delivery team could be redeployed to improve customer operations, reviewing current systems and networks to identify opportunities to improve performance and operational support.|
|Ultimately these engineers could become vCIOs with a more strategic role as specialist advisers within your customers.|
Developing this kind of relationship is essential if you want to service larger organisations with more complex needs.
|Others could take on more of an account management or sales support role. Both of these would involve learning more about customers’ (and prospects’) business challenges and spotting opportunities to resolve these with your services.|
I really wish I could offer you a standard organisational template to make this transition easier. Sadly I can’t: every MSP business is different and the scope of service delivery they hand over to a NOC partner also varies widely.
Plus, each of your team members will react differently to the situation.
Some will appreciate the opportunity to lose the ‘drudgery’ and take on more proactive roles within the organisation. They will understand the benefits that come from working more closely with your customers rather than being confined to just keeping their systems running. Some will relish the idea to become managers rather than doers.
Others will be less happy, preferring to continue in a reactive role.
The key thing is to plan for the change well in advance of it happening.
Here are six areas to focus on:
- Have you identified exactly what each of your team will be doing under the partnership model?
- Do they fully understand what their new role involves?
- Have you updated job descriptions to reflect these changes?
- Have you provided the appropriate training if they are taking on a different role?
- Do incentives packages need to be revised?
- Does your team understand their new roles vis à vis the NOC partner’s team?
You can’t force change on people and expect a happy outcome. Your team can become very protective of their domain when a new service delivery partner is introduced. They may (rightly) question the new way of doing things before engaging with it. This is a healthy process, as it helps both parties to understand each other – and move forward.
Your engineers are the bedrock of your business. They have significant expertise, they know the systems you support and the automation tools you use – and they know your clients.
Partnering for NOC will only work with buy-in from your service delivery team. Make sure they see your NOC partner as an extension of the team, delivering complementary resources to help them not compete with them.
People fear the unknown. Much better to make your team part of the decision, to make sure they understand how it will work in practice, what specifically will change about their role and how this could be an opportunity for them to become even more valued members of your business.
Read about MSPs we have helped to grow successfully.
Contact us to find out how we can help your managed services business.