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"N-able Technologies is the global leader in remote monitoring and
management solutions and services for managed service providers (MSPs) and IT departments. N-able's
award-winning N-central software and complementary toolsets are proven to reduce IT support costs,
improve network performance and increase productivity through the proactive monitoring, management
and optimization of IP-enabled devices and IT infrastructure."
Source: N-able Technologies Inc.
The N-able MSP Maturity Model
MSP Maturity Model
is also known as :
Managed Service Providers
MSP Service Provider
Service Delivery Model
MSP Business Practice
Maturity for IT Service Providers
Chaotic Service Providers,
Reactive Service Providers,
MSP Program Descriptions,
Value-based Service Providers,
Information Technology Management,
MSP Best Practices,
Help Desk Solutions,
Develop a Higher-Value Business,
Maturity Model Levels,
Chaotic Level of Maturity Model.
Table of Contents
A business' success delivering managed services depends on its ability to improve the delivery
of effective and efficient services to its customer base. N-able's tools, N-central® and N-visionTM,
certainly support the evolution of the business and service delivery model, but they are neither the
initiator nor the facilitator of such change. This type of business evolution requires a complete
curriculum of education, tools and program materials.
The purpose of this whitepaper is to define the N-able MSP Maturity Model and provide the concept of
the next generation of N-able's Velocity SystemTM for MSP and N-able UniversityTM.
A successful migration through the N-able MSP Maturity Model will strengthen the managed service
providers (MSPs) business practice in the following ways:
- Provide more consistent, higher quality services
- Allocate work more efficiently, thus gaining a higher technician utilization time rate
- Offer higher value, higher margin services that are not commoditized in the same way ”time' is
- Attract larger, more sophisticated customers, and
- Create relationships that would be difficult for another service provider to penetrate
The goal of the N-able MSP Maturity Model is ultimately to help MSPs develop a higher-value business by
improving their ability to attract and retain high-quality customers and provide IT services in the most
effective manner possible. The N-able MSP Maturity Model is based upon industry best practices, the Gartner,
Inc. Maturity Model and observed behavior from N-able's own global partner base - a substantial group of managed
The N-able model for IT management process maturity clearly defines five levels of maturity for IT service providers:
The Chaotic level of the maturity model is the initial stage of process development. Organizations that don't
have process maturity are in the Chaotic stage. Symptoms of a Chaotic service provider include:
- Ad-hoc service processes: In the absence of a process, each technician will develop
their own processes without consistency or reliability.
- No process documentation: No effort to document a standard set of processes that every
technician can refer to in their own service delivery.
- Unpredictable service delivery: As each technician has their own process, good technicians
will be able to provide high levels of service and poor or junior technicians will not. Demand for these high
providers will increase and ultimately key individuals who are prized by the customer base will be over-utilized
while other won't be used nearly enough.
- Lack of service desk optimization: No effort is made to create a centralized service desk
or use junior resources for mundane and often repetitive processes to free up senior resources for problem
management and project-based business.
- Little or no use of supporting tools: Chaotic service providers generally haven't invested
in monitoring solutions, help desk solutions or other resources designed to improve their business processes
- User calls to notify problems: The customer (or worse, the customer's customer) detects the
failure and the service provider does not act until the customer indicates a problem. This provides low value to
the end user as business operations may be impacted for a considerable amount of time before the problem is fixed.
- No Service Delivery Promises: Chaotic service providers will not place any type of promise
around the service delivery level.
- Reactive service: 100% of billable technical resource time is dedicated to reactively
correcting failures discovered by the customer.
The Chaotic service provider has the least amount of process maturity. This environment is problematic
at best and presents a number of business issues that will seriously impede an organization's ability
to grow, evolve and ultimately, even exist.
- Chaotic service providers are restricted in their ability to attract and retain anything other than
a Chaotic customer. Higher margin customers are looking for a level of service that the Chaotic service
provider can't provide.
- Chaotic customers are costly to manage and are the worst investment for a service provider.
- Competitive service providers who have achieved a higher level of process maturity are attractive
alternatives for the Chaotic customer (or higher level customers) looking to achieve a higher level of
service and can't retain those services from their existing service provider.
