Why a Gap in Adopting Continuous Improvement Practice between MSP Leaders and Laggards ?
Looking at the state of managed services in 2021, we notice a yawning gap between leaders and laggards. MSPs with a highly optimized practice lead to soliciting customer feedback, establishing a project management office, documenting their managed services strategy, and creating dedicated teams for deals management, renewals, and sales. The problem is so chronic that 74% of “rockstar” MSPs have a formal feedback incorporation process, compared to just 22% of laggards. Similarly, 81% of MSP leaders document their strategies vs just 44% among laggards.
2021 will be a vital year for managed services adoption, and providers must urgently adopt continuous improvement principles to increase their market share.
Revisiting Performance Benchmarks to Drive Continuous Improvements
The first roadblock to converting managed services from a static, monolithic delivery methodology to an agile and evergreen function is the use of legacy performance benchmarks.
An academic paper published in the International Journal of Engineering, Science, and Technology mentions the most popular performance and quality management tools in use today and the potential room for improvement. For example, if providers are still holding onto legacy techniques like flowcharts, checklists, and histograms, they would be ill-suited to pursue continuous improvement of services, which necessarily requires agile measurement and real-time observation. Instead, the study recommends tools such as affinity diagrams, interrelationship digraphs (IDs), and process decision program charts (PDPCs).
Apart from performance benchmarking, the MSP needs to conduct a rigorous audit of its existing services portfolio, conditions enabling service delivery, and internal service provider operations, working closely with the customer. This audit would reveal the essential gaps that are addressable via continuous improvement.
The audited gaps record the misses, lack of process followed by the team, and drive an improvement plan to eliminate documented gaps. It is essential to maintain a continuous service improvement register.
What is a Continuous Service Improvement (CSI) Register?
A CSI register refers to a dynamic dashboard that documents all improvement opportunities in a managed services landscape as per their parameters of execution and degree of progress. It will:
● Categorize opportunities into small, medium, and large-sized opportunities
● Prioritize improvements based on resource availability and customer feedback
● Mention the tangible KPI targets
● Document the justification for requiring the improvement
● State an estimated timeline for achieving the improvement
● Dynamically update the dashboard as improvements get implemented
Remember, continuous improvement is essentially a series of sequential change initiatives and requires a robust change management capability to stabilize the process reconfigurations and deliver its benefits without disrupting existing services.
Recommendations for Deploying Outcome-Focused, Evergreen Managed Services
Before I discuss my specific recommendations, it’s essential to understand the costs of not adopting CSI. At the same time, Managed services traditionally seen to maintain business continuity while containing/reducing costs. It promised a cost and resource-efficient alternative to keeping a fully functional in-house team for business-critical backend tasks — but this approach misses on the bigger picture. The real value of managed services is unlocked by an ongoing feedback loop with the customer, continuous service improvement, benchmarking, and expansion.
That’s why providers must:
● Break down the change process into manageable segments with clear ownership — It could follow either the PDCA/Deming cycle (plan, do check, and act) or the globally recognized seven-step ITIL improvement process when implementing the actual change. Each stage must have a clear owner to drive it and stay accountable for reaching the benchmarks prescribed by the CSI register.
● Intelligently leverage project management technology — There’s a reason why 89% of MSP rockstars have a designated managed services project management office, vs just 37% of laggards. This office, aided by a sophisticated dashboard to monitor KPIs, orchestrate prioritization, collaborate with stakeholders, and identify gaps in real-time, would significantly ease your continuous improvement efforts.
● Focus on adoption and usage of system and applications — Clients can pay a significant amount of money to get new projects live and quickly. The need of the hour is to get staff to use them to see any value. Change and training management are old concepts. Newer solutions like leveraging immersive, self-help, BoT assisted and using customer success tolls like Pendo, Gainsight or SmartKarrot solutions are great users- and change-adoption add-ons you can bring to clients who want to get their staff engaged with new cloud at forms faster
● Transition to a cloud-based service delivery approach — Ultimately, to drive a future-focused CSI program, you need a robust cloud architecture to remotely manage and upgrade the service footprint. Cloud-based architectures are easier to integrate, and it also supports real-time cross-organization collaboration to obtain buy-in from the customer team quickly. You can use a combination of pre-built cloud components like dashboards, CSI registers, workbenches, etc., with custom integrators to build a bespoke delivery environment.
If implemented correctly, continuous improvements can enable impressive results. One MS provider reduced downtime by up to 90% and on-site visits by up to 40% through a continuous improvement model. However, the first step is to abandon the “tried and tested” mindset and stay open to pushing the envelope towards value generation via MSP partnerships.
To continue the conversation, please email me at Arvind@AM-PMAssociates.com.