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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreement (SLA)

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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are the foundation of your MSP business. They are essential to building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well-constructed.

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5 Ways to Maximize the ROI from Your Continuum Partnership

Posted October 20, 2016by Brent Whitfield

As CEO of DCG Technical Solutions, Inc., I've been providing IT support in Los Angeles since 1993. Central to our managed IT services solution for almost 10 years, Continuum's IT management platform has helped us transform our business growth. After being recognized among the Top 10 Fastest Growing MSPs in North America by MSP Mentor and featured in Fast Company, CNBC, Network Computing, Reuters, and Yahoo Business, partners are always asking me how we do it. In fact, the topic is so popular it was one of the top 10 rated sessions at Navigate 2016! Well, the secret to getting more out of your Continuum partnership really all starts with applying the following five best practices: 

1. Leverage Elite Server Care

Continuum offers three Network Operations Center (NOC) service levels: Essential, Preferred and Elite. With Essential, partners receive monitoring with alerts, day and night. When you opt for Preferred, the next level up, Continuum then provides alerts plus remediation by their NOC technicians. While these two plans may seem sufficient enough, in order to fully take advantage of the Continuum business model, you have to upgrade to Elite. With Elite, you can create and assign issue-based tickets to the NOC for full problem resolution. Your techs don’t have to waste time trying to resolve issues that are beyond their skill set or completing time-consuming maintenance projects. They'll be able to leverage a complete offsite team ready to work for them 24x7x365.

We use Elite to generate more ROI from our Continuum partnership. When it's 4:30 pm on a Friday and we encounter disk space issues on a server that needs to be online all weekend, for instance, we don't stress. Whereas before, one of our engineers would have to work overtime to fix the issue, now we can write up a ticket and hand it off to the NOC to complete. We swear by Elite because it improves the quality of life for our staff – providing a greater work/life balance – and helps us take on more clients. 

Leverage Elite Server Care to resolve problems faster, increase client satisfaction and give your team the freedom to focus on more strategic initiatives that grow revenue. Rather than hiring and staffing multiple technicians to deliver this level of service to your clients, the more cost-effective Elite alternative helps you maintain profitability and scale your business efficiently.  

2. Glean Insights from Partner Scorecard

As a Continuum partner, you've already benefited from the personalized onboarding and dedicated account team assigned to you. To get as much out of this relationship as possible, maintain regular contact with your account representatives. They'll work with you to ensure everything is configured optimally in the ITSupport portal, as well as assist you in working with the NOC. One way in which they do this is through the Partner Scorecard, available upon request. The Scorecard is a report that is run by your Technical Success Manager (TSM). This report is designed to identify gaps in your current configuration that can prevent Continuum's NOC and Help Desk from maximizing how they resolve issues for you. It helps to further streamline workflows and improve efficiency. While the Scorecard does note what service levels you are using, it only scores you based on your current configuration. Not only is this a very valuable tool for partners, but it also lets your account team know products and services wherein you may need more training or resources. 

After they've had a few weeks to acclimate themselves to the IT management platform and ITSupport portal, partners should reach out to their account representatives to get scored. Depending on the grade you receive, you'll be given actionable advice and best practices to raise your number, thereby increasing your ROI with Continuum. Note: your score should be something you continually work toward improving. Arrange monthly check-in calls with your account team to ensure you're on the right track. 

3. Take Advantage of Tech Advantage 

If you offer clients project work, look into Tech Advantage to complete more projects at a faster rate. Continuum's 700 certified network operations engineers and technicians are able to perform 85+ server, desktop and custom projects, including Active Directory deployment, Exchange cross forest migration, VMware setup and much more. Additionally, this work can all be done overnight, on weekends, or whenever is most convenient for you, so your clients won't be impacted during business hours.

We've found Tech Advantage to be helpful for requests that may take all night to accomplish or for projects we don't have the manpower to absorb. In this regard, preventing our techs from having to work nights and weekends reduces turnover and burnout and improves productivity and morale. Tech Advantage is especially beneficial when managing Windows® servers. What we used to escalate to Microsoft® support, only to be put on hold indefinitely, we now outsource to Continuum for a fraction of the price. For us, it's like having a whole Level 3 support team available at our fingertips for dollars on the hour. 

We firmly believe that if you use Tech Advantage every week, you'll make money every week. Assigning the NOC your project work means you don’t have to hire and train new employees. You can expand the scope of services and volume of projects delivered to your clients, all without adding head count or paying employees overtime for nights and weekends required to finish project work. As a result, senior techs can focus on profitable, strategic work, and partners can save on labor costs.