- Chaotic service providers tend to achieve the lowest technical utilization rate as all of their time
is spent reactively dealing with network issues - an impossible activity to predict or schedule.
- Chaotic service providers will not be able to charge premium billing rates, as they are not providing
a premium service. In fact, lower cost tends to be the primary differentiator for a Chaotic service provider.
Chaotic customers are organizations that place the least value on IT as a business enabler.
Generally small, technologically unsophisticated organizations, these companies can operate
effectively for extended periods even if their IT infrastructure is not available. Chaotic
customers are defined by the following criteria:
- Unstable Infrastructure: The Chaotic customer's existing IT infrastructure can
be highly unstable - usually due to neglect.
- Unconvinced of the value of maintenance: Many of the IT instabilities found in a
Chaotic customer are avoidable through proper maintenance. The Chaotic customer generally doesn't believe
the cost of preventative maintenance is justifiable.
- Unrealistic expectations: Chaotic customers will expect high levels of support and
stability without the associated cost of that level of service delivery.
- Low value placed on IT: Usually due to a minimal reliance on IT, the Chaotic customer
does not see a high value in open maintenance and management of IT.
The fundamental problem with Chaotic clients is that they are low margin customers. The instability
of their infrastructure combined with their unreasonable expectations create an environment where
tremendous energy is spent and still the customer is not satisfied with the results.
Chaotic customers are generally unhappy with the service levels or costs (or both) of IT and are
searching for a better, cheaper alternative.
Chaotic customers can be educated on the value of IT to their overall business objectives and the
need for appropriate investments in those support mechanisms; but not by a Chaotic service provider.
By learning about business objectives and investments, the Chaotic customer (almost by definition)
can be elevated to a more mature customer level.
The goal of the service provider with Chaotic customers is to either help them mature to a higher-level
customer or to end their contract1, although many service providers opt to keep their Chaotic customers
but charge a premium. Of course, only MSPs that have themselves achieved a higher level of IT process
maturity are in a position to improve their install base by eliminating lower-end customers.
As organizations begin to develop practices and processes, they gradually ascend to the higher levels of
the MSP Maturity Model ladder. The Reactive service provider is in the first level of process improvement.
Organizations in the Reactive level exhibit the following features:
- Best Effort Support: Reactive service providers try to understand their customer's service requirements
and do their best to deliver on them, however they will not provide guarantees, service level agreements or
even service level objectives.
- Firefighters: Reactive service providers tend to be very good at dealing with crises.
- Problem Management Process: Reactive service providers will generally have a documented problem management
process, however this process may be in an initial stage whereby it has not been reviewed and updated as per
best practice process management.
- Inventory: Reactive service providers will maintain an inventory of devices and services to be managed -
often in the form of an onsite checklist.
- Alert/Event/Incident Management Process: Reactive service providers will have a process for dealing with
incidents and alerts.
- Up/Down Monitoring: Reactive service providers are likely to use an availability monitoring solution to
automatically notify service failures.
- 100% of billable technical resource time is dedicated to reactively correcting failures discovered by an
up/down monitoring tool or the customer.
The Reactive service provider is the most common type of managed service provider serving the
small- and medium-sized business. These organizations use products like N-central for reactively
notifying them when a service has failed. Reactive service providers are capable of attracting and
managing both Chaotic and Reactive customers. In addition, it is possible for a Reactive service
provider to elevate a Chaotic customer to a Reactive level at an educational cost that is quickly
recovered by decreasing the cost to support.
The Reactive service provider has historically been a stable business platform, which is why so many N-able
partners exist at this level. There are several problems with this model though:
- New competition / Higher Expectations: As competition increases between the
ever-increasing number of service providers, so too does the need to provide greater differentiation.
More service providers will look to provide greater levels of service - levels of service that can only
be achieved through a higher maturity level, thus diminishing the perceived safety of the Reactive model.
- False Sense of Accomplishment: Many organizations think they have achieved a management
service provider status simply because they are providing reactive services combined with up/down monitoring.
Since they believe they have reached managed services, they don't look to grow.
