Many are thrilled that 2020 is drawing to a close and the new year is fast approaching. However, should the MSP really expect anything different looking ahead? What will change in the new year?
It would be unwise to assume things will look all that different on January 1st. Unfortunately, the struggles of ‘the worst year ever’ are likely to carry over for a long, long time. For example, the significant changes to how average organizations communicate and function could stick around for years, if not forever.
Some business experts predict 2021 will be just as challenging as 2020. While MSPs have surely learned a lot this year, making you much more prepared for the new environment, there is a lot of uncertainty around what may transpire over the next few months. It is tough to plan for the unknowns.
For MSPs, the past ten months has been about finding new ways to support clientele by expanding offerings – a fact that will likely continue. The question is, what else should IT service providers expect going into 2021? More importantly, what services can companies like yours provide to circumvent these new challenges?
Brick and mortar businesses are becoming a relic of the past (a move driven into hyper speed by COVID-19). Though there was a small subset of employees already working from home before the pandemic, that number has risen exponentially over the past nine months.
Businesses are now expanding their hiring horizons, looking for talent across the country (and globe) rather than relying on limited local resource pools. The pandemic has given your clients more incentive to allow WFH and other remote workforce options to increase their collective skill sets.
Employees also want change. According to a survey commissioned by Airbnb, 83% of respondents are receptive to relocating if given a remote work option. More than 50% of those living in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. are increasingly interested in moving to the suburbs.
Organizations that sent employees home as a way to maintain their business operations and ensure safety may find it challenging to get them to return to a physical office. Dealing with traffic and commuting times is a significant disincentive.
2021 will likely spur a proliferation of hybrid workforces. Allowing people to work both at home and in the office gives them the best of both worlds. Slack’s Remote Employee Experience Index found that just 11.6% of workers want to return to their offices full-time, whereas 72.2% prefer the hybrid model. If your clients have not already gone to flexible workspaces, they are more likely to embrace that model moving forward.
With the rapid move to remote work, many organizations struggled to maintain a secure environment for their staff, corporate data, networks, and devices. BYOD and unsecured internet connections significantly increased their security risks, including the dangers of losing intellectual property and providing untethered remote access to business systems and information.
Malicious attacks in these environments might lead to compliance violations and substantial fines and be detrimental to an organizations’ reputation and pocketbook. Those are some of the consequences of remote work that MSPs must address today (and in 2021).
Supervising and controlling offsite IT systems will be a priority moving forward. Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) is a significant asset that IT service providers can use to ensure the safety of their client’s networks, devices, and servers. Antivirus and firewall applications will continue to be a security mainstay.
WFH employees are unsurprisingly more likely to compromise the corporate network or fall victim to attacks. Tools such as VPNs will be critical for secure network connections. MSPs should also implement a limited access policy to prevent a hacker from gaining unhindered access. Clients in highly collaborative environments will also benefit from encryption to guarantee that only intended recipients can access the information employees share outside the corporate firewall.
If there were ever a need for multiple communication modes to keep everyone on the same page, now would be the time. WFH employees cannot just walk down the hall to collaborate on projects or schedule meetings. Most still do not have a corporate phone or extension at home either.
MSPs can provide these organizations with hosted VoIP or UCaaS to solve those issues and enhance communication among team members and customers. IP-based telephony allows employees to use personal smartphones, tablets, or computers to make and receive business calls the same way they’d use their traditional office phones. Users can change call routing, receive messages via text, get voicemails via email, use pre-recorded directories, and enjoy a number of other features.
For your clients who need more than average collaboration options, UCaaS could be ideal. Unified communications platforms serve as a hub for team activities and communications.
One of the crucial ways it accomplishes those tasks is through video, allowing one-on-one or one-to-many live-action calls. This capability provides employees with the same look and immediacy as face-to-face conversations. Another benefit is that your clients’ connected devices allow employees to access messages, calls, files, and host meetings – making teamwork an effortless opportunity.
In 2021, MSPs will also need to offer collaboration solutions that help team members keep track of tasks, goals, and projects, and efficiently and instantly communicate. From Microsoft 365 to Slack, there are countless options to ensure that everyone stays focused and in sync. MSPs can enable their clients with these capabilities.
If there is one thing from 2020 that MSPs should take into the new year, it is a continued drive to implement effective DR and Business Continuity plans with every client. Virtually no one expected to be dealing with a worldwide pandemic, and too few were prepared for the ensuing WFH mandates.
Likewise, natural disasters, cyberattacks, and other external threats are difficult to foresee. Though most are adapting to work during a pandemic, are your clients prepared for another? We cannot assume that something that has never occurred before will not reoccur in the future. Moving forward, it only makes sense to prepare by including plans for possible disasters to recover lost or stolen data and continue essential business functionality. Those services should be easy to sell after the events of 2020.
IT service providers can undoubtedly take advantage of clients’ DR needs. Helping your clients build out business continuity plans, implement data recovery and backup systems, and develop risk management processes is a no-brainer for 2021.
Provide Complete IT Support
There is no doubt the pandemic of 2020 has been a tremendous challenge for everyone. Yet, there is a silver lining for MSPs looking to the future.
The workforce environment has changed vastly and will continue to shift, and those transformations are bringing new business challenges and workplace needs that you can take to the bank. Your clients need and deserve complete IT support, including planning, consulting, procurement, and help desk options, along with effective security and communications assistance.
2020 was a banner year for many MSPs. While providers have come a long way, becoming your client’s all-in-one, go-to partner is a trend that can easily continue in 2021 with the right plan and proper execution.
If you enjoyed this blog, you might also be interested in the blog: Do Your Clients Know the Difference Between Hosted VoIP and UCaaS?