Managed Service Providers (MSPs) can find sustained success by building out a strong and highly complementary partner ecosystem. In the technology industry, the term 'ecosystem' is tossed around quite a bit. But for MSPs the right ecosystem makes all the difference for organic growth, flexible offerings and continuously meeting a wider variety of customer needs. MSPs have long been a growth segment for technology partner channels. Now MSPs should turn to fellow service providers as significant candidates for partnerships in their own ecosystems.
So how can you find the right technology partners and then leverage those partnerships for greater competitive advantage? It involves a good deal of analysis that explores your business strategy, what your customers need, and what third party services can bring to your game. How do you want to structure your own partner ecosystem, how does it affect your go-to-market strategies, how does it benefit your business, and how does this help you better serve your customers?
Other crucial questions to explore with potential partners:
How does the partner offering add value and innovation to your services?
You need to ask this question to establish the breadth of the combined services. Then assess the impact of the "new" platform of services on your customers' business needs and goals. Another area to explore: does the combined platform add competitive differentiation from other MSPs? Revisit frequently what your partners visualize for future direction and new services that may provide further competitive advantage. If a partner seems to be stagnating, it may be time to search for someone new.
What's the plan for collaborative Marketing and Sales?
If support for Marketing and Sales are in the mix, make sure that the prospective partner will deliver what you need. Explore in detail what the partner intends to do, what sort of timeline, examples from other partner experiences, and how strong the results were for generating new business. What sort of reporting and metrics will the partner provide to show activity and outcomes? What kind of resources does the partner have in place to provide strong support in this area?
What's the dollar and cents bottom line?
Take care not to solely focus on technology conversations. The financial side of any partnership is just as important. Fully discuss financial models to make sure that you pick one that integrates with your business model and goals. Make sure the financial arrangements provide the profitability you expect.
How does the partner view the customer / end user experience?
If you are strongly focused on a customer-centric business strategy (and you should be), find out if your potential partners share your passion for high quality customer and end user experiences. If a partner does not put a high priority on customer success with the overall services platform, you could be endangering your business.
What kind of specialized technical support will you receive?
Once you have integrated the partner offering into your overall platform, you need to know that you will have dedicated support resources to quickly take care of your issues and those of your customers.
Partner ecosystems open up a lot of new business opportunities for MSPs – when they are based on the right strategies. As technologies and markets change, MSPs are shifting from traditional approaches to offer more innovative and timely services. But in building out a partner ecosystem, you must be alert to protecting your reputation as a trustworthy and reliable service provider. Your collaborations with other MSPs must add to your reputation, not jeopardize it.
Image source: Personal Touch
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About the author: Julie Hunt understands the overlap and convergence of many business processes and software solutions that once were thought of as "separate" – and how this impacts software Vendors and Buyers, as well as the strategies that enterprises implement for how technology supports the business and its customers. Julie shares her takes on the software industry via her blog Highly Competitiveand on Twitter: @juliebhunt For more information: Julie Hunt Consulting – Strategies for B2B Software Solutions: Working from the Customer Perspective