The latest episode of Change the Channel provides an illuminating discussion around artificial intelligence (AI) and how managed service providers (MSPs) can leverage AI to grow their businesses. As AI becomes increasingly ubiquitous, especially with Microsoft 365 Copilot, there are myriad opportunities and challenges that MSPs should be cognizant of.
In this post, we’ll dive into the key takeaways from our most recent episode – to listen to the entire episode, watch on-demand.
The Current State of AI
Dux Raymond Sy, AvePoint Chief Brand Officer, kicks off the episode by acknowledging that while there are copious innovations and announcements centered around AI at Microsoft Ignite 2023, the direction Microsoft is heading is apparent. AI is heavily dependent on data, which presents a window of opportunity for companies like AvePoint, who solve the core business problem of helping organizations establish a robust data management strategy to harness AI’s full potential. However, Dux points out that widespread AI adoption is still plausibly a year or two away for most customers. Janet Schijns, CEO & Co-Founder of JS Group, concurs with Dux’s assessment, underscoring the significance of taking a methodical approach – educating yourself first and then enlightening your customers. Janet advises that AI can seem daunting initially, so focus on highlighting the productivity gains and efficiencies.
Janet adds that Microsoft’s push into AI is contingent on access to quality data. Once you deploy AI, you cannot just set it and forget it. Firstly, AI will generate vast amounts of new data that needs to be managed. Additionally, your existing data needs to be comprehensive and structured for AI to deliver useful insights. She provides an example that if data is not properly classified or tagged, AI could inadvertently provide sensitive information it should not. Proactively securing data and optimizing its quality is crucial.
How MSPs Can Offer AI-Focused Services
When contemplating how to assimilate AI into their service offerings, Dux suggests MSPs start by educating themselves thoroughly on AI and then enlightening their customers. He recommends tapping into free educational resources from Microsoft and others. A pragmatic starting point is conducting AI education workshops, AI readiness assessments, and collaborating to identify relevant AI use cases that can drive value.
Janet echoes education as the critical first step. She then proposes that MSPs could provide an ongoing service centered on actively managing, safeguarding, and optimizing customer data related to AI initiatives. Since AI heavily depends on data, ensuring data quality, security, and governance becomes even more instrumental.
Dux also draws attention to the opportunity to leverage Microsoft’s co-sell program to partner with AI independent software vendors (ISVs). Microsoft is intent on ensuring customers have access to an end-to-end support ecosystem as they embark on their AI journey. Teaming with AI ISVs can expand an MSP’s capabilities.
Opportunities and Challenges with Microsoft 365 Copilot
Dux and Janet then discuss Microsoft 365 Copilot, now generally available. Dux expresses concern that the substantial $30 per user monthly cost could be a barrier to entry, especially for smaller companies with tighter budgets. He expects the current seat minimums to gradually decrease over time as Microsoft aims to make Microsoft 365 Copilot accessible for organizations of all sizes. Dux also makes the point that Microsoft 365 Copilot will not be relevant for every employee role and therefore universal deployment may not make economic sense in some cases.
However, Dux argues there is still inherent value in the productivity gains and time savings that Microsoft 365 Copilot can provide. Janet concurs, referencing how Microsoft 365 Copilot can rapidly analyze lengthy reports and generate condensed executive summaries. However, she cautions that Microsoft partners need to meticulously craft their messaging and thoroughly explain how Copilot’s automation features will impact end users. Change management will be a critical companion to a successful Microsoft 365 Copilot implementation.
Tim, one of our attendees, reinforces Dux’s perspective by highlighting how Microsoft is presently mandating a 300-seat minimum purchase for Microsoft 365 Copilot, which could exclude smaller companies with high AI potential but limited budgets. Dux acknowledges Tim’s point and speculates the seat minimums will progressively decrease over time as Microsoft continues making Microsoft 365 Copilot more accessible.
Andrew, another attendee, astutely highlights that Microsoft is offering free access to sample Microsoft 365 Copilot’s capabilities through a website, allowing partners and customers to interact with it directly. This hands-on experience can help demystify AI. Dux notes that Microsoft’s ambitious vision is for Microsoft 365 Copilot to ultimately become an omnipresent intelligent operating system woven into all their cloud solutions.
Key Takeaways for MSPs
In summary, the key takeaways for MSPs looking to capitalize on the AI revolution include:
- Educate yourself extensively on AI innovations by tapping free resources like Microsoft Ignite. Then, educate your customers on AI benefits tailor-made for their needs.
- Diligently focus on change management strategies and crafting proper AI messaging when engaging customers.
- Quantify and highlight the productivity enhancements, time savings, and cost benefits derived from AI adoption.
- Offer ongoing services around optimizing data quality, security, governance and management as AI proliferates.
- Become a co-sell partner for AI solutions like Microsoft 365 Copilot to expand your capabilities.
- Start sharing your own AI knowledge and documenting your hands-on learning journey to establish thought leadership.
- Proactively identify specific AI use cases that can provide value aligned to your customers’ strategic needs.
While AI unlocks boundless opportunities, MSPs need to take a prudent approach centered on education and showcasing how AI can be leveraged to add value. With a robust data foundation and meticulous change management, MSPs can enable their customers to not only adopt AI but also thrive with it. For more information about how the channel is going to use AI visit the JSG website!
Make sure to catch up on past episodes of Change the Channel on the AvePoint YouTube channel. Details about the next episode in the series will be shared in the coming days. Keep an eye on the AvePoint LinkedIn page for more information about the next insightful session so you can learn winning strategies for MSPs in today’s business environment.