The age of intelligent machines and automation is upon us. Because they eliminate the need for humans to perform simple (and not so simple) tasks, machines and bots are a boon to managed service providers and IT outsourcers. Fail to take advantage of automation, and you will eventually be unable to compete.
The threat isn’t existential yet — the MSP market is expected to reach $242.45 billion by 2021, so there’s plenty of work to go around. But the competitive landscape is shifting, enterprise IT environments are becoming increasingly complex, and forward-thinking solutions providers are taking steps to get on board with automation and standardization because they understand that they’ll be essential to staying in the game.
For often talent-strapped MSPs and managed security service providers, without automation, bringing disparate technologies and systems online while moving resources to the cloud equals a complicated, manual IT workload. Add to this the escalating urgency to contain costs while improving service levels, and it’s no surprise that managed service providers of all types are worried.
Of course, managing innovation, complexity and cost is not a new problem. For decades, we’ve seen technologies come and go with the expectation that we’ll make it work, no matter the cost. That’s partly how IT has gained notoriety for being a “cost center.” But in reality, IT is not a cost center — it’s a resource hog. The more complex technology becomes, the more specialized and general IT resources we need to add, because it’s not as if the legacy stuff goes away.
This model cannot be sustained. MSPs must take steps to improve efficiencies in their own companies and for customers. Top priorities include delivering on SLAs, cost containment, connecting disparate systems from one client environment to the next and onboarding new customers using a repeatable and seamless process. All that requires automation.
Take the task of onboarding a customer that uses one ITSM system while the MSP uses another. Several issues arise — not the least of which is the sheer scale of human resources needed to align the two systems or switch the customer over. An MSP that can’t replicate tasks and workflows across its customer base can’t control costs.
The bottom line is that MSPs need to find a way to become not only experts in IT and security operations but also aces in efficiency. Thus it follows that intelligent automation will become the MSP’s best friend.
ROI Factors to Consider
A wide range of intelligent automation solutions exist today, and the choices can be overwhelming. However, to get on successful track, consider these key ROI factors when evaluating options:
- Technology features: How does the solution apply machine learning, artificial intelligence and other technology that adds value to what you are trying to achieve? What is the supplier’s road map?
- Ease of use: Solutions that require no coding and minimal training will save you significant time and headache. Choose options that can deliver enterprise-level functionality and that virtually anyone on the IT staff can be successful with out of the gate.
- Integration: Solutions that don’t integrate with existing systems will create a whole new set of challenges. Opt for those that offer integration out of the gate and open APIs for future flexibility.
- Cost efficiency: MSPs must improve efficiencies through technology. With the rise of IT automation, more effective use of limited resources reduces costs and increases ROI.
Machine learning, along with other advanced technologies, has helped to propel the adoption and implementation of intelligent automation. By applying machine learning to IT process automation, manual, repetitive tasks are eliminated while gaining the benefit of intelligent suggestions and recommendations based on past history. Combined, this results in major efficiency gains, significant cost reduction, and greatly improved service delivery.
Machine learning also has the potential to enable an MSP to shift its focus to value-added services, realize increased margins and improve SLAs for a truly competitive differentiation. When used appropriately, automation and machine learning can equip MSPs to not only remain competitive, but blaze a path for future success.
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