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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.

“Retaining existing clients will become even more important for MSPs,” says Prism co-founder

Prism was founded back in 2001 as an IT support company for small business owners. It provided the hardware that its clients needed. As the company’s client base grew, so did the services it offered and the regions it covered.

In 2012, the company opted to move away from only selling hardware as a stand-alone service and moved to providing subscription services too, and this is where the managed services side of the business began.

According to Gary David-Smith, the business development manager and co-founder of the company, the switch to managed services was a logical development, because of the technical developments in computing – with the progress of cloud computing in particular – and because start-ups became scale-ups during the last recession.

“Our strategy early doors was to embrace the start-up community, which meant by default the demographics of the business you’re supporting changes, so instead of you dealing with a one-to-two user business, you start dealing with a 20-30 user business, and that also changes the demands of the support businesses require,” David-Smith tells NS Tech.

Managed services now makes up 70 per cent of Prism’s revenue, with Prism offering end-user and business support services. Clients will come to Prism for service desk support for instance, and they will ask Prism to find the best tools to achieve their goals. Prism then goes to market with them or for them, and then it would install, provision and manage that tool for the customer.

According to David-Smith, one of the biggest trends that he has seen is a number of businesses wanting to partner with Prism, with Prism offering a specific service or specific part of an offering – perhaps something their in-house teams used to do, or want to do and can’t do.

“What they’re looking for is specialisms in IT – so there is a lot of interest in MSPs doing other work for businesses, which move outside of what we call the ‘MSP wrapper’, and I think the current pandemic has sped that up,” he says.

The pandemic has also seen a huge shift in cultural attitudes to change from customers, with people more inclined to make these changes, and make them quickly. According to David-Smith, this has meant businesses have become more aware of the support that MSPs can offer them.

Pandemic problems

Prism broke down the pandemic from a business model perspective into four phases. In the first phase, they assembled a small group of people to start work on what could happen and how the company could plan for that. It also meant assisting the company’s clients working from home and with their business continuity plans. Prior to this, the company threw out all of its forecasts and plans and looked at what it was strategically doing in the next two quarters.

Phase two was then deploying the same solutions internally and changing the way the company worked with remote working. Phase three has been about answering the questions around how the company can work, what it can do, what it can achieve and what kinds of demands there are from customers.

The final phase is around returning, around how the company can help its clients and users to return to work.

“These are the conversations we’re having with clients now, around when do you plan to go back, how do you plan to go back, what is your timeline, what is your working pattern going to be like and what does that mean for us in terms of our service desk operational hours? So there’s a lot going on now for the return of work,” David-Smith says.

The requirements throughout this period have constantly changed, and while business owners will be creating a strategy for a complete return, hybrid return or a phased return, this won’t have a big impact on Prism in the short-term.

“When people go in, it will create a demand for us to support them. Financially it doesn’t actually change because we have a recurring model of support – so if you’re really busy you have to accept people need support at this time,” he says.

He believes that a lot of other projects will be slowed down or postponed, or perhaps even be changed in their scope – which could impact the financials of MSPs in the short-term. However, the in the long-term, MSPs will be relying on per-user per-month subscription income.

“Retaining existing clients is always key in our industry but it will become even more critical, but finding the new markets that are going to come to the MSP marketplace that will adopt new products and services that maybe they haven’t done in the past – this is where the opportunity lies,” he says.