From Necessity, to Consolidation, to Transformation

As the UK and Europe move out of the shadow of COVID-19, we’re starting to see clients move from a reactionary model to a more open one, where instead of keeping their people working only with the resources at hand, their beginning to make enhancements to those resources with additional technology to secure and support their staff. With that shift, there’s an opportunity to build our business. But how do we do that without jeopardizing the goodwill we’ve created over the past few months? And how do we help our customers navigate the challenges and demands of the future with equal parts confidence and compassion?

John Pagliuca, president of SolarWinds MSP, asserted during the recent All Partners Meeting that we provide a service which is more than just IT—we’re crucial to the overall success of our clients. Like many MSPs, Dynacom has always been a retained consultancy at heart, a business built on service and capability. Also like many MSPs, in the face of recent challenges, we’ve been in survival mode—concentrating on simply getting things done, keeping clients working, retaining security, and avoiding putting up unnecessary obstacles.

Because of this we’ve built a groundswell of goodwill with our clients. While this goodwill gives us a significant advantage moving forward, we must be careful not to lean too hard into it. Goodwill is intangible and easily cheapened by a clumsy approach. If your clients believe you’re trying to cash in on COVID-19, it will erase any goodwill and likely create the exact opposite. So we need to make sure to approach future service proposals with intention and not just as a reaction to the pandemic. As the late great Stan Lee reminds us, “with great power there must also come great responsibility.”

Step forward with compassion

We must accept that, for the most part, in our industry we’ve been protected from the worst of the disruption of the past few months. Many of us are experts on working remotely, with the skills and technology to lift our own day-to-day operations and migrate to our spare rooms, sheds, and caravans outside our houses (I kid you not, we’ve had several of these). At the same time, we’ve been in demand, which has created a need for improved processes, logging, and automation in our own systems. We must be mindful many of our customers have not had the same experience. In the small business sector, too many have seen their life’s work decimated—and it’s been extremely distressing. It’s time for us to step forward not just with solutions, but with compassion too.

Companies are looking for the next steps. Some of these are relatively easy to see and implement. Better management of equipment used by remote workers, increased use of cloud services, and improved security at three that come to mind. But we also need to consider other goals—like an improved user experience, flexible working hours, environmental benefits, and improving the emotional and physical wellbeing of our customers staff and their clients. This is a challenge for MSPs—we know the technical side and have great partners to provide any technical services we cannot. (If you don’t have great partners, please contact me and I will recommend some—partners will be key to our success over the next 10 years and beyond). We have less experience when it comes to the wider challenges of the future mentioned above. However, it’s our very technology solutions that can help our customers address these challenges.

A focus on personal efficiency

These new customer goals are even more challenging when you consider several have had to reduce size of their staff. As customers try to do more with less, they’ll focus on personal efficiency to ensure their employees are as productive as possible. As we know, some people are much more productive at home. At a basic level, those with long commutes have experienced easy gains. But some find it challenging to motivate themselves to do their best work. Environmental issues can play a part—with two teenagers in the house and builders working next door, I’ve personally struggled over the past few weeks to consistently find a quiet corner to make video calls.

So how do we proceed without risking the goodwill of our customers? I believe one way may be to put the whole pandemic issue to one side. Don’t even mention it to your customers. Instead, simply recommend they take a more holistic approach.

Of our wide and varied customers, one in particular found it relatively straightforward to manage the COVID-19 crisis. Prior to 2020, they spent two years investing in improvements so every single member of their staff could work from home if required. This included consultants and other staff members who needed to travel frequently, but also included the administration and finance departments too. The driving force behind their policy was not about reducing the amount of desk space or accommodation, or making an environmental statement. It was driven by a desire to improve wellness among staff. Like many companies, several of their staff members are parents, some have elderly relatives to care for, and others have conditions and requirements which make having the option to work from home at short notice a massive benefit to their wellbeing. We helped them pick best-of-breed cloud services, installed on-premises infrastructure to address contractual requirements, improved their connectivity, and modified procedures and plans to make “work from anywhere” genuinely possible. When hit with a global pandemic, they simply leveraged this technology, and with minimal disruption got on with the task at hand.

Let me finish with one more point. We have an opportunity to accelerate the adoption of good practice, decrease risk with the use of cutting-edge security and automation, and help our clients thrive. As MSPs we and our partners were built for this. Let’s not blow it.

Simon Beckett is the MD of Dynacom IT Support Ltd