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In this series, I’m going to live out my dream job of being the General Manager of a pro sports franchise. I will attempt to bring you along with me as we design our team, build our roster, round out a coaching staff, and put a team “on the field” that can carry us to a championship! A unique opportunity to blend the geek and jock worlds! Unfortunately, the MSP world doesn’t quite have the equivalent of the Super Bowl, but if it did, the team I will be putting together would no doubt be holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy aloft every season.
Over the coming articles, I will be breaking down the elements I feel are the most important building blocks for successfully assembling a well-organized Managed Service Provider that will leave your customers and your bank manager delighted. The first topic I’ll be covering is establishing an identity – a critical characteristic of any championship-winning team.
I firmly believe that building a strong team requires a strong foundation: an ethos. You have to determine what your identity and team philosophy will be before you can start building a winning game plan. In a sport such as football, you may aspire to be hard-nosed and physical. Will we be offensive-minded or defensive? When building your Managed Services team, I think you should aspire for a team whose hallmarks are first and foremost tremendous consistency, proactivity, and discipline. You might notice that while not exclusive, these may not be the top traits you’d normally think of when imagining your classic engineer-types from the T&M and project worlds. That’s because the MSP game is materially different. Think rugby vs. American football. Kinda similar. K-i-n-d-a, but actually quite different. So why those three? Let me elaborate:
- Consistency – Over the years I’ve heard some MSPs say they aspire to be like McDonald’s. For the most part, a Big Mac purchased in Sacramento, California should be 99.9% consistent with a Big Mac purchased in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The ingredients, the techniques, and the processes are done the same using equipment and tools that are the same. That’s what these MSPs are talking about – being able to deliver a quality product (not gourmet mind you!) with tremendous consistency client in and client out.
- Proactivity – there may be no other trait AS important as this one when you commit to delivering managed services. If you are consistently the dog getting wagged by the tail due to reactive support volume, you will question whose bright idea it was to get into this game in the first place. It takes people thinking a different way. Rapid response and technical competency are of course necessary and helpful, but someone(s) *must* be thinking about how any given problem can be avoided for the rest of eternity. If there are chronic printing issues – WHY, and what can be done to not just get things working but completely eliminate the problem from ever coming back. What can be done to ward off any potential circumstances that could lead to a reactive situation? This must be the dominant mindset.
- Discipline – Let me give you some small examples from our journey into Managed Services maturity. In any technical professional services practice, you’ll have numerous projects where you are upgrading, replacing, and installing new things – servers, switches, routers, firewalls, applications, operating systems – you name it. For many of you, this is something you do. Hopefully, when you’re done, you update your client’s documentation, maybe a Visio diagram, and away you go. In the Managed Services arena, those types of things, whether project-related/wholesale changes or a onesy-twosy replacement can cause some very undue stress. Imagine if you are monitoring the network equipment of ABC Company. Your well-intentioned engineer goes on-site to upgrade the firewall at 5 PM and forgets to suppress monitoring or advise someone on the team to do same, or mention that alerts can be ignored. All of a sudden at 5:10 PM several alerts come flying through your monitoring tools and e-mail boxes. Texts are sent and phone calls are made – probably indicating that ALL of the network devices at ABC Company are now offline! Yes, we learned this lesson many times over and even now, occasionally suffer a lapse in the discipline required to avoid unnecessary cycles getting spent. Another example of a shift in thinking relates to my above-mentioned case about updating documentation. If you are responsible for supporting this client for most or all of what they could possibly call in for, then *whose* documentation needs to be updated? That’s right – YOURS! YOU need to have updated documentation on all aspects of their environment. Every equipment change. Credential change. Address change. Location change. Point-of-contact change. You need to have the exquisite discipline to administratively maintain the key information required to enable your team to provide excellent support.
I’ve shared with you the starting point for how to build a successful team – establishing your team’s identity. Recognizing the mind-shift needed to make the change from a traditional professional services team to a Managed Services Team. Just as in building your championship-caliber team, you need to know what your identity will be – what will support and be affirmed by your team (corporate) culture. In the next part of this series, we will begin to look at the next step – establishing the roles for your team and building a roster of superstars!
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