Provisioning… “In telecommunication, provisioning involves the process of preparing and equipping a network to allow it to provide new services to its users”.
Here at Atria, we started out working with Telco’s automating the delivery of Managed Network Services – the term provisioning is now a common part of our vocabulary.
Today we apply it in the form “Provisioning involves the process of preparing IT systems in order to provide new services to a customer or user”.
Why should MSPs take note?
Telco’s set a high standard in scale through repeatable process. Billions of us today have reliable and affordable telephone, internet, and mobile services – all dependent on highly automated provisioning.
The world we know, would not be the same today if Telco provisioning was being handled by humans – too many mistakes, too slow, too expensive, too many calls to the help desk!
Correct provisioning of services to customers means less faults and less support, this leads to less support staff, more scale, correct billing, more success, more customers, more scale.
Provisioning means retaining control over the things you are responsible for. Today this is a primary consideration for security, but it is also needed for accurate billing, compliance, and profitability.
So, in short – get your provisioning sorted, and success will follow!
Makes sense, but… IT Services are inherently more complex (as a generalisation) than Telco services. Why?
They are generically designed with the consuming customer front of mind – in terms of administration and operation.
The Managed Service Provider is often the organisation responsible for administration and operation, but there is little consideration given.
Even Microsoft who depend on their MSP partners to support their products into customers, lag in building suitable tools for MSPs to manage their cloud services.
The problem is large, there is no standardisation for provisioning and there are thousands of applications, each with changing dependencies, lifecycles, and configurations – all at different stages of their own evolution.
Any MSP that gets to a reasonable size has to deal with 100s of applications, versions of operating systems, identity stores, datacenters, infrastructure and more. That is before considering history, customer specific processes and the volumes of people that will not want to change how they work.
The path to scale and higher profitability (and let’s be honest, happiness) – is working out how to simplify everything you can within your control.
The three pillars to MSP happiness
1. Don’t be everything to everyone:
Reduce the footprint of systems that you need to support – start with the common elements that every customer need such as networking and security, collaboration, storage etc.
Work to migrate your customers to your preferred platform with the goal of reducing the number of systems you need to know and support.
You may lose some customers, and you may lose some sales, but this is baggage that affects your bottom line profit.
Although not always easy to replicate, many MSPs have succeeded by focusing on one or two niche markets, this enables them to narrow down the stack of technologies they need to deliver – they hence become experts in those products which can then really help sales and marketing to flourish.
2. Productise your offerings:
Think of productization as giving your customers less options, for SMB customers, they want IT to be easy for them and the more options you give them, the more bewildering they may find your services.
Well-designed products allow you to template, default and standardise configuration. In most cases, a common configuration will provide a better standard of service and will make it easier for your staff to support.
With security front of mind in most MSPs this standardisation can help you to make sure you are secure by default, not out of the box settings by default.
The positive side effects are that it makes it easier for your team to sell, explain, deliver, bill and support. It will reduce internal friction and keep everyone aligned.
Good products can have names and real meaning within your organisation that stop recurring gnarly problems occurring between sales, delivery and billing.
3. Automate the right things:
Taking control of your provisioning
Once you have narrowed your technology stack and standardised what you are offering, automation of your processes and associated record keeping are a key step in scaling up.
Fact: Computers are good at following process – most humans are not, so don’t make them. People are rubbish at writing processes down and even worse at following them.
Lots of things are hard to automate, some are easy – the important thing is to identify all the core processes and then capture/estimate the following three core datapoints.
How frequently you have to perform the process
- How frequently you have to perform the process
- How long the process takes to execute today (and cost of labour)
- How much effort would it take to automate the process (and cost of labour)
There are always other factors to consider alongside purely cost/benefit. It could be that it’s important for a process to be rapid, or it could be something very complex which is leading to mistakes and problems down the track – there is a bit of art and science to make the right calls, but starting with a basic decision making framework will help you pick the right things to tackle, vs the ones which are more interesting.
Get my spreadsheet which will help you prioritise your automation investments – it’s a simple calculation of time and labour rate.
From experience, it’s sometimes easy for developers to focus on things which might be more interesting to automate, rather than the ones that may provide you with the best business value, having a simple framework helps everyone to get on the same page and also allows you to feel good about the changes you are activating.
And finally a bit about Atria
Atria is a platform used by IT Service Providers and Telco’s to deliver services at scale, Atria works from the MSPs perspective giving a common view across all customers and their users.
Atria comes with automation for common services out of the box, helping you on the productization journey. Services which don’t exist can be structured and added, with customisable automation processes.
All Changes made are tracked and audited, this means you know who enacted a change and when they did it. This makes billing more reliable, and even billing disputes become easier.
Atria is natively multi-tenant, your customers (and resellers if you have them) are able to login to a portal and make their own changes, they all follow the same process (without training) and deliver the same consistent result.
Because all changes are now managed centrally, you have regained control of what you are responsible for. This leads to improved profitability and reduced risk.
For a no obligation demo of Atria and an open discussion about your business challenges, please get in touch – if we don’t think Atria is a good fit for your business, we will straight up tell you.