- Moderate Technician Utilization: The Reactive service model is based entirely upon
correcting failures. The nature of this service is such that technician time can't be scheduled and becomes a
cause of technician inefficiency
- Limited Growth Potential: Reactive service providers are limited only to customers that
are looking for the types of service that a Reactive service provider is capable of providing. Generally, this
will limit the ability to attract and retain larger and/or more sophisticated organizations.
Reactive customers constitute the largest group of users in the sub 100-seat market - which is one of the
reasons why the Reactive service provider model still works in the SMB market. Reactive customers are
characterized by the following:
- They have an appreciation for the cost of IT failures on their business - especially when IT fails.
- They are value-minded, always balancing costs vs. benefits.
- Not only do they want to pay for a certain level of IT service, they require assurance that the service provider
is delivering the best possible services.
- Relatively loyal to their service provider (assuming the appropriate value/cost/effort criteria is met).
- As technology dependence increases, they can be migrated to a higher level of maturity if the value of IT is evident.
- The customer infrastructure is ”reactive' - meaning that most of the infrastructure can be monitored.
While Reactive customers themselves may or may not be problematic (it's not inherent
in the level), there are some problems with the Reactive customer category:
- As new technologies emerge or as their own businesses grow, Reactive customers are likely to advance
to a higher level of customer. While Reactive customers are loyal as a group, if their service provider
is clearly not achieving on expectations, they will seek alternate service provisioning.
- New competition within the service provider market is creating new service alternatives for this
market group - in effect educating the entire group out of existence.
- Reactive customers are still very prone to business impacts resulting from IT failures.
Ultimately the Reactive customer group will become absorbed into the Proactive customer class as more sophisticated
service options that deal with the customer's primary concern become available and more commoditized.
The Proactive service provider level differs significantly from less mature levels in that the service provider
not only attempts to reduce the impact of an IT failure, but also attempts to minimize the occurrence of failure
within the customer infrastructure. This has the benefit of improving the customer's experience and of dramatically
improving the technician utilization rate for the service provider. Organizations in the proactive phase can be
- Using a monitoring solution to capture up /down information as well as performance and capacity utilization
- Working with the customer to define and set thresholds (preferably automated within the monitoring solution)
to initiate incident avoidance scenarios.
- Analyzing available information to predict and minimize threat of failure.
- Using remote access and automation to improve management capabilities.
- Using mature asset and change control processes to minimize the impact of unplanned and untested change on the
stability of the infrastructure.
- Employing a service contract.
- Using service level objectives to set targets on availability, response and incident resolution.
- 50% - 70% of billable technical resource time dedicated to reactively correcting failure discovered by a
monitoring tool or the customer. The remainder of billable time is spent on maintenance activities with the goal
of incident avoidance.
The Proactive service provider tends to incorporate business models introduced 20 years ago. The basis
of these programs is still centered on time as a product that is sold. The problems with this model are:
- Time is a commoditized product that can be purchased from any number of vendors. The nature of
product sale makes the relationship (vendor - customer) relatively low value from the customer's perspective.
Other vendors can easily undercut the service providers pricing and since the customer perceives the value of
the ”product' to be the same, they may be willing to choose the cheaper alternative.
- The level lacks scalability: Increasing the amount of revenue generated involves increasing the
of hours available to sell, thereby increasing the number of resources able to provide the time.
- Time isn't the product customers want: The sale of technical time is once removed from the business
objective; the customer is looking for better IT support for their business goals, the service provider
must illustrate why their product (time) is a suitable solution for the customer's objectives.
Proactive customers constitute a relatively high-value and attainable customer base for service
providers in the SMB space (mostly in the higher end). Key attributes of a proactive customer include:
- Have one or more critical business processes that are fundamentally supported by technology.
As a result of this dependency, these organizations are intrinsically impacted when the technology
- Have one or more critical business processes that are fundamentally supported by technology.
As a result of this dependency, these organizations are intrinsically impacted when the technology
- Preventative maintenance is highly regarded as a way to improve availability through incident
- These customers are still buying the notion of time as a product and want to make sure that
they are getting as much for their dollar as possible.
