“Everything matters to have an ROI attached to it because everyone has matured and society has changed the way they think about buying products now,” he said.
“It’s not just us, it’s not just MSPs, it’s the end-user, it’s our customers.”
In addition, Atkinson cited the “alarming number” of vendors with no concept of how MSPs operate from a business perspective.
“Monthly billing, can we exit contracts?” he asked. “What’s this twelve-month renewal? When we’re trying to buy something, but our customers don’t do that, why do we have to wear that responsibility?
“There’s a whole stack of things and you enter conversations with a number of vendors and it appears like they’re opening their eyes for the first time. It’s like conversations from ten years ago; it’s very depressing.”
Delving deeper, Warner said that as an MSP, dealing with large vendors or distributors can be challenging when they deal with a different person within these organisations every other day.
“You get to some traction with someone and then are referred to someone else another day,” he said.
“Obviously, it’s just a continuity thing but with large businesses, it’s just a challenge for MSPs. It’s very difficult sometimes to get continuity.”
With decision making becoming a customer-driven conversation, who then holds the responsibility for taking risks — is it the partner, customer, or vendor?
According to Atkinson, the risk of delivering an SLA belongs to the MSP.
“It’s our choice as to how we build our offerings and if the vendor solution doesn’t help us achieve that, then it will be the first thing out of the door,” he added.
“But if you build your house out of a certain type of brick that crumbles as soon as it gets wet, obviously you made a bad choice.”
Rosa agreed that the MSP can be placed in a “tricky situation” when it comes to mitigating risk - from the end of the customer, or the vendor.
“You have the risk based on a technical perspective if the vendor messed up and then you also have to handle the risk on behalf of your client,” he said. “So, you’re pretty much stuck in the middle and if anything happens on either side, you’re in trouble.”
For Artis Group managing director Chris Greatrex the risk ends up with the party that has got the most bargaining power and the most transactions.
“It should be a balance where customers at the end of the day should understand that while they’re outsourcing an IT function, they’re not outsourcing their business and they should retain some accountability to run their own business,” he said.
“But at the same time they should hold their MSP accountable to what it is that they say they do best.”
According to SolarWinds senior regional sales manager (APAC) Jamie Deveaux the role of an MSP goes beyond the ability to understand vendors in the market and what they offer and the profile of customers, but also to specialise sell in verticals.
“It’s not only the ability to understand the vendors out there and what they offer, but it’s also to verticalise and know what kind of customer you’re talking to,” he said.
For eNerds CEO Jamie Warner, when chasing a vertical play, the key is building solutions specific to the requirements of customers.
“We’re integrators, so we’ve got to go look at their needs, do our research and figure out what the pain points are and then build a solution set around that,” he added.
“If you’re building a solution for a vertical you need to have vendor products that are consumed from a reselling perspective in a similar way so that you can match it into whatever your services are.
“But in enabling this, he said vendors need to be cognisant of their solutions and how MSPs and IT providers can put it together and bundle it for a particular vertical.”
But in response, Vijay warned of the possibility of becoming too niche, suggesting a more broad-based solutions offering which can be easily customised to suit demands.
“If you start developing solutions which are extremely verticalised, then you become very niche and you can’t move,” he said.
“However, if you have solutions which are a little bit broad based then you can chop and change; and you know what, suddenly you can take risks because your costs are now being spread across a wider portfolio, you’re getting economies of scale.”
Levy said if MSPs know what they’re doing and make solutions fit for purpose by optimising their workloads and their applications to the cloud, the cost savings can be both immediate and substantial.