Once upon a time, IT was something that the accounts people used in their back rooms to do reporting and tax returns. Invoicing happened once a week or once a month, and most of the business most of the time pretty much ignored computers.
Today IT does everything from your phones and emails, to youradvertising and marketing, to your production management and service delivery. But what is still happening in many businesses is that IT is treated as an overhead – something that’sboring and confusing and costly all at the same time.
We’re two decades into the 21st century, yet a surprising number of businesses still sit somewhere between Level 0 Chaos and Level 1 Reactivity on the Capacity Maturity Model.
Most organizations couldn’t run without their technology – but way too many still treat it as an expensive, confusing “necessary evil” and an opportunity for cutting costs. The result is disengagement and under-investment.
What these businesses don’t spend up front in IT maintenance, support and strategic planning, they do pay in inefficiency, service failures, frustrated staff and unhappy customers. And when something major fails, they end up with massive T&M repair bills and big operational disruptions.
IT Managed Services
The need for broad spectrum IT support using multiple skill sets has challenged the ability of IT “guys” – in-house or local individuals – to deliver consistent, reliable support.
A range of IT Managed Services offerings is now in the market. Some are low cost “road side assist” offerings that do some basic maintenance then charge heaps for “extras”. Others provide extensive support – but at a correspondingly high price.
However, it’s worth persisting to find the provider that’s right for your business – because the right managed services from the right supplier, tailored to your business, will do more than provide you with increased financial predictability and better systems reliability.
With the right support and strategy, you can shift your whole technology game from time and cost to profit and innovation.
So how do you choose the right MSP?
Not all IT Managed Services Providers (MSPs) are the same – so you need to:
- Clarify your requirements – so you know what your current and future needs involve.
- Ask the right questions to make sure you find the right provider for you.
You need a supplier with enough people in enough places to provide consistent, reliable service across your operations all year round.
To really turn your technology into a profit centre, you need a supplier who understands strategy and is future oriented, so that your business is future-ready, not just stable.
Not too big…
Big providers with big names are often pretty expensive – which leads to people making hard decisions about the cover they can afford.
With a really big provider, you can often feel like “just a number”. They can be slow to respond and pretty impersonal, operating through large global call centres that carry sizeable overheads.
They’re likely to have “their tools” and “their procedures” for you to conform with. Support could come from anywhere – and getting through the first level operator to the expert you need can be frustrating.
Not too small…
At the other end of the spectrum, a provider that’s too small may not be able to support you 24/7 – particularly if you have regional offices, overseas branches, or you serve a global customer base.
A “too small” MSP may not have enough staff with a full range of skills to provide “whole-of-business” support. They may not have the income stream to ensure robust support services that ensure your safety.
A lot of small managed service providers will outsource behind the scenes. They get a third party service company to do the backups or do the firewalls. That puts key business-critical services outside their direct control.
Plus – if they’re stretched too thin – they can struggle to stay current, invest in their own infrastructure and keep up with the leading edge of technology.
Interested in your business, not just your tech
Some managed service providers will take on your systems “as is” and maintain them, but they don’t have a strategic focus on growth, transformation and continuous improvement.
They may have excellent infrastructure, and they will keep your operations secure – but they’re mostly “techie”. They may not have the business orientation and strategic focus to support your growth and be a true partner.
Preventive and proactive
Your systems get monitored, protected – and problems get prevented, not just fixed when they break.
Disciplined – with structure and infrastructure
Good managed service providers have great infrastructure. They can take on and document your tech and they have the systems to manage your support better than you could in-house.
Flexible and results-focussed
There are a lot of different, viable models in IT Managed Services.
For instance, we’ve taken over organisations with an internal IT department and put their techs on our payroll. It’s a win/win – the customer gets continuity and familiarity – the techs get more varied and interesting work.
If you’ve got big plans for a bright future, it’s worth looking for someone who’s interested in your goals, your innovation strategies, your productivity, your profit and where they can contribute to helping you grow it.
In this case, look for a MSP who can demonstrate that they have the tools and the frameworks to build your business results strategically – not just babysit your existing hardware and software.
The key to good Managed Services is flexibility and communication
Where do you sit on the Capacity Maturity Model? What are your needs? Here are some case studies to get you thinking:
Not for profit health care
We took over support for a not-for-profit health care organisation. They had been running with a mixed model – some in-house IT support and an external, very small IT provider who would run into capacity issues. They were in a pretty stable industry (at least pre-COVID) – so their goal was to move from Reactive to Proactive.
We actually hired their IT people who were working on the ground and they came onto our payroll. They became more motivated because they’re part of a larger team, they had new career progression opportunities and a broader range of problems to solve. Plus, they can go on holiday without getting support phone calls.
IT people are a special breed, and they can then be perceived as prickly and awkward. But that’s mainly because they’ve got needs that other people don’t understand. And one of those needs is access to interesting technology and sharing their enthusiasm with others. If they’re the only geek in the organization, who are they going to talk to?
So, the customer got continuity of people. The onboarding process was fast and super-efficient – and that led to top-level support for them.
Engineering consultancy – mixed model
An engineering consultancy now working with us is on their second round of IT Managed Services.
Their first Managed Services approach was to keep most of their support in house, but to outsource the most complicated piece of their environment to a high-end provider. However, to keep their costs down, they didn’t include all their regional branches in the agreement.
Unfortunately, what they experienced was firstly a lot of irritation – because there were a lot of communications issues. Response time might have been within their SLA metrics – but it wasn’t really timely and there was lots of back-and-forth.
The other thing that happened was a lot of confusion about who was responsible for what. There were key things that their internal IT thought the MSP was doing – but they were not actually in the contract. They found this out the expensive way – after a backup disaster at a regional office.
We were big enough to take responsibility for all their systems, yet friendly enough to talk about their issues and provide prompt, quality support. So, they got a lot better quality of support and advice.
Construction Company with growing pains
A high-growth construction company found their expansion plans hamstrung by old, fragmented systems. As a player in a high-cost, low-margin reactive market place, their investment in technology had been based on “least cost” – and it was way out of date. It wasn’t just slow – there were bits that no longer function – and process breakdowns that were affecting relationships with their customers.
We took on their existing systems and ran a “working technology” program focused on immediate productivity improvements to all their staff. That helped shift their perception of technology and IT support from “painful” to “awesome”.
We didn’t just take on their existing systems – we also used our highly visual Profit Stacks framework to help their MD build a strategic technology plan for their future expansion – a plan that led to a 3x growth of both revenue and staff in three years.
Throughout the process, our focus wasn’t just on their systems – it was on the relationships they wanted to repair and extend with their customers.
Do you have a technology partner to help you thrive through the 2020s?
Over recent months, I’ve been talking to a range of businesses – many in the engineering and consulting space – on how they are going in our COVID-modified environment. It is encouraging to see that 85% are working hard to optimise their business and only 5% are in survival mode.
I am uncomfortable, however, that so few are really looking towards their future needs. Only 10% are discussing transformation strategies and the technology infrastructure to support them.
As you head into 2021, do you have a true technology partner who will help you innovate and transform? Or will you be trying to respond to tomorrow using yesterday’s technology?
If you want to move your technology from Reactive to Value Creation, contact NOD today for a free evaluation.
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