IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Transform Your MSP into a Valued Data Partner

Helping customers safely leverage data intelligence through insights, automation, or improving accessibility and visibility will position your MSP for the future. By Julian Box

As more businesses come to appreciate the hidden value in their data, many are increasingly eager to leverage it to drive productivity and innovation. They are also inundated with cautionary tales of danger if they mistreat that data—falling foul of privacy laws, breaking data governance and management regulations, and even risking cyberattacks.

With neither in-house expertise nor time to leverage data in a safe and productive way, businesses are caught between a rock and a hard place: Although they don’t want to let the potential of their data go to waste, they don’t have a trusted outside adviser who can steer them to the best use cases and help them utilize that data safely.

This dilemma opens a door of opportunity for MSPs.

The key to success hinges on the willingness to transform your MSP business from one that simply supports and maintains technology into one that understands data and advocates for its simultaneously safe and sophisticated use, whether through insights, automation, or improving data’s accessibility and visibility.

It is not an exaggeration to say that soon the expectations of the market will rapidly outrun those MSPs who are unable to advise customers on how they could use their data, as well as what they are and are not allowed to do with it.

Think Data First, Not Technology First

Today, most MSPs kick off customer conversations by focusing on technology—what it is, how it’s installed, when to patch and backup, cost per seat, and so on. But technology is only what is used to hold, secure, transport, and use data. So to change the perception of your MSP from a supplier and manager of tech into an invaluable, well-compensated data services provider and trusted adviser, you must adopt a “data up” not “tech down “approach to customer interactions. What this means is that instead of looking to meet business objectives or resolve issues by deploying technology, you enable customers to make the safest, most innovative, and most commercially valuable use of their data throughout their organization.

Three Pillars of a ‘Data Up’ Approach

To pursue a “data up” approach, focus on three fundamental pillars:

  1. Workflow Insight. The first step is gaining a thorough understanding of your customer’s data. Show the customer how data is captured, where it resides, how it flows through the organization, who has access to it, how it’s used, what datasets are available, and how it’s eventually removed. It will probably be the first time they see the big picture.
  2. Weakness Identification. Now that you know how data moves in and out and through the business, you can spot flaws and vulnerabilities and fix them—and every solution is an opportunity for a suitably-skilled MSP. A network diagram, the epitome of a “tech down” approach, cannot show where and how to increase efficiency and productivity, remove costs, strengthen security, close governance gaps, or show where to automate or what new datasets are available for machine learning. But understanding data workflows can.
  3. Safe Remediation. If you cannot guide a customer on how its data is and is not permitted to be used, or how certain actions may create security vulnerabilities, then how can you possibly be considered a trusted adviser? The goal is to make the data and its environment entirely safe. In other words, the data must not only be secure but also be compliant with industry regulations and data privacy obligations. Then even the most adventurous uses of data, including insights and automation, can be confidently deployed.
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