By B.J. Havlik, President and CEO
When we talk with clients about problems in their IT departments, many of the issues they’re having with availability or security issues can be traced back to a single common denominator: There are only so many hours in a day.
If you have a finite IT staff, when projects come up in the business that could benefit from a new technological solution or service, the natural inclination is to pull your top IT personnel into meetings and planning sessions, and then to send them off with a task to plan, develop and – usually very quickly – implement the new solution. And that’s ok. That’s why they’re there.
The problem this creates is that your IT team was already busy just keeping your systems and software up to date and running smoothly – and keeping your data secure. These are the kinds of tasks that we call “non-discretionary,” because they absolutely must be done if you want your IT environment to function optimally. The problem is, your technical staff are the people who are most familiar with the inner workings of your business, so it’s natural that, when you have an IT project that will contribute in a meaningful way to the success of the organization, you want your tech people involved.
The question is: While they’re busy working on this project, who is doing the work they left un-done? There are only so many people in your IT department and so many hours in a day, so if they’re being pulled away from their regular jobs to work on a special project, then it stands to reason that their regular jobs are not getting done. And that leaves your company in a vulnerable position.
As you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking that if you find yourself short-staffed, you’ll simply hire more IT people. But, what happens when the project is over and you have too many staff members on board? And – and even bigger question: Are you sure you will know if you’re short staffed? It’s possible that the first indication of this will be some technological calamity that no one saw coming.
To avoid all of that, and to give your IT people the time they need to really focus on the kinds of IT projects that can help you be a disrupter in your market, you might consider managed services as a smart way to make the most of your in-house IT team. The managed service provider (MSP) can take on some of those back-room functions, making sure that your systems and software are running smoothly and keeping your network up-to-date on patches and security solutions so you don’t accidentally create and open technological back doors that invite cybercriminals in.
When done well, a managed services relationship really becomes what we call a “co-managed” relationship in which the MSP becomes a virtual extension of your own staff and, over time, learns the intricacies of your systems as well as your internal teams know them. Additionally, based on their wide array of experience working with other companies like yours, a co-managed service provider will often proactively offer advice and suggestions that will continually improve both the performance of your network as well as your business. Therefore, there’s an opportunity for both your internal team and your outsourced MSP to learn from one another, an advantage that is often overlooked when companies consider a co-managed IT relationship.
How do other companies make use of a co-managed MSP relationship? We have a manufacturing client with multiple sites and over 10,000 employees. The client needed to use its internal IT team for more strategic work and wanted to take some of the important, but more mundane, support functions off their plates. They asked us to manage their endpoint security and patching for them, and once the transition was complete, they knew that their systems would be patched and bugs addressed, all of which strengthens their security posture. Their IT team could breathe a little easier knowing that these time-consuming tasks were off their plates without worrying that something important was falling through the cracks when they turned their attention to more strategic business-building work.
In another instance, we had a distribution client with over 500 users who had pulled some of their IT team away from their regular duties to work on a strategic project. This left them in a similar dilemma in which there simply weren’t enough hours in the day for their existing IT staff to stay on top of both the project’s demands and their regular non-discretionary IT work.
In both cases, we were able to fill some of these important time-consuming voids. We hold weekly meetings with each client to make sure they are aware of everything we’re doing and to share some of our extensive experience with them to help them increase their IT – and ultimately – their business’ performance.
Five Key Benefits of a Co-Managed MSP Relationship
- Enabling your internal IT team to have the time to focus on business-building projects that will shape the future of the organization.
- Cultivating a strong give-and-take relationship that allows the internal staff to leverage the outsourcer’s knowledge and to learn from their experiences with other clients.
- Reducing the stress level for your internal team by taking the day-to-day, on-call, break-fix work for your servers and network off their plate so they can concentrate on other business-enhancing projects.
- Defining service levels in a way that lets both the IT team and the organization know who is responsible for which tasks.
- By making certain that patching, anti-virus and other key system sustainability practices are attended to on a regular basis, ensure the business’ systems remain up and available and that productivity levels and user satisfaction remain high.
In essence, when deciding if a co-managed MSP relationship is right for your business, it boils down to this single truth: Businesses must separate IT activities into non-discretionary (keep-the-lights-on) tasks and discretionary (business-building tasks) – and the non-discretionary ones, even though they are not always the most visible, must remain the highest priority. If your internal IT staff is being spread too thin to maintain those non-discretionary functions, it’s time to look for a trusted partner who can manage those all-important everyday tasks in the background, freeing your internal team for more strategic work.