Nothing comes easy in the channel — that’s for sure. Developing standards takes up a lot of time and energy, but with the right steps and processes in place, an MSP can overcome many initial challenges and gain a significant advantage over its competitors.
What’s A Standard?
Authoritative bodies define standards to help solve particular problems. Typically, standards need to meet the following criteria: introduce a long-term solution to an existing problem; receive mass adoption by the majority; and be easily implemented by solutions providers. These specific qualities apply to standards across all industry types.
Setting standards prevents fragmentation among clients and streamlines operations, support and the decision-making process internally. Other benefits include the consolidation of products and services offered to clients and more efficient management of each product due to their mass adoption across the entire board. Here’s an example to consider: Southwest Airlines’ entire fleet consists of Boeing 737 jets. Why is this so?
Well, the answer is fairly simple when you think about it: Southwest’s pilots can fly any plane on any route, and it’s the same exact plane (layout, control, feel); the airline only needs to know how to service and maintain a single model plane (efficiency, speed of repairs); and it’s easier for Southwest to replace or repair planes using the same parts.
How Should MSPs Develop Standards?
MSPs should develop standards around a framework or workflow. Standards should be based after a regulatory body, manufacturer recommendations or vendor information.
It’s best for an MSP to develop standards of implementation (such as installation or configuration of a product or service) around a manufacturer or vendor’s best practices rather than their own. Why? Implementation of these items becomes a “whisper down the lane” problem, where technicians keep passing down problems with adjustments. Eventually, the “best practice” is so separated from actual vendor recommendations that it’s merely a suggestion based off several opinions instead of an actual recommendation.
When crafting your own standards, consider the following: determine what items you support, implement, maintain, monitor and repair on a daily basis; organize all items into proper sections and categories that make sense; establish the proper reoccurrence for auditing your customers for alignment of those standards; if possible, don’t do it alone; and don’t forget to inform your customers customers of the standards you have.
There’s No One-Size-Fits-All Approach
Standards vary from MSP to MSP. Why? MSPs have different business models. Some MSPs focus on general technology and support for clients in a wide range of sectors, while other TruMethods members work with fewer clients in specific industries — such as medical or legal. This is why cookie-cutter standards will not work with every client within your portfolio. It’s always best to adapt your standards to your client’s industry.
Again, crafting your standards initially will be time-consuming (I can promise you that much), but after you set some of the above suggestions in motion, your life will become a lot easier. You’ll find the process to be a lot smoother than you had expected it to be.