“That’s a lot to figure out,” Tsu Pheng cautioned. “Plus, the future of work will also place additional strains on cyber security through heavier loads on VPN, multi-factor authentication for basic zero trust security and device and remote access management. No future of work solution should be executed without considering every aspect of security and compliance.”
Aligned to the belief that adoption of remote working tools is a “given” due to the current environment, Mehta of Acuutech stressed the importance of “secure collaboration” in the months ahead.
“Security will remain key and the alarming facts continue to point this out,” he said. “If positioned well, secure collaboration will be the future but none of this works without the network.
"In response, we have bolstered security offerings as well as awareness training around security in Southeast Asia. From a collaboration standpoint we aggressively voice enabled multiple clients with new customers also leveraging this functionality through popular collaboration tools.
"Meanwhile in the medium-term, we are focusing on hybrid cloud, specifically around Microsoft Azure Stack where we have built deep expertise to enable deployments faster and more consistently through our own custom-built automation and enablement tools, under the banner of Acuutech MESH."
Specific to NTT, Lombard said customers are increasing investment in security, collaboration and SD-WAN technologies, with the ability reduce cyber risk now cited as the leading factor for businesses when selecting a service provider.
“Investment in managed security services is set to become more critical over the coming 18 months,” he outlined. “The explosion of working from home coupled with an uptick in BYOD has caught the attention of threat actors and enterprises are struggling to defend themselves against a complex threat landscape."
Against this backdrop, 55 per cent of businesses highlighted reducing security risk as the most important service currently delivered by an MSP, according to NTT findings.
“As such, organisations are expecting an increased need for cyber security and IT support skills over the next two years,” Lombard continued. “Organisations are also looking to implement SD-WAN as a leading technology project.
“SD-WAN allows organisations to push WAN services to remote workers, extend policy changes, security updates and other centralised activity directly to them. This ultimately improves performance and user experience by gaining visibility of corporate assets and data across the network, while reducing traditional telco costs.”
In consensus with the market, Bhardwaj of Cloud4C Services reinforced that collaboration, security and SD-WAN technologies will form the “building blocks” of the new environment in which customers now operate.
“What is emerging as key is also how customers use some of these enablers to build future services,” he said. “We’re seeing multiple businesses consuming cloud infrastructure but not really optimising the consumption and spend on the chosen cloud platforms.
“Skills are limited within customers in relation to how best to leverage and optimise building blocks like cloud and security. It’s like buying a brand new sports car and only driving in first or second gear - there’s just so much more you can do. Sometimes you need a skilled driver - who you can trust - by your side."
Customer priorities: new requirements placed on MSPs
In assessing the evolving role of the MSP in Southeast Asia, Bhardwaj also stressed that despite a shift in customer priorities, the fundamental elements of service delivery remain unchanged.
"What’s changing is the types of services," he highlighted. "The solutions and technologies behind these services that customers are adopting to ensure services to their end customers continue to be differentiated.”
As result, Bhardwaj reported strong uptake in services related to DevOps as online platforms continue to develop new offerings, in addition to security and cloud-based considerations.
“It’s almost impossible for a medium-sized business to build a completely robust, secure environment, manage it in house and keep the costs in check,” he added. “We are also starting to see customers become more comfortable in moving business-critical enterprise resource planning [ERP] applications such as SAP to public cloud platforms.”
For Lombard of NTT, significant market change is occurring through end-users transitioning away from traditional outsourcing to “smart sourcing”, an approach which allows businesses to remain agile and flexible during uncertain economic times.
“Smart sourcing is a new approach to the way organisations and service providers form relationships that goes above and beyond the delivery of tactical IT solutions,” he outlined. “It’s about nurturing long-lasting relationships with service providers who can deliver business outcomes aligned to the goals of the entire organisation.
“As MSPs, our contracts with customers are increasingly measured against actual business outcomes such as total cost reduction, end user adoption, lead time to process reduction and overall transaction growth. In addition, our contracts are consumption based with very low lock-in and even allow clients to drive co-development.”
Citing NTT research, Lombard said 45 per cent of organisations globally will "outsource more than they insource" during the next 18 months, motivated by a designed to prioritise risk mitigation, business continuity and cost savings.
“Risk mitigation takes the form of searching out an MSP that aligns the consumption models to the business needs,” he explained. “For example, multi-vendor partnerships are key to risk mitigation, so companies are not locked in with one vendor.
“Ensuring business continuity requires that MSPs have the necessary safeguards in place to be implemented at a moment’s notice, minimising the impact on the delivery of services. For example, we successfully transitioned thousands of desk-based employees into an efficient and secure remote working environment within weeks across Asia Pacific.
“Lastly, with the pandemic changing the way business operates day-to-day, reducing cost is a key priority. This can be accomplished by shifting to a remote or hybrid work force to allow for office rental savings.”
Due to Covid-19, IT investments are now viewed as more strategic than previously, creating a knock-on impact in terms of MSP selection criteria.
“MSPs have to evolve from a technology advisor to become strategic partners that are viewed as nothing less than indispensable,” Tsu Pheng of Logicalis advised. “Customers no longer just want to buy a box of bandages at the cheapest price. They want a family doctor who proactively monitors their health, advises and prescribes ways to enhance their well-being, as well as cures and nurtures them back to health when they are sick.”
In response, Tsu Pheng said MSPs must to pivot to delivering measurable outcomes versus delivering on features and functionalities, centred around optimising operations, empowering employees and engaging customers, in addition to transforming products, minimising downtime and reducing churn.
“Successful MSPs have to provide a complete offering including a diversified portfolio of technology and services that delivers the perfect ‘panacea’ at just the right point in the customer journey through their entire lifecycle,” he outlined.
Channel Asia Advance is a centralised editorial resource designed to help partners access forward-looking content as the ASEAN and Indian markets attempt to reposition for growth.