MSP Peer Groups: Still Driving Managed Services Business Success?

There’s strength in numbers. That claim appears to ring true even in the MSP industry.

The latest evidence: According to a new study from ConnectWise looking at the current state of the industry in Australia and the UK, MSP that join peer groups typically outperform solitary companies in the sector.

MSP peer groups allow IT service providers from non-competing markets or regions to network with one another, compare business performance, and share best practices. The dialog typically features CEOs and/or business owners representing each MSP.

Key peer groups organizers within and around the IT services market include HTG Peer Groups (now owned by ConnectWise); Taylor Business Group; Technology Assurance GroupTruMethods; and Service Leadership Inc., among others.

In some ways, distributors, educational organizations and IT services franchises also act as peer groups. Examples in those areas include CMIT SolutionsGrowth Achievement Partners, Ingram Micro TrustX AllianceThe Network Group, and TeamLogicIT. ( Side note: Thanks to Continuum CEO Michael George for some conversations about peer groups that date back about a year ago.)

MSP Peer Groups: Delivering a Competitive Advantage?

In the current climate, the ConnectWise research seems to demonstrate that MSPs participating in peer groups have a distinct advantage over MSPs that go it alone. “While the race to the top is becoming more intense, it is worth mentioning that where there are winners, inevitably there will be losers – and some non-peer-group MSPs will likely fall by the wayside if they cannot overcome the multitude of challenges that they are facing and will continue to face in future,” the study asserts.

Indeed, four in 10 non-peer group respondents said their organization is taking shortcuts to keep up with customer demand. “These organizations will need to be incredibly careful. Many non-peer-group MSPs are being forced to adopt a very short-term mentality, which seemingly allows them to keep up with customer demand and their competitors, but in reality, they might just be papering over the cracks,” write the authors.

Additional challenges facing these MSPs include the changing threat landscape, offering services at a competitive price, and offering a service that is cost-effective for their organization.

Of course, MSPs within peer groups face a similar set of challenges — including developing new business and cultivating new customers, addressing the changing threat landscape, and offering services at a competitive price.

MSPs and Peer Groups: Top Eight Takeaways

According to the study’s authors, the top lessons to learn from the study are:

  1. Diversified Services: Non-peer-group MSPs typically offer five different services to customers. In stark contrast, peer-group MSPs scale to currently offer about 14 services, on average.
  2. New Services: The majority of peer and non-peer MSPs are planning on rolling out new services in the next 12 months.
  3. Got Support: Most MSPs from both groups (peer and non-peer members) now offer support for the services they roll out. But here again, the figures are higher for peer group members.
  4. Customer Demand: This increase in demand is proving too much for some, and corners are being cut in order to keep up, particularly among non-peer group members.
  5. Key Challenges: The threat landscape, competitive pricing, finding new customers, and innovating are all top challenges suffered by non-peer-group MSPs.
  6. Keeping Pace?: The majority of peer-group (58%) and non-peer-group (57%) MSPs now find it harder to meet customer needs.
  7. Customer Experience: This is being overlooked by non-peer-group MSPs. Only half (50%) measure their success by it and only 53% are prioritizing its improvement over the next 3 years.
  8. Bottom Line: Most (87%) non-peer-group respondents worry that their organization will miss out on the emerging billion-dollar industry of managed services.

Customer Care

Ultimately, some MSPs may become too fixated on top line of revenue and bottom line profitability at the expense of customer experience.

“In any buyers’ market, if you ignore customer experience, customers will ignore you in return,” the study asserts. “And improving customer experience is easier said than done, with customers demanding more (technology, security, speed, reliability, contact) for less.”

Peer-to-peer partnering is one way to potentially boost those customer experiences. We’ll dig for more info and analysis next week at ConnectWise Automation Nation 2018 in Orlando.

Additional insights from Joe Panettieri.

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    Lloyd Wolf:

    Interesting information. Participating in HTG Peer Groups over the past 10 years has been a huge help to my MSP, our staff and our clients – as well as informally connecting with peers in other ways, such as TruMethods, IT Nation and even friendly local competitors. I couldn’t imagine leading the company today without peer sharing, and I don’t know how I did it for the first 19 years in business without being part of such groups.

      Joe Panettieri:

      Lloyd: Thanks for always sharing your insights with ChannelE2E’s readership. Great to see you at Schnizzfest.
      Readers: In the days ahead we’ll be sharing more details about Lloyd’s journey as a business builder and owner — and a recent M&A deal. Stay tuned.

    Curtis Hicks:

    True Profits Group did not make the list, the grand-daddy of them all?

    Jamie Warner:

    Great article Joe and I completely agree the value of peer groups is the difference maker between high growth or mediocre results.

    The reason is by working together you learn how to drive excellence in the key areas of success; your business model, people, services, systems, sales, marketing and your ‘purple cow’ – the thing that makes you different.

    The last part of the article talks about customer experience (CX). I think CX is the missing part of the MSP software stack. Think about it, what do we traditionally give our customers to interact with our services? A phone number, email address and Web Portal link on a sticker or mouse pad..? Hardly a premium experience.

    That’s why my MSP replaced email support with a customizable desktop and mobile App to deliver a premium customer experience. We grew our Monthly Support from $80,000 to $220,000 because we offered a better experience.

    You can read more on how I did this here:


    Shannon Mayer:

    In 2018, we are definitely seeing power in peer groups! The ASCII Group has been spearheading the “strength in numbers” model for over 30+ years now and our members are continuing to grow and prosper across North America because of it.

    The value from being a member of an IT community is immeasurable – business operations benefits, professional networking, knowledge sharing opportunities and a multitude of other advantages MSPs can’t access on their own. Our member-only community forum generated over 3,000 messages just last month alone! Avenues that continue to foster meaningful collaboration for MSPs will lead to increased success for all participating.

      Joe Panettieri:

      Hey Shannon: Thanks for your note. I typically think of ASCII more as an organization and a conference host. But certainly that’s my fault. I’ll be sure to keep The ASCII Group in mind as we continue the peer group coverage in the weeks and months ahead. PS: I hope all is well with you.

        Dustin Bolander:

        ASCII needs to do a better job selling itself if that is the case. I attended one conference, it was entirely vendor pitches, and that is what all their literature seems to reflect as well. Have never gotten the peer group impression in any way.

        We eschewed the industry groups and went with Vistage/TAB. We’re able to get enough industry knowledge from IT Nation and various webinars like service leadership that it seems to be working really well.

          Jerry Koutavas:


          Appreciate you commenting because we do need to do a better job in conveying what takes place within our community. The platform that ASCII provides allows our members to communicate freely so that they can learn from each other, avoid mistakes and better understand strategies to grow as a company.

          However, does this define a peer group – for many it does not and for many it does. Regardless, we understand that we need to impart how MSPs are shaping their companies -for the better – within our peer community.

          Also, I appreciate you attending our events in the past. Today, we try to balance the content and education better than what we have done previously. We feature successful MSPs on what they are doing in the market, as well as close out the event with a notable keynote speaker.

          If you have any suggestions on how we can better serve you, we adapt and evolve just like you – my email is [email protected].

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