How can MSPs ensure customer deployments are successful? Fredrik Jubran, regional manager, Logpoint, explains how the channel can steer RFP conversations to deliver the right outcome.

Procurement is one of the most amorphous processes within the business. The remit inevitably gets changed and those compromises can lead to a technology being deployed that is so out of keeping with the original requirements that it no longer delivers.

It’s this gap, between the need a solution should fulfil and what the organisation ends up with, that presents the vendor and the MSP with a real opportunity.

The problem is procurement processes tend to be delegated to operational and then technical teams. This can mean the initial goals are whittled down because, with operational or technical teams driving the engagement, the purchase process becomes more difficult and unlikely to result in an ongoing long-term customer relationship.

A tactical approach like this limits the specification right from the request for information (RFI). The decision-makers will look for certain functions and operationalise budget, resulting in a cut down version.

Functionality is further compromised post-deployment because of a lack of strategy, training or corporate memory loss as the business loses staff and their experience. Then three years down the road the organisation is left with a fallow system waiting to be written off.

Top-down decisions

In contrast, if goals are set and remain in sight through the delegation of procurement tasks, the outcome can meet or even exceed expectations. For that to happen, a top-down approach is needed.

This begins with strategic, then operational and finally tactical considerations. The vendor or MSP can capture requirements from the top-down during the request for proposal (RFP) process.

It’s here where the vendor can assist with a consultative approach rather than leaving the organisation to its own devices to onboard and navigate a new technology.

Let’s say the business is looking to create a new service and revenue stream with cybersecurity to support that. The MSP is going to need to provide a ticketing system, other technologies to make it a practical operating model, and some automation and orchestration to handle the links between those systems and avoid swivel chair operations, which is where time and data are lost.

It’s here where we start to focus on design and the features and functions to deliver that capability.

Very few RFPs will be greenfield projects, so there’s a need to understand where the business is, what it wants to achieve and what existing technology we have to work with.

What do they have? Where is it? Who manages it? How does it link with other systems? And, most importantly, how does that map to the service that it’s trying to offer to the customer?

After all, you can spend time building a wonderfully oiled machine internally only to find the customer facing service has missed the mark entirely.

Adding value

Going back to our triangle of the strategic, operational and tactical levels, the best solutions are always driven by the strategy part of the business, not the technical. They take into consideration cost management, communication and planning, performance, capacity, and scaling to a known cost model.

Those value areas that can then be communicated during the RFP and the organisation and/or MSP can determine the support and expertise they will get from the vendor.

From an operational perspective, the focus should then be on getting the most out of the solution. There’s a transition period, an upskill period, certifications, training and support, and then the need to integrate, to get those operational tools working with one another and to put in place KPIs and reviews.

Those are the factors that make or break a customer’s view of the service so that operational procedure model needs to be slick.

Finally, the tactical stakeholders can focus on the features and functions needed. But they should not be leading the conversation. It’s very hard to build an operational goal around a tactical technical solution and it’s even more difficult to raise that up into a strategy-based proposal for a business case internally.

Reversing back up those tiers makes the whole process much more complex so it’s about turning those conversations about functional, non-functional and solution design into a value proposition, which then becomes part of the RFP response.

Long-term customers

Whoever is responding to the tender, be it the vendor, reseller or MSP, has to have the courage to kick back the RFI. They need to make clear to the organisation that while it has geared themselves to buying a technology, what it needs is a solution.

By consulting with the organisation during the RFP process to ask the right questions, starting with the strategic aims of the business, followed by the operational aspects and finally the tactical technical functionality, everyone gains.

Trust is earned and the organisation is much more likely to become a long-term customer.

This opinion piece appeared in our March 2024 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.