How Your MSP Can Reach Operational Maturity via Goal-Setting
Anytime we begin working towards a goal, the obstacles and challenges we face at the start are not the same issues we face midway through the journey. Often, midway through the journey, we have a better idea of what lies ahead and we make adjustments, modify our milestones, and adapt to the way the journey has changed us. When reaching operational maturity is the goal for your MSP, goal-setting and monitoring the key performance indicators (KPIs) on that path are essential to ensuring you move to the next level.
As an MSP, operational maturity is deeply tied to your ability to provide the service level that not only maintains strong relationships with your clients, but also allows you to win new business. Because operational maturity is such an important aspect to your growth, understanding how to set goals to get you there is vital.
- What does OML mean?
- What are the operational maturity levels?
- How your MSP can set goals to reach the next OML
What does OML mean?
Operational maturity level (OML) typically refers to IT systems and how well they function. More specifically, at the highest levels of operational maturity, systems and networks are more sophisticated, reliable, and consistent.
Further, another indicator of operational maturity is what’s referred to as application-centric infrastructure. This type of infrastructure shifts the focus from hardware to software, relying on application responsiveness and performance as a prime indicator of system health. In short, when problems arise, they are addressed at the application level rather than at a system level. When your network performance can be managed in this manner, the system is operationally mature.
Obviously, given those standards, one does not simply walk into operational maturity. In fact, there are stages through which every organization moves to get there.
What are the operational maturity levels?
There are several systems of definition related to operational maturity. Gartner has one. Microsoft has one. While both label each stage differently, the descriptions are similar in terms of what an organization is experiencing in each stage.
This is the most reactive of all the stages. Frequently, it’s marked by a bit of chaos where most employees and staff are wearing multiple hats and everyone is working overtime to keep all systems up and running smoothly. It’s also marked by the frantic nature of folks working to put out and prevent fires.
At this stage, there may be issues with interactions between hardware and software, infrastructure may not be scaled properly or able to handle workloads, reliability may be an issue, and your staff is spending most of their time handling these issues rather than being proactive or planning for growth.
In this stage, the fires aren’t nearly as numerous but a majority of time is still spent on maintenance and “repairs.” While areas for growth may have been identified, the organization is not yet in a place, given resources, to invest in those areas.
This is the control phase. For many, this may feel like a huge achievement as there are fewer problems and less of a need to be reactionary. The system may be scaled to meet current needs, but is unprepared or underprepared for growth. Additionally, at this time, policies and procedures regarding operations, services, and security have been provided and are largely adhered to. System performance issues still exist, but occur less frequently and the work environment likely feels less frantic and overwhelming.
At this point, most MSPs will want to start the process of understanding their path to profitability. A complete and comprehensive analysis of the financial position as well as financial goals is advised. Further, working with a partner who not only understands the market but is also able to understand organizations in various stages of operational maturity may be an excellent choice.
At this stage, systems as well as daily and emergency procedures are running as planned and prepared. The team is able to be proactive and begin planning for system upgrades and improvements. Growth is anticipated and there is a plan in place to prepare resources for that growth. Again, this likely includes identifying KPIs that measure service levels as well as financial stability. It's wise, at this point, to continue competitive analysis within the market.
Operational maturity unlocked! Congratulations. Organizations functioning at this level of maturity are proactive and prepared (for emergencies and growth alike). Networks and systems are stabilized and performing reliably which enables teams to focus on growth areas rather than day-to-day maintenance and performance. Automation further enables these organizations to shift teams and resources to new initiatives and optimization efforts. Growth is the primary focus as performance and service levels are consistent.
At level 5, it may also be time to analyze and establish partnerships, review financial performance, and transform your existing solutions and services.
As is likely clear at this point, in stages 1-3 the focus is largely inward meaning your MSP is likely focusing on internal systems, processes and procedures to perform at a base service level. There is little room for outward exploration until level 4, when services have been stabilized in a way that allows your focus to move to growth. By level 5, you’ll likely start looking for ways to add or enhance services or add clients in a way that allows you to not revert to previous stages/levels.
