3 Tips for Building an Effective MSP Ecosystem

Neal Bradbury, Barracuda SVP
Author: Neal Bradbury

Most MSPs didn’t start out as MSPs. More likely than not, they were project-based VARs and/or break-fix providers at one time, and at some point made a decision to become an MSP. As many MSPs can attest to, perhaps the most challenging part of that transition was choosing the right IT tools (e.g., RMM and PSA).

Fact is, many of these tools have features that aren’t always intuitive to figure out. In time, most MSPs will develop a comfort level with their business tools — even if they’re using only a fraction of the available features. However, the most successful MSPs never get too comfortable with their business apps and work processes because they’re always looking for new ways to improve their operational efficiency.

Leveraging these IT tools to build an effective MSP ecosystem is attainable, but there are a few pitfalls that must be avoided and best practices that should be adhered to. The following three tips can serve as a guideline for MSPs:

Tip #1: Consolidate Apps Where Possible

It’s common to use specific products called point products in an effort to ease into managed services. For instance, a new MSP might start with a ticketing product, and then add a second product for remote management, a third tool for sales, a fourth for marketing, and so on. In a short time, an MSP can have 10 tools from 10 different vendors, making it difficult to manage each vendor relationship and take advantage of value-adds like market development funds and training resources.

Equally concerning is that each business app becomes its own island of data (i.e., data silo), which can only be rectified through custom integrations and/or lots of redundant (and manual) data entry. Many of these headaches and shortcomings can be avoided by selecting a comprehensive MSP solution that includes several of the aforementioned features in one suite. While it may not be feasible to choose one product that has everything an MSP needs, it’s helpful to confirm that an API is available for any add-on software being considered, including backup software. When choosing an RMM tool, for instance, make sure there’s an API available to connect with your PSA.

Tip #2: Commit to Training Up Front. If you talk to a group of new MSPs, you’re sure to find a handful who are frustrated with their tools — especially PSA solutions, which seasoned MSPs know requires a learning curve and a strong commitment to training to make work. Just because training is required, however, doesn’t mean the burden has to fall entirely on your internal staff.

Many of the reputable RMM and PSA vendors offer various kinds of in-person and on-demand training resources for free or at a low cost. Keep in mind that you may still need to hire a third party to train your staff and help you get the most out of your business automation software. Not only can good trainers share how-to tips and shortcuts, they can review your software configuration to ensure you’re optimizing each feature.

Tip #3: Develop (and Enforce) Procedures. The best business automation tools are only helpful to the degree that everyone in the organization who’s supposed to be using the them is actually doing so. The best way to ensure this happens is to develop procedures that highlight key details about when and how data is to be captured and entered into the system. Starting with top executives, key procedures need to be talked about regularly. Additionally, employees need to be held accountable so that good habits can be established and become routine.

Making the transition from using spreadsheets and various point products to a true MSP ecosystem can be a challenging process. But, after going through the implementation experience and persevering through the learning curve, most MSPs come out on the other side realizing, “I can’t believe how inefficiently I used to run my business compared to how I run it now."

Neal Bradbury is Senior Director of Business Development for Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda. Read more Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda blogs here.