1. Rise of the mega MSP
The mega MSP is created through merger and acquisition activity. ChannelE2E does a lot of good work tracking M&A activity in the channel, and you can see new deals every week. When a fragmented industry consolidates, it means a couple of important things. First, it means that as your competitors get bigger, they can start doing things at scale that smaller companies can’t do. They will have professional marketing and sales infrastructure. They can do security at scale and invest in high-end tools. A big MSP can be a competitive beast. But with a bigger pond comes the chance to target bigger fish. The mega MSP can target listed companies, which means growth for the channel, and opportunity for MSPs that target different clients.
2. Emergence of the next gen MSP
The next gen MSP is a nimble, cloud-based member of the ecosystem. Low barriers to entry in this business mean that a lot of new MSPs enter the channel each year. The new breed of MSP is lean, efficient, and specialized. It has a fully modern stack, no clunky legacy anything, and they’ve learned from the mistakes of older MSPs. Unburdened by legacy stacks, legacy pricing, and legacy customers, the next gen MSP starts out with the industry’s best practices. The MSP business is no longer transactional in nature – a strategic mindset is essential for competing.
3. Cloud migration
The cloud is really a driver of efficiency. As I’ve written in this space before, IT Glue has a paperless office, which eliminates a lot of the waste and friction that bogs down other companies. And while it’s easy for a SaaS company to think this way, your clients are going to start wanting to leverage the efficiency of cloud-based applications, too. Office 365 has been a rock star for a lot of MSPs, and something like that makes for a great launching pad to get your clients to adopt other SaaS applications. In 2018, it’s go cloud or go home.
How does blockchain affect the channel? Good question, actually. But your clients are reading about it. As the year goes on, don’t be surprised to see more enterprises leveraging blockchain, and don’t be surprised if some of your clients want to follow suit. There’s going to be a big opportunity here – verticals like banking, health care, and anybody with a supply chain seem like the best bets. Get ahead of the curve on this one.
Who isn’t talking about artificial intelligence and machine learning right now? Unlike with blockchain, there are very real opportunities in AI for MSPs right now. The democratization of AI means that a lot of SaaS applications you use already have some form of AI functionality. But more than that, it means that there are AI-based tools that you can sell to your clients. Even a simple chatbot can leverage machine learning to help you streamline your service desk, or find more clients. 2018 is a great year to think creatively about how you can leverage AI to add value to your customers.
6. Security, security, security
Your clients are worried about security. They read the headlines. And they’re looking to you to secure their environments. As long as cyberspace is a wretched hive of scum and villainy, security will be a great opportunity for MSPs. With things like GDPR on the horizon, compliance is going to be a bigger issue, too, if not for you then for many of your clients. All of this creates opportunity to build your status as a trusted IT security advisor and leverage that to drive additional revenue.
7. Sales & marketing sophistication
The MSP business is maturing, and paying more attention to marketing and sales is a big part of that. More MSPs are hiring salespeople, and the bigger ones are getting to a point where they are starting to invest in marketing teams. There’s an absolute abundance of SaaS apps for marketers, so you don’t need a big team – just one or two really savvy people. As MSPs become more efficient, they’ll be able to dedicate more time and money to growing their businesses.
8. Documentation automation
How did you know documentation would make this list? The thing about documentation is that it has become an essential skill for any MSP who’s serious about being a market leader. The more automated you make documentation, the bigger the increase in ROI you’ll see. One of the biggest focal points for IT Glue in the coming year is to get MSPs automating more of their documentation, giving you more tools to increase your profits.
9. Changing economy
If you run a business, you think about the economy. Life is pretty good for most of us right now – 2008 is far behind us and a positive run of several years is worth feeling good about. In the last couple of months, however, there’s been a lot of discussion about how a potential bubble scenario may be re-emerging. If the economy goes sideways, you’ll want to be able to demonstrate clear value to your clients, you’ll want the lean processes needed to deliver profits even in a reduced-revenue scenario, and you’ll want to be able to continue investing in sales and marketing. Remember: industry leaders weather economic storms while the laggards get flushed out to sea. You may not have a trained economist on staff to read the tea leaves, but you can improve your company today to handle whatever tomorrow brings.