By Tim McCulloch, Vice President of Connected Workforce and Services
The Early Seeds
For most of the 20th century, business models centered around large, integrated companies that could own, manage and directly control their own assets. By the 1950s and 60s as the population grew, the need for corporate expansion became clear, and companies looked to diversify in order to broaden their corporate base and create more economies of scale.
While much of those goals were achieved by the 1970s and 80s, bloated management structures and lack of agility also became the unintended consequences. Organizations soon recognized the need to create corporate structures and cultures that fostered flexibility, agility and creativity, while also allowing them to focus on their core business. Enter early outsourcing.
Today the words ‘outsourcing’ and/or ‘managed services’ can trigger all kinds of emotions – both good and bad – depending on who you ask. No doubt, this function has a lot of baggage, especially in IT where the technology landscape has become incredibly complex and there’s no shortage of horror stories to be found. When I connect with clients, it’s clear that many are holding on tight to misconceptions and myths, either from their own experiences, from the media hype, or both. So, I’m going to outline the most common myths we run into and offer some alternative food for thought, including some of the measurable value you can see from working with managed services providers.
3 Common Myths
MYTH #1: I’LL LOSE CONTROL OF MY COMPANY AND ASSETS.
It’s a fear, and I get it. But it’s also an outdated one if I’m being brutally honest. The industry has evolved far beyond this polarizing notion of internal vs. external with no shades of gray in between. The reality is that today’s managed services providers (MSPs) can have the skills, depth, tools and experience to seamlessly help manage pieces and parts of daily operations without you having to ‘hand over the keys to the castle,’ or give up full control of your mission-critical systems and core business functions.
While I’m certainly not suggesting all MSPs are created equal, I am suggesting that sourcing specific functions (e.g. telecom integration and collaboration, cloud migrations, database migrations, security compliance and patch management, etc.) can, and is, successfully accomplished by leveraging the MSPs with niche expertise in areas such as technology implementations, system or service best practices, and service excellence. This means you can expand the IT bench without losing the architectural control you want to support your core business and strategic growth.
MYTH #2: THEY ALWAYS HAVE CANNED SLAS THAT DON’T MEET OUR UNIQUE BUSINESS REQUIREMENTS.
Yes, some do, but not all. Your business rides on SLAs of all kinds, so I understand the consternation around having to deal with lesser SLAs than you need simply because the MSP only has so many resources or capabilities of its own. Fortunately, and again… the industry has evolved. Today’s successful MSPs build SLAs into your agreement for exactly what you want and need, rather than what they’re able to offer. SLAs are the heart of a capable MSP and should be specific to your business whether you need five nines availability, a tiered severity support system, or help desk response time, make sure it’s your requirements, not their canned offering.
That said, be sure to vet an MSP thoroughly… and by that, I mean call references, get sample reports, check their reviews, and interview multiple layers of the organization to be sure everyone tells a similar story. One tip I highly recommend is doing a little research of your own to find existing clients that they *do not* offer on their reference list and cold calling them to get feedback. Ask open-ended questions like:
- How long have you been a client and how did their learning curve go?
- How are they doing on your SLAs?
- What hurdles did you have on the culture fit and how did they handle it?
- What’s the best thing about working with them?
- What’s the worst thing?
- Do you plan to stay with them long-term?
You get the gist. Trust me, it’s worth the effort.
The CRN Managed Service Provider (MSP) 500 list recognizes leading North American solution providers that have demonstrated innovative and forward-thinking approaches to managed services. They help end users improve operational efficiencies and navigate the ongoing complexities of IT solutions, while maximizing their return on IT investments.
MicroAge is recognized annually on the MSP 500 List in the Elite 150 Category.
MYTH #3: THEY HAVE LOW-LEVEL SKILLS THAT WE JUST CAN’T TRUST.
Technology, and therefore the skills needed to manage it, are all advancing at an accelerated rate. Why? The knowledge-share and training today are like never before in history. You can get highly trained, niche-skilled labor in a managed services provider potentially easier than you can find FTEs on the open labor market, and you don’t have to add a capital-level budget to build a deep in-house bench or carry additional employees on the books.
As an example, sourcing daily security compliance operations to an MSP means you have an expert partner dealing with daily scans, security compliance, responding to security operations incidents, and proactively managing your patches and OS lifecycles. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say most of our clients call this as close to ‘heaven on IT earth’ as you can get, especially in today’s security climate.
BONUS MYTH #4: OUR EXISTING STAFF WILL FEEL THREATENED, OR THERE’S TOO MUCH CULTURAL MISMATCH FOR IT TO WORK.
Well, the reality is that managing this is largely on you, but it can be done. The key here is messaging, and it’s critical to get out ahead of this with your team before they ever get wind of your plan to procure an MSP. Here are some specific tips that may help:
- Identify key strengths and skills of your existing team
- Map them to your most important strategic initiatives
- Create a work transition plan for each team and resource
- Identify KPIs against the strategic plans by quarter and by year
- Position the changes as a redeployment of valuable FTEs to your most important initiatives
- Properly compensate individuals for shifts in their responsibility level(s)
- Involve them in the MSP requirements and interview process
In summary, the MSPs of today are a far cry from even ten years ago. Today, they can be highly skilled, adaptable, flexible, and high-value members of your team that give you the ability to offload the more mundane daily operational tasks that free up key staff to help you advance your broader strategic goals.
If you have questions about working with MSPs in your unique business situation or requirements, drop me a note – I’d love to connect.
Don't let the myths about Managed Service Providers impede your success.
Recognized annually on the CRN MSP 500 List in the Elite 150 Category, we’ve got the experts to help you manage your technology needs. Contact us today at (800) 544-8877.
“Tim is the Vice President of Connected Workforce and Services with more than 20 years of experience in the IT industry. He is skilled in Storage, IT Service Management, IT Strategy, Servers and Modern Infrastructure. He works with clients to ensure they have long-term success by meeting business objectives with the correct technology partners.”Tim McCullochVice President of Connected Workforce and Services