Tools are a topic that’s near and dear to the heart of many MSPs.

Today on the show, I’ll be talking to Todd Kane, founder and president of Evolved Management Consulting, where he works with MSPs on improving the profits in their business while decreasing stress—always a good thing. Before launching Evolved, Todd was VP of Operations at a large MSP called Fully Managed, based in Vancouver. And before that he led technical groups for some major businesses like Bell Canada and WestJet.

Todd and I are going to be digging into the MSP tool stack: what tools you absolutely need, places where MSPs typically fall down in buying and implementing tools, managing integrations, and whether full product suites like the ConnectWise stack, for example, are better than a mix and match approach. Lots of good takeaways from that conversation so stay tuned, that’s coming up.

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What’s Going On

[01:50] IT Pro published an article about the West Ham United football club accidentally leaking hundreds of supporters’ personal data. The club sent emails with 500 season ticket holders’ email addresses in the To: field.

[02:46] A press release from West Ham in July 2017 said they support GDPR and have partnered with an MSP called Foregenix to help safeguard its data.

[03:18] Foregenix may have put safeguards in place for technical data leaks, but their client still got caught by human error.

[03:36] According to GDPR, anyone involved in a data breach should be notified within 72 hours. Non-compliance could result in a expensive fine.

[04:30] MSPs can’t prevent people from clicking on the wrong thing.

[05:16] This is a training opportunity for MSPs. People should follow what’s going on in the news, because it’s an opportunity to present relevant information to clients.

[05:39] It’s important to have a regular newsletter and inform clients about what’s going on.

[06:06] Clients might even need to be taught email etiquette. There are people who don’t know what CC and BCC mean.

[06:34] Good processes and procedures need to be frequently emphasized.

[07:38] Having smarter email systems in place could go a long way to preventing accidents like this one.

[07:57] A recent article in Search Engine Journal talks about marketers leveraging artificial intelligence for SEO (search engine optimization).

[08:42] A weakness in our search engines is that it’s hard to find the correct information if you don’t know the correct terminology to search for.

[09:26] This article is about how search engines are becoming smarter and how this can help clients.

[09:52] Search engines are beginning to understand the context of data. There’s also an evolution in what we expect computers to be able to do.

[11:16] We use different keywords when we’re trying to learn about something as opposed to when we’re trying to buy something.

[11:56] Bing has an intelligent search feature powered by AI.

[13:16] There’s also a growing interest in voice, although it still doesn’t play a huge role in search.

[13:39] Marketers should care about AI, because search is becoming more intelligent.

Interview with Todd Kane: Getting the Most From Your MSP Tool Stack

Todd Kane Evolved Management Consulting MSP consultant

Todd Kane, Evolved Management Consulting

[15:07] One of the biggest mistakes MSPs are making with their tool stack is trying to use technology to solve what is actually a people problem.

[16:12] Another problem is not completely implementing the solution or tool, and then blaming the tool for the lack of ROI.

[16:36] Start with the bare-bones tools that an MSP needs and then ask where you can get better insights.

[17:38] You want to focus on reducing labor.

[18:12] You can also use documentation to lower the cost of labor.

[18:31] Lean on the vendors to help you get more out of the tools you’ve purchased.

[19:31] Use a peer group or consultants to make sure you’re following best practices.

[20:05] An RMM and PSA are table stakes for any managed services provider. After you have those in place, look at backups and documentation.

[20:32] You can’t improve a process if it doesn’t exist to begin with. Start with your minimum viable SOP and then build out your documentation.

[21:05] Focus on offsetting risk such as ransomware with things like OpenDNS or some type of low touch backup system.

[21:25] Keep in mind the cost of labor with building your own solutions. An industry standard solution may be quicker.

[22:25] Some tool will become part of your base package for clients. Other things will be like offering fries with your solution—they can be offered as an optional add-on for your clients.

[23:36] Beware of under-pricing your solutions. Under-pricing means you won’t have enough margin to pay for the tools you need to build your business. Don’t be afraid to go up market.

[24:07] Understand and factor in the true cost of your service if you want to scale your business.

[24:44] Start as early as you can investing in an RMM and a PSA. There’s a solution for every size of MSP. Also think about switching costs as you grow. If you expect to grow quickly, it might make sense to bring in a higher-cost but more robust solution earlier.

[27:19] Make sure the tools in your stack talk to each other. Look for APIs that will let you port your data.

[29:31] As solutions get bigger, a person dedicated to managing the tools becomes crucial.

[30:40] Make sure you’re data driven. These tool sets offer amazing insights if you know where to look. Learn how to interpret the data. Use dashboards and reporting.

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