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Top Tips for MSPs Supporting Office 365

Posted July 19, 2018by Ian Waters

Top Tips for MSPs Supporting Office 365

At Southern IT Networks, we’ve been supporting Office 365 for several years now. Over these years, we’ve also moved from a pay-as-you-go support model to a fixed monthly fee model. Along the way, we’ve learned a lot about how to best support our small- and medium-sized business (SMB) clients and how to add value by using bolt-on services.

In this post, I’m going to share some of my top tips for supporting Office 365, as well as which services you could bundle in to add value and make it easier to support your clients.

Train Your Engineers

Office 365 moves so quickly; if you don’t log into 365 or the Azure portal for a few weeks, something new has probably been added or features have been moved around the interface. It’s incredibly difficult to keep up—even for us engineers—which is why constant training is extremely important.

Having a solid foundation of classroom-based training is essential, especially for your junior support staff. You can’t just train up staff to a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) level. You must encourage consistent development. Supporting engineers who want to go to Microsoft conferences and training sessions is a great way to help them keep their finger on the pulse.

The more your engineers are experts in all aspects of Office 365, the more they can help your clients use the wide variety of tools available to them. Sway, Staff Hub, Dynamics, Bookings, Video are only a few of the great tools available in Office 365, yet are rarely used. You should be teaching your team—and also your clients—how to make use of them.

Provide End User Training

End user training is a greatly undervalued aspect of IT support—very few MSPs have an ongoing end user training program. Whether it’s offering on-site training or half-day sessions in your own office, running free and/or paid training sessions is a great add-on to any MSP business, and there are several additional benefits.

Fewer Calls to the Help Desk

If users don't know how to use Teams, SharePoint and OneDrive properly, they'll bother your help desk and get frustrated because they’re unsure what the tools do and what the differences are. Instead, show clients how to use these tools up front, and they will be much happier about being able to use them properly.

Lead Generation

Running regular training sessions in your area—and even opening them up to local businesses—is a great way to establish yourself as a local expert. At the same time, these sessions act as a new way to grow your prospect base and generate business. When the time comes for these businesses to look for an IT support partner, you will be in the front of their mind.

Upsell

Offering user training is also a great way to upsell during a migration project. I’ve implemented many projects over the years, and every time we do a good job with end user training, the adoption of office 365 is much quicker. Organize small sessions of 4-5 people, run through the basics and highlight coming problem areas. You will be amazed how much more smoothly migration projects go using this approach.

Cultivate Deep Relationships with Clients

Any opportunity that gets your end users and your team together in a room will help build closer relationships, and it also gives you a way to hear about new opportunities or ongoing issues that need dealing with quickly. Any business who is committed to supporting their clients and cares about them getting the most out of the tools available is always going to win in the long run. Help your clients realize how the many tools available in office 365 can help their business. StaffHub and Bookings are two greatly underutilized tools that your clients may not even realize they can use in their business.

Get Familiar with PowerShell Scripts

To professionally support Office 365, you need to be proficient in using PowerShell. Every now and again, you will need to set an option which can only be performed by using PowerShell—it’s very annoying, but that’s the way it is!

Many engineers I’ve spoken to don’t like using PowerShell; it’s too much like programming, which is often something they don’t enjoy, and not everything can be done from the user interface.Personally, I love using PowerShell, and you should find those engineers who want to learn more about it too and support their interest and development in this area.

If you are an MSP who works with larger organizations—especially schools and universities—then having a central pool of PowerShell scrips for automating the deployment of large numbers of users is essential. If you are using more of the Office 365 enterprise features, then being well practiced in PowerShell will allow you to migrate away from group policies quicker.

Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) Licensing

CSP billing is a great way to consolidate billing for your clients, while making yourself a little margin by being the middleman. All our clients have opted for us to take over the billing of their Office 365 licenses. This gives us a little boost in our monthly recurring revenue, while also giving us more control and brownie points with Microsoft when all those licenses soon add up.

Additionally, CSP licensing is a great way to keep track of the number of users in your client environments. If you work to a per user, per month billing model, it helps you better track of how many user accounts you’re billing for each month.

Think About Integrations

Office 365 gives you plenty of opportunities to integrate into other systems. You can tailor an Office 365 package for each client by designing Microsoft Flows, or connect applications using Zapier for your clients. Flows allow you to set up actions based on triggers that happen in Office 365.

For example, if a new contact gets added to a mailing list, then use Flow to add them to a central contacts list in SharePoint or send an email to the sales manager informing them of a new lead on the system.

You can even capture Facebook and Twitter mentions and automatically save them to an Excel file and build a lead generation funnel to help your clients build their business. There are so many opportunities to bring more value to your clients with little work on your part.

Cloud First

The requirement for on-prem servers is diminishing, meaning you can support clients more easily without the overhead of supporting hardware. Encourage users to adopt a cloud-first approach to their infrastructure where it’s a suitable alternative to on-prem servers.

Upsell: Backup Solution

Many people seem to think they no longer need backups when they move to the cloud. It’s just not true and provides a great opportunity for an essential upsell.

Emails, SharePoint sites, and OneDrive folders all need backing up. Any infection like CryptoLocker will easily spread to OneDrive and immediately synchronize files back to the cloud.  Sure, you can restore individual files to previous versions in SharePoint, but try doing that to several thousand—there is no bulk restore option! You must protect clients from accidental deletion of files and malicious activity probably more so than ever before, and this provides a great opportunity to upsell your backup offering.

Upsell: Email Filtering Solution

Mail filtering in Office 365 works well, but there are plenty of third party vendors who can provide more features and do a better job at preventing spam email, blocking certain types of files, helping prevent CEO fraud and offer easier administration.

Adding an advanced email security service to your Office 365 offerings is another great way to increase your monthly revenue. Phishing emails, CEO fraud and fake Office 365 emails are increasingly doing the rounds, and users are just not trained to spot these fake emails, so you need to put as many protective layers in place as possible. Bundle this offering into your existing support packages or offer it as an additional service.

Upsell: Email Archiving Solution

Along with email filtering, email archiving is another service you may want to provide as a bolt on offering. Many providers offer an easy-to-use user interface, which clients may enjoy using a lot more than the built-in offering in Office 365.

For clients in the financial and legal verticals, having a separate service from Office 365 is also a tamper-proof way to track of all incoming and outgoing emails, which may be essential for some of these businesses.

Upsell: Security Solution

The current climate presents a great opportunity to wrap several additional services into a security package. Bundle a third party spam filtering solution with support for Office 365 Multi-Factor Authentication, Data Loss Prevention (DLP), conditional access and Mobile Device Management (MDM) to provide an enhanced security package either to bring extra value to your monthly support costs or use it as an upsell.

All in all, Office 365 continues to disrupt the way MSPs work, so we must do more to make the best use of the tools available to us. Use the tips above to create new services and offerings, or bring more value to your clients and your existing per-user or per-device support pricing.

 

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Ian is a Senior Partner at MSP Southern IT Networks and works as the Technical Director. Ian has been working in IT for over 14 years since finishing his Degree in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence. He is also an Office 365 expert and author of the book Microsoft Office 365 – Exchange Online Implementation and Migration - Second Edition. Follow him on his personal blog here!

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