MSP IT Partners holds the vision that Small & Medium-sized Businesses should be able to get the IT help they need, rapidly and locally, when they need it, from trusted experts who care about the end-to-end experience!
And that IT Professionals should have a rewarding environment in which to work, with the time and focus necessary to delivery quality solutions, specialists and mentors' support when needed, and the ability to invest in themselves and their own futures.
That by really listening to and hearing what end-users need and want (despite the cacaphony onslaught of information, communications), and by keeping it simple (in an ever-more complex technology landscape), there is no problem we can't work around or solve completely... and if the perfect tool doesn't exist this minute, wait just a few. We'll either build it or someone else will before you know it!
MSP IT Partners - A 3rd Way
This vision comes from the founding partners of our practice who, individually, hold anywhere from 5-30 years experience in the Profession of IT and, collectively, nearly 150 years! Building IT service provider businesses, operating them and working for employers in this industry, we have seen again and again that the 2 prevailing models of IT Service Delivery are inadequate. We envision a 3rd Way:
- The First model was "do it yourself" IT - hire or contract your "IT guy or gal" and expect them to take care of everything. But then the tools and systems got too complicated. And our business work habits have gotten too diverse, spanning almost any possible location and any time of day. A single resource just could not handle that kind of workload... The goal was availability (i.e. an employee)
- The Second model was the "outsource everything" IT (generally offshore) - reduce costs through the "economies of scale" by hiring external companies with a large staff of help desk support personnel and systems administrators. Bug then your business was simply another consumer out of 1000s, and they'd get to you when they could. 20-minute hold times, 24-hour response to questions, weeks to provide solution options and then none fit your particular business needs. Frustration and dissatisfaction became the norm... The goal was cost savings (i.e. a commodity)
By the early 2000s, the need for a 3rd Way was blatantly obvious to clients and providers, mostly because the First model had hit a competency and cost ceiling. As companies added more and more software into the mix of operating their organization, the solo employee (or IT guy/gal) was increasingly overwhelmed. And as "outsource everything" offshore models were still targeting only Large to Enterprise customers, we had to develop a hybrid model for the SMB... The MSP - Managed Service Provider - was born:
- Aggregate IT specialists with all the necessary skills and the required redundancy for 24x7x365 availability and have businesses outsource all their IT needs to them.
- We offered businesses 35-60% reduction on their IT service costs (about the 3rd of their IT guy/gal's salary) and a wider bench of expertise.
- In return, we asked for a recurring revenue model, stable enough income, that we could hire and retain these engineers to deliver the service.
Everyone (except the displaced IT guy or gal) was happy (and many of those found jobs with the new MSP). In a few years, the vast majority of all SMBs had converted to the new model.
Problems in Paradise?
Yet, all was not perfect... for anyone.
Either the teams and clients got too big for the MSP owner -- they hit a plateau - and service quality, efficiency and effectiveness declined ... resulting in lost clients, disaffected employees.
Or the MSP organization got so big and so automated that the personal touch was lost. The MSP now dictated what their clients could or could not do in the terms of their service ... again resulting in lost clients.
After all, who wants to deal with a call center (Second model) when the program you need to get your job done isn't working? "Have you rebooted your PC?" The goal had become scale - at any means.
So our initial 3rd Way in time reverted back to duality - back to the First or Second models:
- Stay small and try to hold on to a handful of clients, but face declining margins and attrition because it becomes harder and harder to manage the costs of delivering the service. Don't offer 24x7x365 support. Only support a limited portfolio of IT solutions. Experience isolation because you're working so hard trying to keep up yourself with all the changing technology requirements. Have no good exit options when you get too old, too tired, or just too bored to want to continue the business.
- Scale your MSP large enough so an equity firm will buy you out at $Ms and ensure a nice retirement, but manage your team like a call center. Layers of management, strict hierarchies, absolute standards, no personal touch. Engineers become "technicians." Business solutions revert to prescribed "tools." Chronic issues aren't fixed, they're just covered up with a new glitzy platform (the Cloud, an App for that, ATD or EPP, SaaS or DRaaS or PaaS) which takes the business user months to learn and adapt to only to find out the same challenge they wanted you to overcome is still a problem.
