The Evolving MSP

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How an MSP Becomes a CIO for SMBs

Are you doing everything you can to get your clients to see you as their trusted technology partner? Stop. You're selling yourself short and severely limiting the revenue and profit you can be generating from each client.

You absolutely want to be trusted; anybody in business wants to be trusted. Trust is a core component of any lasting business relationship. But by focusing on technology, you're not positioning yourself where you need to be in today's IT industry.

What does a trusted technology partner do? If you're a client you probably think of the following:

  • Helps select technology products that work well together and give great performance.
  • Prepares those products, configures them, tests them and probably has them installed and integrated, as well.
  • May offer some security programs, cloud services, storage networks, power protection, etc.
  • May build and help maintain datacenters.

Is that really what you want to be known for?

Many MSPs have successfully occupied the space that a chief information officer (CIO) would were the company large enough to justify the expense. They do so by offering a "fractional CIO" strategy in which many clients share one CIO or virtual CIO (vCIO), and each pays a fraction of the cost. When you add up all of those fractions, they should total to much more than the fully burdened cost of that professional.

In a large corporation, the CIO is part of the executive team, a C-Level executive. Their responsibility is not limited to making the technology work -- that's usually assigned to a chief technology officer (CTO). Instead, the CIO helps the executive team apply technology solutions to achieve the overall goals and objectives of the company. They are fully involved in developing and setting strategy. Their job is not just the technology, it's the entire business.

Trusted Business Partner
To achieve positioning as a client's vCIO, you must earn the right to be considered their trusted business partner. You must be fully versed in how businesses succeed, and how each client is endeavoring to do so. You need to know their challenges, their aspirations, their goals, their objectives and their SWOT -- strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

You must be expert at applying technology solutions to support these, and to solve challenges to them. You must also constantly remain fully informed on emerging solutions, making your clients aware of those that may be of value to them.

You must be brand-agnostic. By not advocating for any particular brand of product or service, you demonstrate the objectivity required to ensure that you're always selecting the best qualified solution for each challenge.

You know you are succeeding when client ownership and executive management consistently include you in key decision-making processes -- especially, but not necessarily limited to, those involving technology.

Emanating from your Attitude
When people ask you what kind of company yours is, do you find yourself answering "VAR," "SI," "MSP," "CSP," "reseller," "computer company" or some variant of those?

Do you ever think about referring to yourself as a consulting firm? Do you think of yourself as having sufficiently deep and broad knowledge to call yourself a professional consultant? A real consultant -- not just the kind that went to the business card printing store and had them put "Consultant" under their name. Do you feel you conduct yourself as a professional consultant does? Do you have a clear image of what that looks like?

Your ability to promote and sell your firm as a professional consultancy begins with the mindset, the confidence and the concern you exude for your clients' success. Don't worry -- soon enough, clients will let you know if your confidence is warranted or not.

I called this column "The Evolving MSP" because that's what I see MSPs doing. As with any large group, some are leading the pack, maturing at high-velocity. They're adding consultative services. They're selling engagements. They're leveraging project management, agile methodologies and many other strategies to improve the way they deliver value to clients.

And that's what they deliver to clients: value.

There are also many in the middle still focusing on technology, but offering more services and profiting from them. Then there are the laggards who still think they can make a living selling stuff.

Going forward, this maturity leadership will become more and more critical to your survival and growth. Clients know they can go to office supply stores to purchase technology products. If they're going to pay someone else for what they do, they'd better provide real value.

What value are you providing to clients? I'd really love to hear from you about your journey to truly becoming a CIO for SMB companies.

Posted by Howard M. Cohen on December 17, 2020


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