The concept of digital transformation has been buzzing around for quite a while. Lately, however, that buzz has transformed (pun intended) into more of a roar.
In the before time—pre-pandemic and the accelerated prevalence of remote work—digital transformation initiatives were recognized as an eventual necessity but were contingent on available resources. Enter a flood of new tools that enable working from anywhere, rising cases of cybercrime, concerns about data sovereignty and a general increase in demand for security and compliance assistance, and those initiatives that once seemed faraway are now pressing. It’s a lot to keep up with! For many businesses it’s become a sink or swim scenario—especially SMBs.
As an example, the shift to work-from-home (WFH) environments demands remote connectivity. If you hadn’t heard of Teams, Zoom or Slack prior to COVID-19 and worldwide lockdowns, you’re probably familiar with those names and several others like them now. For managed service providers (MSPs), request for remote desktop, video conferencing and cybersecurity solutions has skyrocketed. Why? Because without these things, many SMBs simply can’t survive anymore.
What we mean by digital transformation
Good old Gartner ↗ defines digital transformation as anything from IT modernization, to digital optimization to the invention of new business models.
Countless opportunities exist within those parameters that apply to both SMB technology customers and the providers that serve them; digital transformation isn’t limited to clients alone by any means. Examples could include migrating workloads from on-premises servers to the cloud, implementing multi-factor authentication for Microsoft 365 accounts or introducing a CRM.
Current recommended focus areas for digital transformation are indeed applicable to both sides of any tech-related business relationship, albeit for slightly different purposes. Right now, those focus areas include (but certainly aren’t limited to) security, remote work and internal operations.
Technology providers are in a unique position to deliver digital transformation for SMB clients. At the same time, MSPs also have a tremendous opportunity to transform their own businesses to adapt to future market needs and shifts.
Empowering remote work
The future of office life will probably never be what it was. Some might mourn for water cooler chats of days long ago, but many others are taking full advantage of gains in productivity, employee satisfaction and a significantly larger talent pool. The job market is competitive for both job seekers and recruiters, with 41% of employees reportedly ↗considering leaving their current employer this year.
Regardless of how they might feel about it, many businesses have no choice but to facilitate WFH. The only problem is, they don’t know how—for a few different reasons. Maybe they’re combatting issues with shadow IT ↗, in part because they’re overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices out there Maybe they’re stuck using hundreds of different solutions for individual tasks as opposed to implementing integrated work systems.
Service providers can step in to champion transformation for clients in this area and address concerns like shadow IT. Customers who before only needed Microsoft 365 licenses now require virtualization, the ability to make calls through Teams and a CRM outside of spreadsheets on individual machines, among other needs.
Providers themselves have an opportunity to specialize in remote work areas. Make room in your offering for services like Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), which enable secure remote working conditions. Redefine your cloud migration strategy with updated benefits like enabling businesses to access Microsoft Dynamics outside the physical office. Introduce customers to VoIP solutions to streamline calling services for a dispersed workforce.
In one form or another, hybrid work is here to stay and MSPs can be expected to be called upon to make WFH happen for clients. Solutions that enable remote work will presumably become a staple in MSP offerings. Tech buyers will be looking to their providers to help them transition to whatever the new normal looks like for them. If providers aren’t equipped to respond, those clients might well search for different providers that are.
The harsh reality of cybersecurity risk is materializing for businesses of all sizes and sectors. Potentially devastating cyberattacks can happen to anyone, but most businesses don’t have a plan for if (or perhaps more accurately, when) it happens to them. As such, the push to digitally transform and implement security processes, procedures and projects is significant.
You can find any number of facts and figures to support the notion that demand for security solutions is rapidly increasing. Respondents to Channel Futures’ annual State of the MSP 501 ↗ survey overwhelmingly reported that security was their biggest growth area in 2021. Global spending on managed services ↗ is forecasted to increase by over $100 billion between 2021 and 2026, driven in part by efforts to bolster security and mitigate risk. Here, too, the opportunities for both SMBs and technology providers are vast.
Employees are connecting with company networks and interacting with data from devices and locations untold more than ever before, thereby expanding the potential attack surface for hackers. Solutions such as endpoint protection, email security and threat detection and response are now tantamount to locking the office front door at the end of the day and are therefore the types of solutions recommended for bringing SMBs up to speed with modern cybersecurity. Due to both skills and talent gaps in IT, most small businesses have neither the budget to employ someone dedicated to security nor the capacity to train current employees on security best practices. Service providers have an automatic foot in the door to positioning themselves as their clients’ trusted IT advisor and increasing the stickiness of their offerings, provided they have the expertise to deliver.
Strengthening from within
The transition to working from home and connecting with employees and customers primarily through digital means has been eye-opening for businesses of all stripes—technology providers included. Companies that conduct most of their admin through spreadsheets via on-premises software and the dreaded personal email account have serious catching up to do.
Finessing internal processes from IT to HR to accounting has gone from a wish list footnote to an absolute requirement. Here, service providers have another incredible opportunity to champion digital transformation for their clients. While there’s certainly some overlap between providing solutions for remote work and solutions that boost operational efficiency, focusing on internal processes does present a few unique options.
All businesses need clearly defined processes for internal operations. These processes now need to be communicable and accessible from anywhere, at any time. Documentation management platforms, business insights tools and online education solutions are a solid bet for MSPs helping clients with organizational challenges.
Meanwhile, on the provider side of things, helpdesk, ITSM and automated accounting tools are all examples of solutions MSPs should be using to transform their own operations. It’s all about trying to make your own life easier, whether through saving time, saving money or simply avoiding a headache.
Working with the right partner can make a major difference on this front. In the same way that MSPs are well-positioned to help their SMB clients transform, MSPs can look to their distributor partners to support their managed service business. A strong partner will be able to offer access to products and solutions MSPs need to round out their portfolios, as well as tools such as billing integrations or even NOC services to help expand your services.
Champion digital transformation for yourself and your clients
Previously, digital transformation initiatives like updating infrastructure or deploying training software might have been put on the backburner in favor of more pressing activities. But the unpredictability of today’s business landscape no longer accommodates companies using legacy tools to accomplish modern goals.
Empowering remote work, strengthening cybersecurity and revamping internal processes might be three prominent areas to observe and leverage digital transformation opportunities, but they’re by no means the only spaces where transformation can happen. Navigating the new normal of hybrid work and remote connectivity is creating countless opportunities for technology providers to grow their services, specialize and carve out new markets. By driving digital transformation for clients, MSPs and other IT providers are also uniquely positioned to transform and modernize their own operations at the same time.
Interested in discussing digital transformation further? Drop us a line! We also encourage you to explore Sherweb’s Partner Guide to learn more about how the right partner can set your digital transformation initiatives up for success.