Senior chiefs behind Kaseya's automated managed services platform were in Sydney recently to educate resellers on an annuity-based services model. ARN caught up with Kaseya CEO, Gerald Blackie, COO, Tim McMullen, and Asia-Pacific executive vice-president, Martin Ashby, to discuss why this approach to IT is sounding a death knell for the SMB break/fix channel.
What does a typical managed service look like?
Gerald Blackie (GB): The way IT services have been delivered to the SMB has traditionally been through people. There has been a tremendous focus on using techs to provide IT services to lots of third-party customers. But the way this is going to be done in the years ahead is changing.
IDC put out a report recently that suggested the industry will move into the era of industrialisation by 2011. What does that mean? It just means we're getting systems and facilities in place where we can deliver IT services in an automated fashion.
For IT service providers that get left behind doing break/fix work, it's not going to be fun. Those providing IT managed services will have the ability to deliver IT to a number of customers. They'll be in the same situation as a company's internal IT department, and they've got to learn to provide IT services in an organised way. You need policies in place - what are the access and remediation policies, what kind of service desks are needed, do you look at incident tracking or hot desking, and what do I do to ensure that workstations are remediated immediately if things are happening in the datacentre. It's also about looking at what processes I can put in place to deliver software or services out into the field without having to send a tech out there, what feedback I am getting through monitoring system, and whether those kick off other processes.
If you're still focusing on doing whatever the customer wants, you're just continuously responding to what's going on in their environment. You don't know anything about their configuration, you don't have any control over the policies of how they acquire equipment and software or how they use that IT infrastructure. You're constantly trying to understand what they're doing and then trying to fix it. And you're doing that with people.
Resellers pride themselves on taking on a trusted advisor's role and figuring out how to address a customer's pain points. Isn't this the same mindset behind delivering managed services?
GB: It's not the same. If I'm an IT services provider that just waits for the customer to call about a printer problem, the tech I send out the next day doesn't know what the problem is because he or she has no systems in place to say what happened. There's no auditing and no way to deliver services that maintain that infrastructure to a high level of uptime. Sure, he's a trusted advisor, but what has he done for me lately?
The average customer and the non-savvy IT service provider don't get the difference between management by policy and processes and management by reactive means. It's a vast gap.
Martin Ashby (MA): Most of the guys coming to us re operating in what we call this break/fix mode. They are waiting for something to go wrong for that call to action. But without diagnostics or background to the issue, they have to figure out all of those pieces before they can work out how to fix it.
I liken it to a car: when you buy a car, you service it every 6-12 months because you don't want it breaking down. In the IT sector we do the opposite - we run that car as long as we can until it's broken down, then we call the mechanic. It doesn't make sense that we follow certain approaches in certain parts of life but do the opposite in the IT world.
What makes a good managed services provider?
MA: These guys are out there looking for a new way of delivering their services and breaking free of that reactive grind. When you're working reactively, you are entirely capped by the number of skills you can bill in the hours of the day. If they can turn that around - if the mechanic aligns their interest with yours to ensure your car doesn't break down as opposed to making money off you when it does - you change the nature of the relationship between the customer and provider.
GB: If you're of a break/fix mentality, you're hoping your customers are going to have problems at the start of the month or find you a project to do. You've only got to have one issue where things go south and you lose that customer because you're not bound together.
As a managed services provider, a proportion of your revenue is already fixed, you know what your costs are going to be so you can schedule appropriately, and you can do the work necessary to keep all of those IT assets, such as servers or workstations, humming along.