Author: Amy Babinchak, MSP, IT Influencer, & President of the National Society of IT Service Providers

SMBs should turn to MSPs for help

The title of this article is one of the foundational philosophies of my MSP and my approach to providing IT services in general.

We are here to serve business and help people. In thinking about how we can help the employees of our clients, productivity comes first to mind. Not so much in the case of making sure that the computing environment is secure and the infrastructure functions, but more so in the support of work and helping that translate into profits. Because profit is what our clients care about, so it is what we should care about too.

Recently, I read an article about how Microsoft has changed how they measure employee success by looking at their ability to thrive. Their analytics showed them that some employees were thriving, and others were not. Why was that? More thriving employees means more productive people and more productive people means more profit and creativity to drive the business forward. HR shifted their evaluations into exposing the level of thrive as a measure of how well management was doing at managing people. Isn’t that fantastic? HR is actually measuring management on something that matters.

What does this mean for small businesses?

Microsoft started measuring thrive, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a thing that only big multi-national corporations can do or should care about. I’d argue that small businesses are more likely to succeed in implementing this advantage than Microsoft believes they will be.

Specifically, what they noticed was that there were certain traits among their highest performing (thriving) employees.

>> Five fewer hours in the workweek

>> Five fewer collaboration hours

>> Three more focus hours

>> 17 fewer employees in the internal network size

Small businesses already have a couple of these things going for them. There tends to be less collaboration, and there are less than 17 people in their work peer group. Less collaboration isn’t necessarily an advantage but too much collaboration results in over-analysis and committee-izing everything into inefficiency. That is more of a culture problem and one that would be difficult for MSPs to address. As we sometimes have to tell our clients, not everything can be solved with technology.

create more focus hours for employees as a task

Instead, help your customers create more focus hours for employees as a task. If your employees can focus more, then the amount of work that needs to be done outside of business hours will naturally drop and those 5 fewer hours in the work week will just happen. So MSPs can help with two of the items in the list above.

Three more focus hours a week is 36 minutes a day. That’s not a huge thing to achieve. It’s probably one or two fewer interruptions.  If they are Microsoft users, then Outlook can block off focus time on the calendar to keep appointments from spacing out poorly. Windows also has a focus mode where reminders and notifications are suspended. Solving focus is a relatively simple problem and as Microsoft points out in their article, it turns employees into top performers. Now that’s adding value.

But before we can help others, we have to help ourselves

We’ve got to nail down infrastructure and security so that it’s no longer the focus of the MSP. With all of the security hype, you’d think that security is the only thing that MSPs should be doing but really what MSPs should be doing is putting security into its place among the baseline of services. Of course, we do that.

It should just be handled by tools, by outsourcing, by standard procedures as the baseline, not the main sales pitch. That’s our challenge as MSPs. We need to get out of the rat race and onto bigger things – like making work work for our clients and making technology provide the productivity that it promises. Making that happen is way more than simply making sure a computer doesn’t bluescreen or the criminals don’t rip off your client. We have to do those things, but they can’t be the only thing.

We have to get to the point where security is at the same level of snooze-worthy news as helpdesk.

let’s talk about getting you more from your technology investment and making your people more productive

“Do you have someone I can call when I can’t print? Are my data and identity going to be secure?” Of course! Who doesn’t do those things? Now let’s talk about getting you more from your technology investment and making your people more productive.

I didn’t invent this phrasing but I’m going to use it because it’s geeky. We have been working at the infrastructure layer and we need to move up to the application layer, or as I heard it phrased on MSP Radio recently, the work layer. If we truly want to provide value, we need to address work productivity at the application layer.

How do MSPs make work more productive?

MSPs do not add value by simply making something not have errors. MSPs make something not have errors so that their customer’s work can be done. Now the employee can get to work. Is that adding value? No, that’s just fixing stuff or hopefully proactively keeping something from breaking. Just like the oil change company keeps your engine from seizing up. Do you thank them for that and agree to pay them top dollar? Nope, you begrudgingly pay for the service at the cheapest place you can find that does a decent job and move on.

the value add in IT comes when we teach them something that they didn’t know that makes their job more efficient or easier

For clients, the value add in IT comes when we teach them something that they didn’t know that makes their job more efficient or easier. It’s all about education. It’s about teaching people how to use the features of the software that they own.

The statistics are employee training are really sad.

>> 6 out of every 10 employees today say they have never had any training at their workplaces and that their skills are largely self-taught.

That means that 6 out of 10 employees are just making it up as they go along. Talk about low-hanging fruit. A small amount of formal training will have a huge impact in this environment. If you’d like to browse some more statistics on the sad state of employee training you can find them here, 43+ Employee Training Statistics (2022) + Benefits and Costs (thinkimpact.com)

If a potential client is a Microsoft 365 customer when I meet them. I ask them which of the 45 applications that it comes with are they using? One question is all it takes to land a new client.

Adding value can be:

>> the annual security training now required by every business insurer

>> adding a software training package to your included items

>> holding lunch and learn and Q&A sessions

>> helping them make use of the phone more productive

>> teaching them how to use online meeting applications better

Maybe you don’t have the staff on board to be an expert in every software package that your clients use but it is very likely that you already have the staff to do the items that I listed above. Your clients have a big problem. Their staff doesn’t know how to use software to its fullest and that is costing them money.

You can add value.

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About the Author

Amy Babinchak is a highly respected technology business and M&A expert, influencer, thought leader, and President of the National Society of IT Service Providers. Her companies have won many awards, and we are honored that she’s a member of the Modern MSP Community.