And the MSPs' business clients and their staff, the end users, suffer bouncing back and forth between providers of each ilk. So to do the talented engineers, IT Professionals, who've seen their salaries stagnate and face uncertain futures threatened with talks of offshoring their work or, better yet, let's replace you with robots!
But What is the Alternative?
MSP IT Partners believes that this evolution is happening because a key principle was missed the first time we invented the MSP model: the Profession Principle.
A profession isn't a job. It isn't simply a skill. It is a vocation or a calling which due to the intensive training required to master should return a degree of stature, respect and independence in society. As it was in the fields of Law, Engineering, Accounting, and Medicine.
The word “profession” means different things to different people. But at its core, it’s meant to be an indicator of trust and expertise.
A profession is a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards. This group positions itself as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised body of learning derived from research, education and training at a high level, and is recognised by the public as such. A profession is also prepared to apply this knowledge and exercise these skills in the interest of others1.
A professional is a member of a profession. Professionals are governed by codes of ethics, and profess commitment to competence, integrity and morality, altruism, and the promotion of the public good within their expert domain. Professionals are accountable to those served and to society2.
In order to re-introduce the concept of "profession" to IT, a key step is to disrupt the owner-operator business model and provide ways for IT Professionals to invest in themselves and their own futures. An owner-operator model is quite appropriate for organizations engaged in business (buying and selling of things). But, as our clients with Law, Medical, Accounting and Engineering Practices will agree, it is quite unsuitable for a Professional Practice.
The Owner-operator model has no natural path for succession and continuity of the organization (other than hereditary if owner passes the business to his or her children). It also does nothing to encourage the injection of new knowledge which - in professions - is expected to constantly change, evolve and grow. Simply put - Information Technology is a human-to-human interaction, not making/buying/selling a thing!
The Partner Practice Model
The Partner Practice Model naturally encourages a constant inflow of new capabilities as new partners get added to the practice and as existing partners decide to retire and need to be replaced.
The Practice Model also balances the needs of diverse specializations within the field. Each Partner brings a core competency, area of expertise and cultivates a client base with need for those skills. In IT, perhaps this might be Sage or Intuit Accounting applications or Cloud Services or Phone systems.
Most of all, however, the Practice Model does not scale as much as it distributes information and execution which provides rich opportunity for new entrants to the profession to learn directly from those who have real-life, hands-on experience and have the opportunity to grow and acquire equity in the same organization they started with. It ensures continuity and longevity.
MSP IT Partners' 3rd Way is to vest accountability, strategy, orchestration and coordination for the end-to-end life cycle relating to any area of IT into a Partner Practice Model.
- No one owner incentivized to scale the business as rapidly as possible so they can sell out to an equity firm and make their millions.
- No massive top-down hierarchy with poor front-line communication that seeks cost savings and revenue growth as their whole meaning for being.
- No limits to horizontal or vertical (
scaling) distribution. Simply add a new practice when a new field of technology needs to be addressed
- No bottlenecks to bandwidth as the Partners provide a much wider group in leadership available at any time escalation, expert advisory or personalized decisions are required
The Practice Model brings together Business-Technology specialists in all fields through a cooperative partnership with revenue and cost-sharing.
(Scale) Distribution, the ability to deliver IT services in all the diverse areas that modern technology requires, comes from the Practice extending these partnerships outward to hyper-local IT talent for functions that are best performed in person and global IT talent for those that can better be handled remotely.
It follows the DAO principle of decentralized autonomous organizations who, together, can deliver much higher quality, comprehensive solutions than any single corporation and, who by the very construct, are fault-tolerant ensuring the continuity of service.
Members in the MSP IT Partner network can go on vacation!
Going back to the concept of IT is Personal, functions and services provided by humans to humans should follow organic, human forms of organization. It rarely benefits us to apply a mechanistic model designed for industry, things, systems when dealing with human to human interactions. Manufacturing or Transportation of things is perfectly suited to owner-operated, command-control, centralized industrial models. Professional services... not so much. It tends to take the personal out of them!