- The customer infrastructure is rated as a Proactive level.
The Service level service provider takes a fundamentally different approach to the delivery
of IT services from all of the less evolved levels. The Service model is the first level in
the hierarchy that doesn't approach the value of IT service as a function of the amount of
time it takes to deliver the service; rather, the Service level views the worth of the IT
service based on value the IT service presents to the customer organization. This approach
is more inline with how utility companies (water, electricity, etc.) approach service delivery.
The amount of time the technicians from electric company actually spend to deliver electricity
is irrelevant to the consumer since it has no visible impact on the cost per
kilowatt-hour. ”Service' service providers can be identified as:
- Providing service guarantees in the form of a service level agreement (SLA) to the customer.
- Setting and achieving quality goals, both internally and externally (within the SLA).
- Understanding customer availability and capacity requirements.
- Truly understanding the cost of service delivery and abstracting those costs away from
the user into a relatively flat contract-based service charge that is developed based on the
customers service usage needs.
- Monitoring and reporting service availability.
The problems with the Service model can be broken into two categories; the problems service providers
have in achieving the Service model level of maturity and the problems with the Service model itself.
The problems service providers have in achieving the Service model level of maturity stem from the
evolutionary nature of the SMB service provider market. These organizations have spent the last five
to 15 years selling time as a product. While understanding the need to move to a higher-value model,
the concept of not directly billing for technician time is incredibly foreign to them.
The problem with the Service model itself is that it still deals with IT at a component level. The
typical SMB customer is not technically savvy so the purpose of routers, switches and servers may
not be readily apparent (never mind the service level requirements for each).
The Service-based customer does not perceive the value of IT in terms of the
amount of time it takes to deliver them, but rather in terms of the business value
that IT presents. The Service-based customer is more interested in availability, capacity,
regulatory compliance and performance. Service-based customers are defined as:
- Customers that require a guarantee of service in terms of a SLA.
- More interested in service levels combined with a predictable cost structure than
understanding the effort required to deliver the service.
- Customers whose business processes require foundations in IT.
- Customers that place a high value on predictability of IT spending.
- Customers who have invested in their IT infrastructure - understanding the relationship
between IT investment and IT supportability
- Customers that are affected by privacy and/or security legislation.
The Value level service provider is the logical evolution from the Service level. While the
Service provider manages IT based on the value of the IT components, as documented in the SLA,
the Value provider manages IT based on the business process that it supports - regardless of
the infrastructure that requires the service. As with the Service approach to IT management,
Value-based service providers generally abstract the amount of time required to provide a service
in favor of a flat-fee based on the value of the business service. Value-based service providers
can be identified as:
- Understanding all of the business objectives of the customer organization.
- Managing IT at a business service level.
- Completely understanding how elements of the IT infrastructure combine to create business services,
as well as an understanding of the relative priorities of each of those business services.
- Reporting to multiple stakeholders, at multiple levels, tactically, operationally and strategically.
- Being a strategic partner to an organization by providing ”Virtual CIO' functions in terms of
providing technology planning and forecasting services.
This is the "holy grail" of the IT service provider model for both the service provider and the customer.
So far, this document has described service provider levels as classified by the N-able MSP Maturity Model.
The problem is that moving to a high level of service delivery requires a company commitment from the top
down. This migration is not without cost - there is time, training, tools and resources to consider. An
MSP that has made a conscious decision to migrate toward the Value level must understand that this is a
process, not a project. Organizations can't go from Chaotic to Value directly, but must evolve through all
of the maturity levels.
The following section of this document describes the resources that N-able has created to help
organizations progress through the evolutionary process. In addition, this document will describe
the roadmap that N-able has put into place to develop the N-able University training program and
materials to better service our MSP partners.
N-able's MSP Maturity Model ushers in a complete revamp of the existing programs designed to support
the MSP business; specifically the Velocity System for MSP and N-able University. Service organizations
must grow through each level in the program - and the materials supplied to them must correspond to
their current level of maturity - i.e.: A Reactive level partner should access training and marketing
materials designed for a Reactive partner, not a Value-based.
