Changing MSP Landscape: Automation on the Rise
In the second of a two-part series on the managed service provider transformation mandate, we explore the benefits of automated management.
As discussed in the first piece in this two-part series, rich, real-time interactions are triggering enormous levels of complexity within IT and unified communications -- and the challenge can't be overcome by throwing human capability at it. The labor arbitrage business model is now inherently broken, necessitating managed service providers (MSPs) to pursue a new model that factors in automation.
Given the number of devices, interactions, applications, and potential areas they need to manage, MSPs are feeling the squeeze on their margins. They're also feeling pressure from the digital transformation of the marketplace. If providers are going to survive, their only choice is to leverage technology to move toward a more automated environment. Automated management tools are a critical part of that solution.
The Key to Market Differentiation
A complex UC system exponentially increases the amount of available real-time data. Organizations that embrace automated tools will become much more competitive with their responsiveness to customers, data analytics, and ability to address issues with proactive strategies. They can optimize their environments from three perspectives: operational, cost, and user experience.
For MSPs to differentiate themselves in the market, they must use a performance management solution that introduces a high level of automation while being able to get an all-encompassing view of what's going on within their UC environments. When enterprises and service providers encounter problems with their UC systems, they're not just looking for a needle in a haystack. A problem in one of these massively complex systems in use by tens of thousands of people worldwide is the equivalent of looking for a needle in a field full of haystacks.
Of course, they have no idea in which haystack to start looking. The likelihood of finding it won't increase by just bringing more humans to join the search. Automated tools are simply the best way to tackle this growing complexity.
MSPs with siloed systems use individual applications to view and monitor what's going on in each of them. Because they have many different monitoring systems, they don't have a bird's-eye view of the entire UC ecosystem. They have no clear source of information that allows them to pinpoint an underlying issue.
Fixing something whenever it breaks makes absolutely no sense -- that's a completely backwards approach. Instead, you want to ensure that something doesn't break in the first place.
Be proactive by understanding your environment and leveraging systems aimed at identifying issues, be those impending hardware failures, misconfigurations, or other problems that could cause service degradation, before they occur. Of course, that's only Level 2 in terms of operational maturity in an IT environment. You should aspire to reach Level 5, which isn't just about being proactive. Optimizing the environment across three key dimensions will deliver significant returns.
Optimize Your Environment
You can optimize operationally, in terms of cost and service provisioning, by leveraging automated systems that monitor and analyze the user experience. If users are having problems with video quality, audio quality, or document sharing, the system should be able to detect and rectify the issue. It should also send a popup survey to the users asking how their experience was after the fact, even offer advice on what they can do differently to have a better experience. That information will allow you to determine how successful the technology was in delivering a perfect customer experience or improving it the next time round.
We've only just scratched the surface here -- this is a summary of wave one and wave two of service provider environments. Ultimately, service providers need to be serious about transitioning out of the old model and onto newer systems. They're already experiencing a margin squeeze on labor arbitrage. They have an inability to satisfy their customers' requirements, no matter how much labor they throw at the problem. It's simply too complex to tackle without a better approach.
As of now, they have scores of different systems that are all monitoring individual points in a complex ecosystem. They don't have a single tool that can oversee the entire UC environment. Without that high-level dashboard view, they're unable to automate effectively.
On the other hand, some service providers are beginning to move along this path. They're showing great success and growing rapidly as a result. In a competitive environment, the survivors of the future marketplace are going to be the ones that understand the days of labor arbitrage are gone. We're moving into a realm of leveraging automation, holistic performance management, and cloud-based architectures.