4. Grow Your Business with Sales and Marketing Enablement 

For the most part, MSPs recognize that they have to invest in sales and marketing, but finding the time or staff bandwidth is difficult. Just as Continuum helps you grow and scale your business by offering round-the-clock technical support, they also provide marketing and sales enablement support all year round. Have you visited the Partner Support Portal lately? There, you'll find white label product briefs, customizable marketing materials, sales talk tracks and more.

While Continuum creates a myriad of helpful resources, we urge partners to download their white label sales success kits and videos. When we launched our mobile device management (MDM) offering and needed content pertaining to our new service, we turned to the MDM Sales Success Kit to brand the included infograph with our logo and repurpose copy for our handouts and other marketing materials. Had we not been able to leverage the kit, we would have had to spend time and resources developing this messaging internally. And it wasn't just the opportunity cost of having to forego revenue-driving activities that we had to consider. Creating effective sales and marketing content like product videos, for example, can be expensive to produce. With Continuum, we're able to brand their free customizable videos in our company's name.

All too often, you'll work with vendors who provide marketing content designed to help you sell more of their product to your end users, rather than help you extend your value proposition. When you work with Continuum, however, the sales and marketing resources, training and support you receive is all about you, the partner! Unlike other platforms, partner enablement expands past technical support. In the same way that you can lighten your technical workload by taking full advantage of the NOC, you can gain back time and money otherwise spent creating sales and marketing collateral. 

5. Win New Business with Network Assessment Modules 

If you're not using Continuum Network Assessment Modules to win new business, you're leaving money on the table. Powered by RapidFire Tools, this program helps you generate more leads and expand your services portfolio so that you can continue growing your business. With these powerful tools, you can save time and perform network assessments in minutes, rather than spending days onsite collecting data. And when the assessment is complete, you’ll have access to an array of compelling reports that you’ll be able to brand as your own to demonstrate the value you can provide as an MSP. 

There are eight modules available to choose from, but we've been particularly successful with the HIPAA and Security Assessment tools. The HIPAA Compliance Module provides everything we need to conduct unlimited compliance assessments, allowing us to engage healthcare companies, help them become HIPAA compliant and offer ongoing compliance services. And we don't just use the HIPAA module for new client acquisition. We're also able to increase our monthly recurring revenue by running monthly HIPAA scans on certain client sites. Similarly, the Security Assessment Module is essential for any Continuum partners looking to build their cybersecurity business. The tool checks the latest threat definitions for client networks to ensure they are up to date, makes sure that firewall definitions are configured properly, helps you uncover and prioritize security issues based on risk scores and more. In addition, you’ll be able to provide detailed reports to your clients that specify who has access to their data and the different security policies they have in place. 

In almost every instance, Continuum Network Assessment Modules have created project work with our existing clients and regularly running these scans has become one of our baseline service requirements. By adding security and compliance scans to your network assessment offering, you’ll set yourself apart from your competition while adding additional lines of revenue to your business.

Closing Thought

In order to increase the ROI of your Continuum partnership, you should explore each of the points laid out above. But don't forget about the basics. When I talk to other Continuum partners, I notice that most don’t regularly read the monthly release notices. This means they are not aware of the new features and improvements that are consistently delivered. Being able to work smarter and more efficiently by implementing the latest best practices shared in these releases will help you derive greater value from your IT management platform. To start, I suggest you do the following:

  1. Review the release notices as a team each month.
  2. Review the documentation in the Doc Center links provided.
  3. Agree on a specific plan that details how to take advantage of the new features. This may mean updating configurations.

We appreciate Continuum because they focus on providing continuous improvement, and they listen to partner feedback in a way that is pretty unique in our market. To be a successful partner, invest time and effort into the relationship. It’s pretty easy when the folks at the other end of the phone or chat session are as dedicated to your success as the Continuum team.

Cybersecurity-Sales-Success-Kit-2017-Download

Brent Whitfield is CEO of DCG Technical Solutions, Inc. providing IT Support in Los Angeles since 1993. DCG exists to help our clients choose, implement, and manage IT and cloud solutions that are cost effective and reliable. DCG's pro-active approach to IT is ideally suited for companies who depend on reliable IT infrastructure, but don't want to spend a lot of money to keep it that way. DCG was recognized among the Top 10 Fastest Growing MSPs in North America by MSP Mentor. Brent has been featured in Fast Company, CNBC, Network Computing, Reuters, and Yahoo Business. Continuum’s NOC and Business Continuity/backup products have served as an important part of DCG’s managed service offerings for almost 10 years.

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