Alan Berkson recently blogged that one of the four roles of a managed service provider (MSP) is as a guide. “The role of guide,” Berkson explained, “may be the most important and emerging role in the MSP space. A key trend in IT service management (ITSM) is alignment with business outcomes—making sure IT investments can correlate to business outcomes.” As a guide, Berkson advised, MSPs must be able to assemble the right puzzle pieces to build environments comprised of IT services that are properly aligned with the business needs of their customers and partners.
Picturing MSPs in the role of guide resonated with me since I envision MSPs as the IT guide dogs for today’s enterprises. By this I’m not implying organizations are blindly running IT. It’s just that business-enabling IT services for infrastructure, platforms, and software are increasingly being delivered via the cloud. This means that most of the technology enterprises rely on to conduct their business is out of sight, meaning many of the pieces completing the IT puzzle are no longer visible because they are no longer on-premises. Lacking a complete and clear vision of the IT landscape creates dangerous blindspots for the enterprise. So, in this sense, MSPs are IT guide dogs for the cloud services the enterprise depends on to navigate the business world.
As someone with several legally blind family members, I have been reading up on how guide dogs work. The quality of the relationship between human and guide dog determines their ability to perform as a team, working together to navigate various obstacles. The human does the directing, based upon skills acquired through training on using a guide dog. One metaphor is that the human is the aircraft navigator, who must know how to get from one place to another, and the dog is the aircraft pilot, who gets them there safely. This is analogous to how the enterprise knows the business outcomes they need to achieve and MSPs get them there successfully by delivering the right IT services. Again it’s the quality of the relationship that determines success.
For MSPs, Berkson concluded, “the fundamental long-term success principles were never about the best prices or exclusive products. There will always be someone who will sell it cheaper or introduce a competitive product. The real success for MSPs has been and will continue to be built on the quality of the relationships you develop and maintain with your customers.”