After a myriad of articles about remote work and getting end users set up on home systems, many MSPs are tiring of the discussion. Unfortunately, the early rush to push people offsite and triage systems mean providers will likely take on additional responsibilities as businesses reopen and reimagine and transition their operations.
In the words of Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over until it’s over.” MSPs' roles during and after the pandemic will inevitably rise as organizations seek out new mobile and remote technologies and the expertise required to make successful WFH transitions. In other words, your clients need you more than ever − even those businesses adversely affected by the pandemic.
Many employees may never return to the “traditional” office setting. According to Gartner’s CFO Survey, 74% of businesses intend to shift some of their staff to remote work permanently. Of course, those types of transitions typically require more planning, preparation, and procurement than many SMBs realize, which means they will need someone to shape that strategy and, in many cases, develop cost-effective solutions to accomplish their objectives.
With more than half (56%) of the U.S. workforce holding jobs that are at least somewhat compatible with remote work, according to Global Workplace Analytics, virtually every business should be exploring the option. Most just need to be enlightened on the value of a WFH environment for employees and their company. For example, small and mid-size manufacturers have traditionally kept a large proportion of their office staff onsite to ensure all employees (i.e., line workers, maintenance)
Consulting is a valuable part of an MSPs’ service portfolio, now more than ever. That means your clients need to clearly communicate the environmental changes they expect and desire, both short-term and long-term, and openly discuss strategic business objectives. For example, do they plan to move some or all their team members permanently or create a more flexible office space, where they can choose to work from home or the office? If a business shifts its WFH strategy, how will that affect the current physical environment (real estate and onsite equipment)?
Some of those changes may free up capital for remote system upgrades, enhanced training, and improved data and network protection. In other words, with greater insight into your clients’ workforce intentions, it will be easier for your team to construct more effective plans and realistic budgets to ensure successful transitions.
Expand Your Technology Portfolio
Now is the time for “glass half-full” discussions. While MSPs need to take an empathetic approach with struggling business clients, this may be the perfect point to discuss realignment and automation. Can you bring new solutions to the table that will reduce workload and improve productivity and efficiency? What tools can you provide to ensure their remote teams are fulfilling their job responsibilities?
With a distributed workforce, your clients may need additional reporting capabilities and new ways to monitor activities and collaborate on projects. Phone calls and Zoom meetings only go so far. Now is a great time to evaluate technology options, potentially replacing some costly legacy tools with solutions that are not only more price-conscious for those struggling businesses but deliver more collaboration capabilities.
For example, many MSPs are aggressively replacing traditional telecom and on-premise voice technologies with feature-rich hosted VoIP applications. Not only can those systems save financially strapped customers a significant amount of money each month, but they increase communications capabilities for those working from home or remote locations. Integrations with major business applications sweeten the deal for MSPs (implementation fees and additional recurring revenue) and their SMB clients.
Many businesses are using this time to move forward instead of returning to “normalcy.” In the Gartner survey, finance executives also anticipate increased spending on robotic process automation (34%), cloud-based ERP technologies (20%), and advanced analytics (19%). These business-enhancing tools bring enterprise capabilities to the SMB and, thanks to a growing list of suppliers, are becoming more affordable for even the smallest firms.
Start with WFH Needs
With travel and traffic significantly reduced, and business anxiety on high, many MSPs are finding their clients more willing to spend time discussing their business challenges and ‘wish lists.’ Those conversations should begin with their WFH philosophy. How will that evolve through the coming weeks and months, as government restrictions and CDC recommendations loosen (or possibly shift back and forth depending on the spread of COVID-19)?
MSPs must delineate between the changes business owners want to implement long-term and the things they are being asked or forced to do during the pandemic. Assuming your clients are comfortable with a WFH strategy and pitching them new remote investments could lead to major disappointments and waste valuable they could better spend exploring real customer pain points.
Security is a great door opener for those conversations. Discuss your concerns about the current environment and pose a question about their long-term plans after the pandemic. Will they explore WFH as a more permanent solution with the right technologies, processes, and policies in place? If so, it’s the perfect time to dig deeper and develop proposals that will put your clients in the best possible situation when the business situation returns to some normalcy.
Brian Sherman, Content Director