How MSPs Can Adopt a Data-Driven Strategy for Growth
If you scan the room you’re in, it’s likely that you’ve got at least 2-3 devices, if not more, gathering data. With the arrival of the Internet of Things (IoT) and smartphones, nearly every industry and every business or organization you interact with is collecting data for analysis with two primary goals, to create better products and services or to sell you more. In other words, the data is allowing businesses to develop strategies for growth.
As important as that external data is, most businesses and organizations are also collecting internal data regarding service level and quality, financial performance, human resources, and more. In short, these days, we’re dealing with a lot of data. How you use that data may just make the difference between your successes and failures. That data informs where you invest time, money, and resources.
Learning to create growth strategies based on that data is essential for your MSP. With the right data-driven strategy in place, you can achieve sustainable business growth. This is where big data plays a vital role.
- What is big data?
- What are the 4 V's of big data?
- Why a data-driven strategy is important to your MSP
- How data-driven strategies create sustainable growth
- How your MSP can adopt a data-driven strategy for growth
What is big data?
Big data can mean a variety of things depending on one’s industry. Largely, the concept boils down to the sheer amount of data we have access to and how we handle it. As noted above, your organization is likely collecting a lot of data from clients, customers, employees, and vendors. Anyone interacting with your business in person or online is generating data which, when handled properly, can help inform strategic decisions.
For many organizations, it takes a team just to parse the data into usable and actionable information. With data coming from so many sources and so many users, the volume alone is overwhelming. When one factors in the speed of the data as well as the need to determine its usefulness, it becomes easy to see why big data is big business.
What are the 4 V's of big data?
We hinted at it above, but let’s be a bit more clear. Big data gets broken down into what’s referred to as the 4 V’s of big data. They are:
Volume- This, of course, refers to the amount of data coming in.
Variety- This refers to the variety of sources the data comes from. While the IoT is certainly contributing to the influx of data, it’s also coming from traditional sources. How one defines traditional sources likely depends on their industry, but it might include in person interviews, online surveys and questionnaires, or even web forms. Whether it's a POS or handheld device, a call logged by our internal team, or a ticket opened via an application or online form, data is coming in through a wide variety of sources.
Velocity- As suspected, this refers to the speed of data transmission. With the arrival of edge computing (which really enabled the IoT), data is moving back and forth faster than ever. Today’s networks are similarly moving much faster and the arrival of 5G promises to speed that up even more. It's a veritable avalanche of data.
Veracity- The final V relates to the quality of the data. Can recipients (you) trust the source? How much value can you place in the data, especially when it comes in at such volume? How does one determine which data to keep and which to discard?
Why a data-driven strategy is important to your MSP
So why does all of this matter to your MSP? There are a few reasons it’s important and while some of them may depend on the direction your MSP is taking or will take in the future, it’s also important to understand the market and where the big data market is heading. Through understanding the industry as well as the data available to you through your clients and internal teams, you can direct your growth in a way that is sustainable and utilizes a data-driven strategy.
One of the biggest reasons big data might matter for your MSP is that data analytics is among the latest services to be offered by MSPs. With an understanding of the 4 V’s and the business model of MSPs that functions on partnering with businesses that don’t have the staff or the skills to handle IT functions, it’s easy to see why this service gap is one MSPs are gladly stepping into.
As with many other MSP services, managed analytics allows an organization to save time and money while still getting the most out of the data they need to make data-driven strategic decisions.
Impact on Existing Provided Services
There’s no doubt that the amount of data coming in is vital to businesses and that’s the next reason MSPs should be concentrating on the impact of big data. The 4 V’s reveal a need for strong and reliable infrastructure to support the barrage of data. Your MSP’s clients are counting on you to ensure their networks can handle the volume, are reliable enough to transmit the data at the speeds their customers demand, can respond quickly to a variety of requests from different sources, and can ensure the integrity of the data itself.
When big decisions are being made and strategies being formulated based on available data, for both you and your clients, you want to make sure the service you're providing ensures the data has value.
Impact on MSP Performance
Not only are your clients handling a lot of data coming at them at once, but so are you. From client metrics to network monitoring data, it’s likely you’re experiencing data overload as well. Further, how you choose to manage and analyze that data is vital to your own service quality and growth. If you’re not monitoring performance data of your networks, your clients, and your own employees, it will be difficult to identify service shortcomings as well as potential areas for expansion.
How data-driven strategies create sustainable growth
To be competitive in any business, you have to be able to see the land in front of you as well as the horizon line and beyond; that takes data. You have to have a strategy.
MSPs in the startup phase are usually worried about MRR (monthly recurring revenue) whereas MSPs in the next stage are worried about filling out both sales and support teams. Businesses reaching operational maturity have other growth targets in mind like expansion of teams and services to accommodate and acquire clients.
Regardless of the growth stage or your organization, data is essential to understanding where you are and what strategies will help you grow. Early stage MSPs are more likely to be focused on providing high quality services for existing clients, creating a foundation to build on. For this reason, remote monitoring and management will be the bulk of their work and the data they’ll be focused on is related to machine memory, disk space, uptime/downtime, device monitoring and security, hardware health, and network speed and reliability. Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) data will allow your organization to be proactive and deliver the services your clients need providing a strong base upon which to build. The more you can monitor here, the more you can manage. The more you can manage, the more you can grow.
Mid-stage MSPs have solid footing when it comes to RMM and are now looking at their core competencies and determining areas for growth, likely in the services they can provide. Data should be driving those strategies.
