2021 Managed Service Predictions
David Gardiner
Head Of Service Delivery

2020 was a critical time for Managed Service Providers (MSPs), as customers around the globe relied on them to overcome the IT challenges presented by COVID-19. At Ultima, we helped our clients move thousands of users to remote working in just a few days, enabling them to maintain productivity. We scaled out remote access platforms, built thousands of laptops overnight, and guided customers in securely managing an increased usage of BYOD devices when laptop vendors couldn’t keep up with demand, all as part of BAU service. The ability of MSPs such as Ultima to quickly mobilise their resources in supporting and guiding customers really cemented the value that MSPs can bring to businesses.

Below, I’ve outlined my top four predictions for MSPs in 2021, showing how they will continue to add value and provide agility in a challenging environment.

IT doesn’t sleep anymore:

The dramatic increase in home-working has also led to a more flexible working pattern, which in turn has driven demand from users needing to call upon IT support all hours of the day and week. This is very often cost inhibitive for organisations to deliver in-house or with capability beyond “on call”.

MSPs with 24/7 capabilities can provide such services, but often still at a higher price point, or not as a standalone out of hours offering. In 2021, many MSPs will focus more on standalone and flexible “out of hours as a service”, and how these can be delivered in a more cost-effective manner via improved service automation capabilities. The ability of mature MSPs to also quickly and easily integrate into customer toolsets and systems will make this a highly viable and cost-effective option for businesses to consider.

MSPs continue to drive their own digital transformation and deliver the positive impact to clients:

Whist highly skilled support staff will remain the primary delivery method for IT teams in 2021, the evolution of high quality ITSM integrated chatbots, RPA, machine learning and device self-healing tools are becoming far more mainstream and widely used. (For example moving away from augmenting support staff tools into truly autonomous edge support). Not only does this help to mitigate the current staff related risks with Covid-19, but also allows MSPs to commit to increased cost savings for clients, whilst continuing to improve speed, consistency, flexibility and overall quality of service.

With many in-house IT teams still focusing on accelerating digital transformation projects and re-platforming for the new world of working, MSPs will also use such tooling to play a critical role in ensuring service delivery innovation is still delivered on behalf of clients.

UX and productivity become the most important service levels:

This isn’t to say that traditional response, update, FTF, availability and resolution SLAs are dead, or that UX hasn’t been a hot topic for many years, simply that UX and productivity are the ultimate outcomes and deserve to be the primary SLAs.

In 2021, mature MSPs will really put their money where their mouth is- committing to a growing set of UX and productivity SLAs with commercial rebates if not achieved. The ability to easily measure, take proactive action, and influence such SLA attainment will be driven by a greater use of embedded dedicated UX tools, i.e tools which can monitor UX from an end user’s device, allowing support teams to act before the end user even realises there is an issue. As an example, Ultima use tooling which assesses over 800 performance metrics relating to UX, from boot times, to the amount of time it takes to open an email in Outlook or run a transition in a bespoke application, or access a report in a SAAS service, all of which can be used to proactively address issues before they impact user productivity.

Service proactivity, business insight and driving organisational change management as a USP

Many service providers are very good at keeping technology up to date and analysing their customer specific service data, which often results in conversations and information around upgrades, systems capacity, reducing incidents, mitigating security risks and costs. These are all important topics, however they are more focused on smooth operation of technology rather than business innovation, insight and strategic improvements.

In 2021, MSPs will apply more focus on the value of their data analytics tooling and how they can surface more powerful industry, business sector and organisation size market insights to their customers. MSPs will not only make the recommendation but also actively engage in business forums to help drive change, and provide OCM capabilities and tooling to customers, to help support successful execution.

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