With this in mind, N-able has developed an online assessment (see figure 2), coupled with multiple
levels of training materials and program content, each focused on providing targeted support and growth
opportunities for the partner at that level. Not only has N-able created a granular targeted approach to
training as per the MSP Maturity Model, but has also broken down the assessment and training by major topic:
- Business Readiness
- Tools Leverage
- Service Support & Delivery Process
- Policy & Documentation
Therefore, a partner may complete the assessment and determine that they are at a Chaotic level with
respect to business and at a Proactive level with respect to service delivery. A personalized training
program (as well as sales and marketing materials) is provided to help them grow their organization in
a way that will best suit their needs, and help them be as successful as possible.
N-able has also recognized that in addition to benchmarking the level of maturity of the service organization,
these same maturity levels must apply to the end user organization as well. Assessment of the user level is
defined by different criteria, such as IT complexity, business needs and goals/objectives. The interesting
parallel is that just as service providers must grow through the maturity levels, so too must their customers.
In addition, it is critical to note that service organizations of a certain maturity level are unlikely to
attract or retain customers of a higher maturity level.
The updated programs are based on the concept that service providers at different levels must be provided with
the training, collateral and support that is consistent with their current maturity level.
Key elements to this strategy include:
- Targeted Training: The existing N-able University training content is aligned with the MSP Maturity Model.
This way, organizations that are attempting to move from Chaotic to Reactive (as an example) are not encumbered
by content that is not relevant to their level of development.
- Incremental Training: Much of the N-able University training will be broken into several course levels whereby
more attention can be applied to areas that are critical to organizations of a particular maturity level.
- Recommended Marketing Content: Content and support materials are based on maturity levels. The goal is to assist
organizations by providing more direction in terms of what materials should be used, rather than simply providing
access to all materials that could be used.
The challenges and opportunities for the managed services sector have never been higher. Stringent cost models, a
changing regulatory landscape and industry acceptance of the outsourced business model have created incredible
demand for managed services. IT service providers that understand these pressures, the needs of the consumer and
are willing to make the investment to fill those needs will be in a position to capitalize on the market demand
and create a new business practice with an overwhelming competitive advantage.
N-able's Velocity System for MSP provides managed service providers with the most direct approach to developing
an industry-leading managed services practice. N-able partners have asked for relevant training, tools and
collateral - and N-able has delivered. By utilizing industry standards, analyst research and our experience
in the managed services space N-able has developed a system that provides an unprecedented level of support
for IT service providers who have recognized the need to differentiate their service offering by providing
a higher level of service.
This executive brief may include planned release dates for service packs or version upgrades. These dates are
based on our current development plans and on our best estimates of the research and development time required
to build, test, and implement each of the documented features. This document does not represent any firm
commitments by N-able Technologies Inc. to features and/or dates. N-able will at its best effort, try to meet
the specified schedule and will of course update this document should there be any significant changes. N-able
reserves the right to change the release schedule and the content of any of the planned updates or enhancements.
N-able Technologies is a market driven organization that places importance on customer, partner and alliance
feedback. All feedback is welcome at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About N-able Technologies®
Founded in March 2000, N-able Technologies is the market leader in transforming service organizations into
managed service providers (MSPs). N-able's combination of products, people and processes help service providers,
OEMs, resellers, VARs, Telcos and ISPs develop, sell and deliver highly profitable managed services to the
small- and medium-sized business (SMB) and mid-enterprise markets. N-able's product line provides complete
solutions to monitor, manage and optimize information technology and security from a business perspective to
evolve IT services from reactive to proactive to managed. www.n-able.com
Copyright © 2006 N-able Technologies.
All rights reserved. This document contains information intended for the exclusive use of N-able Technologies'
personnel, partners and potential partners. The information herein is restricted in use and is strictly confidential
and subject to change without notice. No part of this document may be altered, reproduced, or transmitted in any form
or by any means, electronic or mechanical, for any purpose, without the express written permission of N-able
N-able Technologies, Velocity System, N-able University, N-central, N-vision and Monitor Manage Optimize are
trademarks or registered trademarks of N-able Technologies International Inc., licensed for use by N-able
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