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Sooraj Shah

Contributing Editor

Sooraj Shah is Contributing Editor of New Statesman Tech with a focus on C-level IT leader interviews. He is also a freelance technology journalist.

How Covid-19 has changed the MSP world: 300% more volume, personal conversations and new work

The managed services market has been able to thrive during Covid-19, as organisations are relying more on technology to enable their employees to work from home securely.

According to Louwki Coetsee, MD of Netsurit, an MSP with customers in the UK, New York and South Africa, the company has seen the customer base become a lot closer to the company, as their perception of Netsurit changed to one of a strategic partner.

“All of a sudden, there’s a hundred people out there in their homes – there’s a hundred networks, a hundred printers, so the dynamic has shifted a lot and people are engaging more with us because now they’ve got these little networks that they need to get up and running,” he told attendees at a recent SolarWinds MSP virtual roundtable.

The company’s workflow has changed a lot too.

“We’ve seen a 300 per cent increase in our volumes of things coming on to our desks, so we’ve had to innovate a lot to stay present with how things are evolving right now,” he adds.

But despite the growth in activity, MSPs have to act tactfully around the way they do business to preserve their revenues and grow their business, while helping their customers, with a recession looming.

“It’s about doing the right thing, and we may have different definitions of that, and different moral compasses, but I think we’re duty bound to do the right thing. That is based upon the relationship we have with them – we have to ask how we can interact with those customers and what’s right for them. If I become a charity then I’m not going to be here in the future to help these people,” says David Tulip, MD of The Network Group, which encompasses 80 independent MSPs across the UK.

“That said, we motivate our guys to do the right thing and get people working with a view to revisiting down track – we could do that with a [payment] holiday or a deferral of a contract, for example,” he adds.

David Rounds, CEO of NetEffect, says that his company has tried to help customers by removing billable items off of their systems so they’re not automatically billed for them.

But despite this, he says there have been some clients who have been severely impacted, including a couple of hospitality customers that may not make it out of the pandemic.

“I think most MSPs, where they’ve had clients lay off 90 per cent of their staff are going to have some revenue reduction, so we have to keep our business true to that as well – so you may have to lay people off or hire depending on what’s going on. As long as you keep your business healthy then you’ll be there to support your customers,” he says.

With constant talk about a ‘second wave’, Lisa Niekamp-Urwin, president and CEO of Tomorrow’s Technology Today, says that her company is working with customers to ensure that they can quickly adapt in any situation.

“If this comes again, I want to be able to flip that switch regardless of where the customer is. We’ve got to make sure that a business is able to be optimised and meet their growth to keep going. Whether another round comes or not, we need to be able to be ready so we don’t miss a step,” she says.

New types of work

It’s not just the volume of work but the type of interaction with customers that has changed.

“We’re having personal conversations with executives and main contacts at a different level than we’ve had before. Now all of a sudden they’re talking about their kids, challenges, home-schooling and their dogs,” Rounds says.

And the demands placed on MSPs have meant they’ve had to start working on initiatives that they have never worked on before.

For example, NetEffect is supporting consumer machines for the first time in its 19-year history, while the company’s administrative and accounts teams are working without the use of any paper for the first time too.