Five key MSP growth areas in the evolving economy

Midwestern MSP Aunalytics identifies the key trends they are seeing in managed services today, and what areas of their practice are increasing as a result.

Kelly Jones, VP, Integration Service at Aunalytics

Aunalytics, an MSP with a software development arm whose core market is in the American Midwest, particularly Indiana and Ohio, is seeing significant transition in the managed services business with the changes that have taken place in the economy over the last year. The most salient, the increased importance of security, will surprise few. Some of the others in their top five areas now driving their greatest revenue may, however.

Aunalytics started out as a data centre in the South Bend Indiana area, and worked closely with MicroIntegration, a micro-services integration firm. After they failed to land a contract they were told they would have received if they had been the same company, they decided to merge, in October 2019. The new Aunalytics had a deep focus on data and analytics, offering cloud services, managed services, and data centre services, through a single end-to-end cloud platform. They would come to brand this focus as Insights-as-a-Service.

In February 2021, they made a pair of acquisitions. Traverse City MI-based Naveego, which provides data quality and data accuracy services through their Aunsight Data Platform, strengthened the capabilities of the platform, and Bellefontaine OH-based MSP NetGain Information Systems, strengthened the managed services business.

“Our managed services business has two principal points of entry,” said Kelly Jones, who was a co-owner, President and COO of NetGain, and who is now VP, Integration Service at Aunalytics, and runs the managed services business. “One is direct through our Daybreak product, which is specific to the financial vertical. The other is through existing clients when talking with them about their road map, a consideration which was accelerated by the pandemic. Aunalytics has a lot of the classic MSP solutions, plus we also have the focus on Insights and Analytics as services.”

Historically, more advanced services like analytics have been a harder sell in the SMB and midmarket segments in which Aunalytics sells, because of cost factors, and Jones said that hasn’t really changed much.

“In this market, cost is still a challenge,” she indicated. “The easiest way we have found to deal with this is to be very planful. This involves developing a client road map, and upgrading it yearly, as well as focusing on companies that are purpose focused.”

The market itself has, however, changed a great deal over the last year.

“In managed services, you tended to have clients who looked alike and you did things for them like managing their PCs providing help desk services,” Jones said. “With COVID and the move off-site, MSPs are in a position to talk differently about clients than in the past, a conversation that is more about business objectives.”

Jones noted that COVID didn’t create these developments, but it did accelerate trends which were already there.

“At this stage, we are now getting to people who likely wouldn’t have got to this point except for the pandemic,” she said. “Their employees are now all on Microsoft 365 and new tools. That has changed MSPs’ focus as well to focus on better tool utilization. Those weren’t practice areas for a lot of MSPs before the pandemic.”

In this new environment, Jones sees five areas driving the most revenue, with security being the first

“This comes from the whole shift to zero trust environments,” she said. “In the past people had basic security products, but MSPs who were capable of bringing them together were few and far between. Today, MSPs now know they can’t outsource that. That has led to our managed services going forward with all the core elements of basic security – including Multi-Factor Authentication, encryption, email filtering, and antivirus. We also build the security mindset into everything that we touch. When we set them up at home, we integrated security into everything. This has led to meetings with clients about moving them into SIEMs, SOCs and other more compliance-focused packages.”

Aunalytics’ deep focus on the analytics market makes it a top area of growth for them.

“Insight as-a-service has the same differentiation as advanced security services,” Jones indicated. “Just like not every customer can have a SOC, not every one can have data scientists. We have the data scientists, and we have tools to map and clean the data to learn about things like which customers are likely to churn. Today, this type of work is largely focused around marketing, but over time, the whole business will turn that way.”

Automation and bots are part of this area that is still early stages among MSPs, but is definitely on the rise.

“There are a lot more MSPs looking at automation,” Jones said. “Many go to bots because of issues in retaining talent. We are looking to put together a solution to address this in the future, which will involve a combination of machine learning and artificial intelligence pulling from all these different data sets that exist today.”

A third major area of growth is a strong vertical focus.

“Many MSPs have realized that supporting clients with customized applications is a huge piece differentiator for them, and increasingly, a lot of revenue comes from that,” Jonea noted. “With us it’s our Daybreak offering for financial services.”

24/7 onshore support is the fourth key area, with the key item here being onshore.

“A lot of people talk about it, but providing that onshore support for a midmarket client is critical,” Jones said. “Onshore is important because customers want local people they can speak clearly with. That why bringing in a company like NetGain which has that strong local presence was important.”

The fifth growth area Aunalytics is seeing is the alignment between connectivity and data centres.

“NetGain came from a unique spot here, providing high bandwidth to clients from data centres,” Jones stated. As data continues to increase and as more customers take it as a service, connectivity and data centre being aligned makes a lot of sense.”