Further, mid-stage MSPs are likely looking to optimize their services and cut costs so investments can be made elsewhere. While it may seem counterintuitive, some MSPs may begin to outsource or automate roles and tasks that are repeatable or aren’t their core competencies so they can save that time and money for other projects. As one of the primary goals of this stage is analyzing net margin, being able to determine where an MSP can enhance or grow services without increasing headcount is vital. And, as you guessed, that takes data.
MSPs that have reached operational maturity are in no position to rest on that success. This is where MSPs must shine in the customer service department and where tools like reporting and quarterly business reviews become essential (reporting is, naturally, built on data). At this point, your MSPs services should be seamless and your role virtually invisible within your client’s organization. Further, the data you are collecting regarding your client’s network environment is where you can advise them on different or new services you offer and where you can make recommendations. The advances they make, the success they have, and any services gaps you see is where you can continue to grow. Analyzing your service metrics can help you create strategies for growth.
In each stage of the growth cycle, your MSP must consistently be gathering data about your performance and your client’s performance. The data gathered informs your strategy and helps you address issues proactively, preparing you for the next stage of growth. Even if your business is built on RMM, your business is still all about the data because the data drives strategy.
How your MSP can adopt a data-driven strategy for growth
Data driven workplaces are more focused on goals and outcomes and are more effective at keeping teams aligned. If your current goals include strategic and scalable growth for your MSP, then tapping into the big data trend is essential. When you analyze the data available to you, you’re in a better position to hit the KPIs that help you advance to the next stage of growth. But how exactly does one adopt a data-driven strategy for your MSP?
While the data that is of value to you will depend on your growth stage and the services you offer, there are really 5 key steps to developing a data-driven strategy.
1. Know your goal/mission
It’s next to impossible to build a data-driven strategy if you don’t know what data you should be looking at. More specifically, understanding the challenges your business addresses for clients and understanding what your organization’s growth goals are is fundamental in determining the next step. So the first step is hashing out what your immediate goals might be so you can develop a plan to get there.
2. Identify the data and sources you need
Once you know what your goals are, you’ll want to determine what metrics you’ll need to measure to keep those on track. This is where a good business intelligence tool comes in handy. You’ll want something that will help keep you focused on the goal, but also measure the KPIs and metrics that determine your progress towards that goal.
In some cases, the data you need may be coming from multiple sources and the automation of a data dashboard, which can pull from multiple sources, saves you time and allows you to quickly determine your current status.
3. Share your data
It’s great if you’re collecting a lot of data on your performance internally (such as tickets opened to tickets closed ratios, average time to ticket resolution, etc.), but that data really only works for you if it’s shared with the folks on the front lines. If your service team isn’t also keeping track of the data and their metrics, it’s easy for them to lose sight of the goals as well as the weaknesses and successes. Sharing the data with them is fundamental to driving your team to success.
However, you also want to be sharing the data with your customers and clients. One of the key foundations of MSP success is transparency and reporting. As noted above, the goal of many MSPs is to have their service be invisible, meaning it runs smoothly enough that the customer or client almost forgets the service is there (few tickets opened, no downtime, problems addressed proactively) and if you’re successful with that, you want to make sure you’re touting that to your clients. You’ll need to remind them what it is you do and how well you do it.
4. Analyze the data
Data-driven strategies are not made on current data alone. In fact, the more data you’ve collected, the more history you have, the more valuable your data becomes and the stronger your strategies.
More specifically, historical data allows you to identify patterns as well as make predictions and comparisons. For example, let’s say you have two clients who are in the same industry vertical, one new, one old. If you have been successful in helping the older client grow, you can look at the historical data, compare it to the new client and make decisions or offer advice based on that data. You not only become more useful to your client, but you also become more successful in delivering the service they want and need.
Analysis is also useful internally. Historical data allows you to identify circumstances under which you struggled or were successful. When you see those situations on the horizon, utilizing the data you have at hand, you can proactively strategize to ensure your success. Data helps you learn from the past and prepare for the future.
5. Make strategic decisions
The final step in the process is making your decisions based on the information you have in front of you (also much easier if it’s in digestible visual form). Often in business we can think an area is one of strong performance simply because we’re not getting feedback on it, but the data doesn’t lie. Not only is it remarkably helpful in RMM, but let’s say you get a lot of great feedback on your ticket resolution time. You might think this is a strong suit of your organization. However, you might look at the historical data and see an uptick in tickets open which may indicate a problem. Consider the service implications and customer satisfaction increases if you could proactively address the ticket issues before your clients needed to open a ticket in the first place.
In short, the data drives the strategy, which better prepares your MSP to be responsive and proactive when it comes to your client needs.
What we’re experiencing and what we’re hearing from our teams, our clients, and our supervisors is all valuable information, but data can help us grow bigger and faster by really helping us identify opportunities and isolate problems.
Regardless of where your MSP is in its growth cycle, whether you gather and leverage the data available to you will impact your success. Further, it can also impact the speed of your growth and how quickly your team hits targets.
When you’ve got a lot of data coming at you, from a lot of sources, learning how to utilize it can be overwhelming. That’s where BrightGauge comes in. We help you gather all of the important data in one place, our data dashboards help you quickly visualize what it is you need to know, and we facilitate your sharing it with your team and clients through automated reporting.
We’re no strangers to the MSP market. It’s how we got our start. If you’re ready to talk to our team about how we can help your team become the data driven machine you want and need for growth, get in touch with us today!