MSPs: What should be in your stack for 2021 is the second question to ask right now

It is that time of year again, to look back, think ahead and reflect. What was and what shall be. A particularly compelling exercise this year, considering the upset of the past nine months.

In that spirit, Jonathan Crowe over at NinjaRMM recently considered what MSPs should have in their software/service stack for 2021. It’s a recurring question with universal relevance, regardless of how large or small an MSP, the extent of their existing service catalog or the size of their typical business customer.

“Knowing what tools you need and figuring out which ones are the right ones can be an extremely daunting task – especially when you’ve got your nonstop job taking up all your bandwidth and a hundred fires that need putting out now,” Crowe wrote.

NinjaRMM’s survey on the subject drew responses from 184 MSPs. What we found most interesting isn’t so much what these MSPs indicated they wanted to add to their software stacks, but how happy they are with their current ones.

More than half of respondents indicated that they don’t feel like they are fully utilizing the products in their stack and also, that they don’t think they’re getting a great return on their investment.


“That’s a significant sign that things need improving, and an indication that the increasing complexity of the average MSP’s technology stack may be catching up to folks,” Crowe concluded. “Having too many products (shiny object syndrome) and/or products with sprawling feature sets may be contributing factors behind poor utilization, for example. Solutions that require large investments in training and implementation, meanwhile, may be dragging down ROI.”

Fair observations all, in our view.

The survey went on to document the biggest challenges that MSPs face with making changes or additions to their stack. These are … well, essentially all of them: Time to research and evaluate, to implement and train, selling clients on the new product or service, ensuring compatibility and so on.

What struck us as notably absent from this survey (as recapped in Crowe’s post, at least) was much focus on automation and orchestration.

It’s one thing to have a product or service in your stack. It’s an altogether different matter to have in place the means for your clients to easily pick and provision whatever they want, as they need it, from your stack. Coupled with this is the challenge MSPs face to accurately and efficiently track and bill for service usage at month end.

In other words, an MSP’s most acute challenge related to their stack is having that true “single pane of glass” through which to manage everything.

Crowe’s post does touch briefly on this critical automation and orchestration piece of an MSP’s tech stack puzzle. We would submit that it should be the leading point – before you even ask the question of what should be in your stack, first have in place the means to better manage it.

This will solve those pain points noted above around stack utilization and ROI. It will make it easier to position and sell new services to customers. And it will free up the time of your highest value, customer-facing people to focus on those activities that drive the greatest margins for your business.

As the owner or executive of an MSP, now is the time to consider what’s next after the wild ride of 2020. Ask yourself what changes need to be made, not only in your software/service stack, but also in your business processes, and how greater automation and improved orchestration can help.

Then let’s talk.

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