By B.J. Havlik, President and CEO
When it comes to managing IT, most businesses struggle with what I like to call the “balancing act” dilemma. On one side of the fulcrum, you’ve got the daily care and feeding of the organization’s systems – making sure everything is running optimally and performing to meet business expectations. The “care-and-feeding” side also includes important tasks like monitoring, patching and managing security. On the other side of the fulcrum, you’ve got discretionary project work – the kind of IT work that should yield a return on your investment by adding value to the business.
What often happens in a busy, budget-conscious IT department, however, is that one team is expected to balance their capacity to deliver results on both sides of the fulcrum. People are pulled away from the care-and-feeding side to work on business-critical IT projects, a change which can result in availability, performance and security risks. Care-and-feeding activities, as described here, should be non-discretionary – they are a requirement, not a suggestion or a choice. This isn’t a new phenomenon – it’s something that’s been happening since the beginning of IT – and in my experience, it seldom works well. But there is a solution: managed services.
Practically speaking, managed services is simply the outsourcing of a few select, but critical, IT care-and-feeding components in order to free the time and talents of internal IT staff to focus on projects that are more strategic to the business – or to add a skillset to the IT department that the organization does not want to develop in house.
When you outsource a part of your care-and-feeding services to a managed service provider, the key to success is twofold: First, you must choose the right partner (more on that in a moment). And second, you and your partner must work well together…as a team with one goal…to meet or exceed the expectations of the internal business clients.
Even if you are outsourcing some elements of your IT services delivery model to a trusted third party, there will always be a need for internal guidance and decision-making. Therefore, rather than adhering to the industry-standard terminology of “managed service provider” or “MSP,” at SRC Technologies, our partnership with our clients creates more of a “co-managed” service delivered to internal business clients.
We’ve got the technology know-how to “just run with it,” but in our opinion, that’s not the right approach. First, you must define the expectations of the end user – and that user may be the business’ operations team, HR or purchasing departments, or any other department that consumes IT services. And you’ve got to have the right level of governance from the client to make sure the services the MSP provides are being delivered in a way that is consistent with the expectations of those ultimate end users.
How do you choose the right co-managed service partner for your business? Start by looking for these three things:
- A Strong Relationship: The managed services process begins by clearly defining the components of your IT practice that you want to outsource, putting them out to bid in a clear and well-written RFP, then locating service providers that have the technical acumen to deliver those services within the parameters and price points you have established. Once you’ve found a few MSPs that seem to fit the bill, it’s time to see how you work together – look for a chemistry between your two organizations that points toward the possibility for a strong, long-term relationship. In this relationship, similar to a marriage, there will have to be both give and take. A good contract will provide the rules of engagement, but for an MSP-client relationship to really blossom, there has to be flexibility, agility and a certain level of trust and commitment to one another that will allow you to cohesively deliver the results the business’ end users expect.
- Someone That Has Your Best Interests In Mind: As you begin to work with a managed services provider, look for signs that the MSP truly has your best interests in mind. Are they open to ideas other than their own? When helping you choose between two options, do they ever counsel you to select the one that will mean less money for them? If so, you’re on the right track – and you know you’re developing a relationship that is based on trust and mutual respect, and that you’ve found a managed services partner that truly understands that the “P” in “MSP” stands for “partner.”
- A “Whatever It Takes” Attitude: It’s fairly easy to find an MSP that understands technology – that’s a baseline requirement for being an MSP in the first place. What’s not as easy is finding one that understands that technology is not their job. Delivering services that meet user expectations is their job; technology is just a toolset they have at their disposal to accomplish the goal. And, they need a “can-do” attitude, too. IT requests often come in at inconvenient times, so you’re going to need a partner that has a “client-first,” “whatever-it-takes” philosophy that they prove again and again in practice.
Before you carve out components of your IT service delivery and outsource them to a managed service provider, it’s critical to understand that IT’s function – yours and your MSP’s – is not to design, implement or manage technology, but rather to use that technology to enable the business to perform better and more competitively every day. If you and your MSP both understand and agree on that – if you both see that as your job description – the solution to the “balancing act” dilemma suddenly becomes crystal clear.
Want to learn more? Explore the reasons to consider a co-managed approach to IT, and examine the top reasons businesses turn to managed services to help them meet user expectations. Check out another of SRC’s expert blog posts, “Four Ways to Choose the Right IT Consultant.” Next, read our recent news and blog posts. Then, contact us to take advantage of SRC Technologies’ free consultation to find out if a managed services relationship is right for your business.