While many C-suite executives including Board Members are well aware of the pros and cons of in-house IT Support, very few have the same familiarity when it comes to leveraging a Managed Services Provider (MSP). Even those who have some knowledge of Managed Services hold unfounded fears associated with the offering and miss out on the myriad of opportunities to future-proof IT Services. This article discusses the most common fears and attempts to shed light on the reality of todays’ Managed Services and what it can offer an organization. Managed Services is where an external entity also known as a Managed Service Provider or MSP, is engaged to provide measurable Service Level Agreement (SLA) driven IT services to a company for a fixed or variable fee.
Depending on the options selected, the Managed Service could be an end-to-end IT service of which you pick from one or many service offerings (or a menu). The offerings could include first level Help Desk, Network and Server monitoring and alerting, Server and Database Administration, Security Administration, Hardware Support including Desk Side and Server Hardware Support, Storage and Backup Services and subject matter expertise including Software Developers and other product specific experts for hire in such areas as Microsoft SharePoint and/or Oracle Data Warehousing for example. The first concern most executives have is giving up control. It is a common myth that working with MSPs mean giving internally controlled IT services and assets to external entities thus losing control over them. In reality, a properly structured Statement of Work (SOW) and Service Scope Document (SSD) including a strong Governance Plan, will enhance control by making corporate IT assets more visible, stable and secure. Secure, SLAs combined with penalties for below par performance or breaches and SLAs combined with credits to the MSP for maintaining availability of IT Services, provide robust performances, keep your data secure and follow a strong Governance process. This carrot and stick approach invariably provides for a service focused partnership between the MSP and client. By signing up with an MSP that has a range of services, and a reputation for quality, the MSP can help executives gain more overall control.
The second concern is cost. Given financial pressures, most organizations manage their IT support in-house by using affordable personnel, hardware and software. The reality is that your internal IT team will cost you more, as they have limited time to think out of the box and improve your services and customer experience. Most IT departments are very focused on day to day operations including “fire-fighting”. The internal IT team with the best of intentions do not have the time or resources to do minor automation let alone transform the business to meet the challenges of the future. To an Executive, the in-house IT team may be holding on to older assets, not be compliant with the latest technology that is cost efficient such as mobile and cloud. A reputed MSP will focus on giving a company continuous improvements over a period of time. What that means is they will help automate, update and transform your IT services while taking care of your day to day operations. The SOW between a company and the MSP can explicitly state a percentage improvement in automation year over year.
Another misconception is data security concerns. While the concern is legitimate, using a secure external provider, and/or a cloud based service is no less secure than having your data located on your premises. The reality is if you bank with most nationwide banks, or you have a connection to the Internet, your data is potentially accessible by a determined third party i.e. hacker. With enough effort any system can be compromised whether it is sitting in a locked room in a corporate office, a basement “vault” or a third party datacenter. Just ask Edward Snowden who extracted volumes of data from the US National Security Agency (NSA) – he got to sensitive data stored within NSA premises. Moreover, an MSP can be held accountable to ensure they employ the most advanced physical and network security and work with reputed cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) to secure your data. The fee and incentives an MSP could receive is very closely based upon them ensuring strong data security standards.
Selecting Managed Services is not an “either or” proposition. You can sign up with an MSP who works alongside your IT leadership and staff, and work hand in hand as partners of your internal IT team. MSPs can locate part of their team on your premises, a person at your disposal on a daily basis if you have questions or concerns. You can also structure the SOW to enable frequent access and visits to the premises so you can monitor your assets and data when needed and ensure they have a secure and professional environment.
Like most decisions concerning those in the C-suite, when it comes to changing the way business support services are provisioned it requires a lot of thought and convincing your team to go along with a new way of acquiring robust services. The mentioned fears have to be addressed and worked through in the organizational psyche. The upside is that you will gain access to a vast amount of expertise and free up your time to focus on the core business and stay competitive.
About the Author: Kavan Weerasinghe has spent over 20 years in the Managed Services space serving major corporations in the US, UK and Sri Lanka. Currently, he is a Vice President at Brandix i3, offering Managed Services to local and overseas clients via the Brandix i3 Managed Services Center located in Colombo 7. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.