How your MSP can set goals to reach the next OML
The first step to identifying goals is being honest about where you are in striving for operational maturity. There must be a reckoning. Setting goals to help you get to level 4 when you are at level 2 but think you’re a level 3 will not go well. This is not a situation where you can leapfrog, even if you have an exceptional team. While you may be able, with the right goals, investments, and strategies, to move through some levels more quickly than others, you must still move through them.
1. Assess your current situation
For some MSPs, this will be the hardest part. It requires taking an honest look at the current state of your infrastructure and services. Further, it takes an assessment of all of your resources: time, money, people, and skills. It is very easy to imagine one’s organization further along than you think, given that some resources are more abundant than others, but if your team is not still spending most of their time reacting to problems, it’s not the time to grow.
2. If you are at level 2
Let’s be honest. If you’re at level 1, most of your focus is putting out fires and implementing fixes and so your primary goal is to do just that; the objective is to survive.
Once you have mastered survival, your top priority is to work towards creating a more stable environment. That means identifying your daily processes and procedures and documenting those. It means ensuring your team is on the same page regarding daily tasks and responses to emergencies. It also means monitoring and tracking your tickets and keeping your team in alignment.
One amazing tool to keep your team aligned and focused on team and organizational goals is a data dashboard. At levels 1-2 you’re still likely building out your service team and so keeping them engaged and focused will be essential. There’s no time for churn here.
Let’s say you set a goal to decrease tickets by 10 per week. A data dashboard you can share with your team can do wonders for providing a visual reminder of success thereby motivating them. A constant barrage of open tickets can seem Sisyphean so keeping your team on track and energized is vital.
3. Level 3 Goals
Because infrastructure issues have decreased by this stage, you can turn your focus towards enhancements. This will likely mean improving service levels and investigating ways to proactively address issues.
For that reason, your MSP may be looking at tracking KPIs related to service level and identifying areas for enhancements and upgrades. It’s a good idea to customize a digital dashboard to measure KPIs such as server availability or downtime and response and resolution time. Using a data dashboard, you can set goals for your service team to keep those issues below specific thresholds and, as you achieve those goals, move towards improving the service levels gradually.
4. Level 4-5 Goals
Now that service levels have stabilized, it’s likely time to add in financial metrics. This is where you can start to enhance and optimize services, explore new services, and potentially add team members as you add clients. However, your MSP should do this with a close eye on finances. In short, you’re looking for places to add services without adding to headcount. As noted above, many MSPs do this through automation.
One of the easiest ways to improve service level quality through automation is through your reporting. Maintaining transparency and communication with your clients increases trust and allows you to leverage that positive word of mouth and boost your net promoter score (nps). For that reason, NPS may be something you wish to track along with your other service metrics at this point as well.
Essentially, your MSPs objective here is to stabilize before moving onward. Growing too fast, without concrete goals in place, may prevent you from moving to the next level. Let’s say, for example, you start adding new clients at level 2. Your team and your infrastructure are going to be largely unprepared for the addition of more work, more responsibilities, and more traffic. As a result, you may be faced with an overwhelmed team looking to leave.
The best thing you can do for your MSP is plan to grow through each level of operational maturity at a sustainable rate that recognizes where you are and sets goals appropriate for your stage. The next best thing you can do is arm yourself with the tools that help facilitate your goal setting and metric monitoring.
That’s where BrightGauge’s tools come in. With goal setting tools, data dashboards, and automated reporting that work right out of the box (no complex coding involved), your team can save time in identifying areas for improvement while also celebrating wins.
If you’re looking for a business tool that aims to help your MSP achieve its growth goals, talk to the team who has grown an MSP. Get in touch with BrightGauge today and let us help you level up.