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The importance of managing downstream suppliers

Being an MSP is like playing piggy-in-the-middle all the time; caught between demanding customers on one side, and third-party suppliers whose offerings you’re trying to stitch together and add value to, on the other.

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Those suppliers require just as much attention from you as your corporate customers – customers are good at shouting for what they want, whereas suppliers can be forgotten about. As an MSP you need to be in the position to manage the service delivery chain both upstream just as much as downstream.

Suppliers typically deliver a basic service to which you add value. Inevitably it is your relationship, integrity and service promise that must remain strong in the eyes of your customers throughout the service contract lifecycle. But behind the scenes, the technology and quality of your upstream suppliers will heavily influence the success of your brand in the marketplace, either positively or negatively.

Given this level of dependence, and recognising that your suppliers are an integral part of your processes, activities and ultimately success, it’s clear that developing strategic, long-term relationships with a few suppliers is better than buying from a haphazard group which are unmanageable in order to save costs; it’s a short-term benefit which will cause harm in the long run.
The simple fact is that excellent suppliers are hard to come by. Putting them through a vetting process before contract signature is important, as is ensuring that their goals and values align with yours. Consistency and quality of the human contacts you have with those suppliers are key because you’ll need reliable answers to your questions and quality recommendations. It’s also crucial to ensure those suppliers have strategies and roadmaps that match yours as well your systems and process which can integrate and allow you to scale (perhaps they’ve already faced some of the decisions you need to make in these areas, and can help you grow there too).

The relationship requires complete transparency and trust so that both you and your suppliers are successful in achieving the desired outcomes.

"Limited interaction and integration with key suppliers may become the biggest barrier to forming deep relationships between MSP and their customers."

MSPs that succeed in working closely with particular, high-quality suppliers for long periods of time increase the quality of what they, in turn, deliver. They build valuable insight and expertise in the deployment, delivery, and optimisation of crucial application and network services for their customers. Growing that track record, and accruing the knowledge to determine and deliver the best solution to your downstream customers, is what will allow you as an MSP to stand out, and be someone that enterprises want to work with.