Differentiating from hyperscalers is key to MSP success in the African market
Customers across Africa face the challenge of accessing the technology, skills and services they need to drive their business forward. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are in an excellent position not only to provide access to hardware such as data storage capacity, but to upsell and cross-sell additional value-adds. However, the key to success is to differentiate from hyperscalers, who are also making moves into the continent. Strong partnerships between distributors, vendors and local partners is key, but a flexible approach is also vital, to prevent vendor lock-in and deliver the solutions customers need to create competitive advantage.
A unique continent
Africa is by no means a homogenous market, but certain challenges are common across the region. Access to vendors, distributors and technology can be difficult, because not all large global players will have a local presence in all markets. This may be for a number of reasons, but understanding local language and culture can prove to be a significant barrier.
While this is a challenge, it is also an opportunity for MSPs to become a trusted local partner for vendors and distributors, growing revenue streams, helping vendors to gain a presence in the market, and bringing technology access into Africa. Local partners with knowledge of local language and culture, as well as existing relationships with potential customers, are an essential part of the channel on the continent.
Underpinning the architecture
In order for MSPs to deliver to their customers, it is essential to have the right underlying architecture underpinning all solutions. Service providers need storage that facilitates a scale-out approach to increasing capacity, rather than requiring scale-up or forklift style upgrades. This will not only allow for greater economies of scale, it is also more cost effective, better suited to the current data growth model, and also means that the more MSPs scale out, the better the performance of the solution will be.
MSPs offering shared infrastructure platforms based on scale-out storage architecture are well positioned to spin up a multitude of additional services to offer to their customers, from storage to disaster recovery and even Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). Once these services are in place, MSPs can add further value by on-selling services like eDiscovery, ransomware protection, antivirus, firewall and other data management solutions. This creates a win-win scenario – MSPs gain further opportunity for annuity revenue streams, while customers gain access to shared platforms, economies of scale, and global enterprise-grade technology for a fraction of the cost of maintaining this in-house.
Partnerships are key
Access to technology is critical for all countries within the African market, but the value for MSPs lies in their ability to on-sell additional services, to help customers to achieve business objectives and gain competitive advantage. However, it is not possible to offer all technologies all at once, so it is advisable to take a staged approach to deploying services, to grow the customer base and slowly build this and the service portfolio over time.
This is where relationships and partnerships with key vendors can be advantageous. Working with vendors allows MSPs to gain from their experience, use their expertise to focus the product offering, and grow the platform while adding value and solving business problems for customers.
However, one thing is critical – customers do not wish to be locked in to either hardware or cloud platforms. MSPs need to differentiate themselves from the hyperscalers who offer cloud services, which means adopting a flexible approach that is based on delivering solutions for customers, rather than specific technology offerings. Relationships lie at the heart of it all – with customers, and with vendor partners and distributors.