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RMM Platforms: New Capabilities and New Directions

1 Sep, 2015 By: Brendan Morse, InfoTrends

Office equipment dealers and other channels in the print and imaging industry have made remarkable strides in transforming and building a managed services practice. For many managed service providers (MSPs), Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) platforms are key technology components for the delivery of managed service. Earlier iterations of these platforms were the key enablers in the emergence and growth of managed services over the past decade. This made a game-changing technology delivery model possible for MSPs and their SMB customers. Today, RMM platforms have matured and their partners in the channel can expect quite a bit from both the technology and the vendor.  This article will cover the state and emerging trends in RMM technology.

Classifying RMM Platform Capabilities

MSPs and those considering entering the market can expect to find that RMM platforms have grown well-beyond simply being able to remotely monitor and carry-out simple IT tasks. Many RMM vendors have released numerous versions of their platforms; some have gotten up to version 10.0 and beyond, with numerous updates in between new product launches. InfoTrends lays-out which of these capabilities are “table-stakes,” “advanced,” or create differentiation based on the offerings of vendors in the U.S. RMM market. For brevity and clarity, the list excludes basic functionalities that have been part of RMMs for  quite some time. Some capabilities are part of the base offering, while others require separate licensing.

Table-stakes are those capabilities that may have been considered “advanced” several years ago but have since become standard from most RMM vendors.

Advanced offerings are those that are offered by a limited number of vendors and have only come to market in the past three years.

Differentiated are those capabilities that fulfill new demands in the market and are offered by only few vendors.

RMMs and Professional Services Automation Software

PSA software operates similarly to an ERP and CRM-hybrid designed around MSPs and VARs businesses.  Professional services automation software is a sister technology to RMMs which allow MSPs to manage their business operations. MSPs can benefit from using a PSA designed for managed services, and these benefits can be dramatic when the PSA solution integrates with a RMM integration. We believe that basic integration, specifically the ability for RMM alerts to automatically create and populate PSA tickets, has been vital for MSPs.  Nevertheless, without full integration, there are inefficiencies (even gaps) in workflows across key MSP business operations. Many tasks and significant quantities of information still have to be manually placed into the PSA. In this scenario, well-paid technicians are spending valuable time on tasks that are not IT-related, and revenue generating activities are not always logged. The business customer is likely receiving somewhat lesser quality service and incomplete reporting on exactly how their IT environment (and the employees using it) is operating.

Tight integration, be it native or plug-in, allows for active synchronization of key information, like on customer accounts, IT environments, and MSP workflows. All information, such as client sites, contacts, desktops and other network assets (including mobile), are synced to provide maximum reporting and billable hours. This integration even enables IT tasks and automation workflows to be entered directly into the PSA. This level of integration between the two technologies can reduce the amount of steps involved to resolve a single ticket by as much as half.  Simply put, tight integration allows for better overall MSP strategy, customer appropriate pricing, improved service quality, and more clearly demonstrated value proposition for customers. This level of integration has only very recently (approximately in 2014) slipped from a differentiated offering to an advanced one, as it is generally offered by leading RMMs in cooperation with PSA vendors.  

Mobility Management

The number of mobile devices outnumbers the amount of people, and data traffic will grow rapidly the next few years in all regional markets. While these devices are increasingly central to business processes, most are not properly managed (or at all) because of the complexity and costs. MSPs view this as a major opportunity and have looked to their RMM platform providers for help managing these devices. RMM vendors have been able to answer with mobile device management (MDM) solutions that are available for an additional per-device fee.

RMM vendors are in the beginning stages of building out more complete mobility management tools in their platforms. Mobility management, while still an evolving concept, will fundamentally involve managing end-users mobile technology needs in a device-neutral manner. For this vision to be realized, it requires that a mobile worker have virtually the same capabilities as an on-site employee with desktop access. This requires that the RMM be able to monitor and manage the desktop, mobile device, various cloud services, mobile applications, and usually additional add-ons. Simply put, this will require an extensive level of insight and proactive management tools.

Cloud Monitoring and Management

Cloud computing is a disruptive technology delivery model that RMMs and their partners have had to grapple with in recent years. There is a general consensus that RMM vendors and their MSP partners must leverage the opportunities that cloud provides. RMM platforms, at least out-of-the-box, can monitor and manage most major virtualization solutions, but these are not suitable for MSP acting as cloud service providers of public cloud or virtual private cloud. This leaves many MSPs acting as cloud providers adopting additional management tools designed specifically for data centers and specific virtualization solutions. Integrating with these tools has generally required customization which has been left to the individual MSP to accomplish.

RMM vendors are making progress in partnering with cloud service providers, especially in the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and backup & disaster recovery (BDR). RMM vendors’ integration with BDR providers allows for comprehensive management. A select few RMM vendors have worked with large public cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) companies to develop integration with their exposed application program interfaces (APIs). The most popular integration is with Amazon Web Services, though some vendors reported working to develop integration with other IaaS providers. The scope and depth of functions are not particularly strong because cloud service providers have a limited amount of exposed APIs from which the RMM platform can draw information. Much of the proactive monitoring and support functions that MSPs have as a value proposition are simply not available.

End-point Management

End-point management can be a source of considerable revenue for MSPs, but it can also be challenging to do efficiently from both end-users’ and MSPs’ perspective. Even MSPs with a RMM platform frequently use additional end-point management software LogMeIn, but we expect this to steady shift over time. RMM vendors have made strides in building end-point management in their platforms and as add-on solutions. Some vendors have solutions that allow for troubleshooting and fixes without interrupting the end-user, which certainly makes for happy managers and end-users. In addition, this trend will accelerate as end-point management tasks become increasingly automated and end-point ticket information becomes more seamlessly integrated into business management or PSA software. 

Even with best-in-class technology and the growing comfort with delivering MPS, potential partners still need assistance in developing or improving their managed service practice. Many RMM vendors view office equipment dealers (and other print and imaging channels) as a green field opportunity and they are willing to work hard to develop partners in the space. Industry wide, RMM vendors are dedicating resources to sales training, marketing materials, pricing strategies, and knowledge development. These efforts range from covering the basics of considering why they should become a managed service provider to entry strategies, as well as full in-house training programs across multiple locations. In addition to business development support, many RMMs have or are offering integrated NOC and helpdesk services to make it easier for partners to become or expand their managed services business. When selecting an RMM vendor, you should evaluate the level of training and support and additional services (NOC/helpdesk) your business will need and if prospective vendors are willing to provide what is necessary.

Brendan Morse is InfoTrends’ Managed Services Consulting Services Analyst. InfoTrends is the leading worldwide market research and strategic consulting firm for the digital imaging and document solutions industry, providing research, analysis, forecasts, and advice to help clients understand market trends, identify opportunities, and develop strategies to grow their businesses. Visit www.infotrends.com for detailed company information.

About the Author: Brendan Morse

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