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How Automation Can Unlock Value For MSPs

Forbes Technology Council

Uday Birajdar, CEO and Co-founder at AutomationEdge. Building delightful workplace experience with Conversational AI and Automation.

Today, IT managed service providers (MSPs) support enterprise customers with multiple lines of services like application support, network support, database support and cloud operations. Lately, those customers are looking to MSPs to support their hybrid work environment model with new workplace support, device management and security services. Automation is proving to be an indispensable partner in unlocking value across every single line of business. However, with rapid advances in AI, automation is maturing faster than saying "abracadabra."

Keeping up and crucially applying relevant technologies to pertinent offerings requires pure-play specialists who "live and breathe" automation. Hence, an urgent need to include automation in toolkits has emerged. Top lines are being improved by adding new cutting-edge offerings like managed digital workplace services to service catalogs. MSPs are improving the bottom lines by optimizing their existing processes.

Bottom Lines Can Be Improved

Many services executed by MSPs are being automated today. While password resets and other simple automation tasks are now considered basic, entirely unexplored complex activities in diverse areas of automated ticket resolutions, ticket analytics, monitoring, business process automation and cybersecurity can now be vastly improved by the inclusion of automation.

What To Look For In An Automation Platform Specifically For MSPs

• One that can discover automatable components in the MSP's processes.

• One that includes an AI chatbot.

• Allows for numerous integrations of employee onboarding or third-party billing support.

• Acts as a sophisticated single automation platform instead of scattered automation scripts.

• The ability for IT admins to "low" code on the fly or even allow for no-code scripting if an enterprise customer is reluctant to provide access to its systems.

• IT administrators of MSPs could have access to prebuilt (prefabricated) automation components in diverse areas such as employee onboarding, network and server management, application and cloud management, end-user support, device and inventory management or provisioning areas.

• Needs to be ITSM-agnostic and work with popular ITSMs used by MSPs—be it ServiceNow, BMC, ConnectWise or Manage engine.

• An IT staff of an MSP could be in direct touch with the end user directly on Slack or Teams in real time.

• The platform can be mined for system-generated reports that answer back customer queries (e.g., devices that are not using device encryption or the number of users not using two-factor authentication for access to the email system).

Incorporating tools has become a no-brainer. Due to AI and ML, many of the current tools available are so simple yet comprehensive to use with integrations to platforms in the enterprise ecosystem. The process of discovering processes that are automatable used to be manual and labor-intensive, but current software tools make all of those steps unnecessary.

That said, as I noted in my previous article, organizational culture—and, hence, employees—will need to be re-sensitized to the new mores of automation. The old adage of "garbage in, garbage out" still applies. Automation does not clean out a bad process, so processes will need to be scrutinized before automation is unleashed on them. We recommend automation centers of excellence be the centers of implementation of an automation strategy.

Top Lines Can Be Improved

Backed by automation that works seamlessly with both the MSP's own ITSM and the enterprise customer's ITSM, it has become possible to extend offerings to include managing the enterprise customer's workplace services.

A Statista survey notes that as of April 2021, 33% indicated that their organizations are running over half of their workloads in the cloud—and that number is predicted to increase to 56% over the next 12 to 18 months, enabling portal and chat-based remote support, novel tech bars and kiosk offerings.

Looking to reduce enterprise clients' opex, providers are combining the power of intelligent automation, AI and ML technologies to offer new services such as field support, on-site support, chatbot, virtual assistants, digital lockers and cognitive virtual assistants. In an evolving suite of new offerings, MSPs can grab the opportunity to differentiate themselves as they begin to expand in supporting digital touchpoints beyond IT support, automation of business operations and back-office operations for HR, finance and other areas.

As workplace technologies get more business-centric, MSPs have begun to power mainstream business functions such as onboarding business applications or managing POS and IoT devices. With service orchestration provided by the automation platform, digital service catalogs for the enterprise end user's line of business operations, sales, marketing and finance areas are being created, opening up a whole new menu of services to expand business in existing accounts.

While earlier MSPs were confined to managing applications and devices, AI-enabled automation has allowed them to expand to include new areas such as employee learning and talent management, HR and finance operations for a coveted stake in directly enhancing the employee experience of their enterprise customers.

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