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MSPs Should be Advisors, Add Value

ITPV spoke with Pranav Pandya ,Chairman, Dev Information Technology Ltd., on the changing ecosystem for managed service providers.

How has the role of managed service providers changed with the coming of cloud services that businesses can directly employ?

Pranav Pandya ,Chairman, Dev Information Technology Ltd.

The role of managed service providers has changed to a larger extent due to the advent of cloud services. The transition from a hardware- and software-based sales model to selling cloud services in a subscription model sets the stage for a different approach for MSPs. This shift can mean developing new approaches to their businesses, including adopting new strategies to engage customers, finding a suitable sales and marketing plan, adjusting the way customers are billed, and changing the way services are provided to customers once they’ve adopted a cloud offering.

An MSP typically has a more advanced understanding of the cloud vendor’s product than a referral partner or a VAR. Instead of building a special department in-house, many corporations rely on MSPs to figure out the company’s IT needs. This puts MSPs in a very special position vis-à-vis the vendor and buyer: They represent the cloud vendor’s product and act as a dedicated consultant/maintenance team to the buyer.

In the cloud-as-a-provider model, the MSP builds its cloud as a white-label environment. If the channel partner is selling the cloud services as white label service under their own name then entire paradigm shifts towards considering the said client as their own customer rather than a reseller client. Hence the value add proposition would be much more aligned towards how the said white label service would help the customer to enhance their business per se ensuring business growth. In fact such white label cloud service provider will have to cultivate the mind set of partnering the customer in their business growth and such value add would surely help them to reap their own business growth benefit in turn.

What changes in expectations from customers have you seen over the last few years?

Customers demand a high level of quality from service providers who understand their business, provide local customer support and have expertise that can improve their operational performance. But in addition, they will be looking for the service provider to have the ability for delivering an application building, executing and hosting capabilities that enables client’s business agility.

Many business enterprises have cloud presence but are not maximising its capabilities that can be offered by cloud adoption. At the same time pressures are building upon such enterprises for cloud adoption as a competitive scenario and hence they anticipate risk of failure if they do not go for such adoption. The competitive scenario surely brings in cloud adoption loaded with innovation and flexibility in business transaction model for the said enterprises. The challenge lies around identifying and developing a cloud strategy that helps meet key business goals.

Companies today need MSPs who work closely with them to understand their entire business environment, align with business vision, goals and business decisions pertaining to the same so that cloud adoption is carried out successfully ushering in the digital transformation as wishes by such enterprises.

What business verticals rely most on their MSPs?

Today, due to the changing landscape of the IT adoption and digital transformation, every company, whether small or big and from any industry vertical relies on MSPs for all their IT infrastructure needs. IT/ITeS vertical accounts for 35-45 per cent of the total spending, while massive investments in data centers by technology vendors for banking, financial services and the insurance segment, is driving cloud adoption. Other sectors like manufacturing, healthcare, retail/e-commerce and telecom are also driving adoption.

Would you say large cloud services companies have enabled you to deploy/ manage solutions for your clients effectively / efficiently?

Yes, having partnerships with and expertise on all major cloud providers like Microsoft Azure, AWS and Office 365, DEV IT gains an understanding of clients’ IT portfolio and creates an optimized cloud environment that minimizes their IT footprint.

What challenges do you see now in traditional MSP areas (desktop / server management,managed security, network and other infra management) ?

Any services under the umbrella of IT Infrastructure Management services (Managed IT Services) are not preferred as a standalone service by the clients. They need a partner who can provide end-to-end services right from planning to migrations, deployment and support.

Again, the partner should have skills and capabilities on diverse technologies and platforms to support the heterogeneous IT environment of client. Hence it is more of blended service offerings that are being demanded by clients now, wherein the MSPs role is not just supporting the desktops, servers and networks of the client infrastructure but providing right advisory services for optimization of the investments that clients have made in their IT systems

How do you see the future shaping up for MSPs in India?

The future of the channel partner is someone who builds a relationship with a client, is capable of quickly understanding new products the client is interested in, serves as a virtual in-house aligned expert for support and best practices.

For System Integrator (SI) or Independent Software Vendor (ISV) it is very important to define business process flows, customizes and integrates with other legacy and SaaS applications, using the SaaS platform (SDK), extend the SaaS application to deliver value-added offerings.

In case of mid-size businesses, the demand for white label service provider category for sure would come up quite well. At the same time in case of large scale enterprise in public sector or private sector domain the hybrid version would come to exist as they would need both the principal cloud provider and white label service provider to play role for them in order to suffice their varied need.

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