From The Expert Feature Article
May 15, 2014

Five Things You Must Do When Supplementing Your Team With Managed Services


By TMCnet Special Guest
Pat Patterson, Avaya Client Services

There has never been a more important time for IT managers to seek the assistance of outside partners.

Increasingly, IT managers are turning to Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to help fill the talent pool gap that prevents many from implementing helpful but increasingly complex apps and technologies.

Among the challenges are those found in December 17, 2013 blog “The Rise of the 7 Communications Trends for 2014.”

As the forward-looking 2014 trends paper stated:

“Vendors are continuously creating new applications, some of which are transforming how organizations deploy and capitalize on technology. While this innovation can help boost business growth and improve efficiency, new solutions can further burden IT organizations that are already being compelled to handle growing service demand with shrinking staff resources.

“New applications and business-consulting demands may also require skill sets beyond those of existing staff. This imbalance between requirements and resources could prompt organizations to explore staff augmentation options beyond the typical ‘manage my switch’ arrangements. They will also seek help from technology management tools that smoothly integrate into their existing operations.”

So many factors, including cloud-based solutions, demand for leveraging Big Data, mobile solution integration, a surging economy that is leading to limited talent pools, etc. have come together to create the perfect storm for overwhelmed IT managers.

While many IT managers may be motivated to replace antiquated networks that have been in use since before the Great Recession, they may be hindered by the inability to find skilled resources to define and implement a roadmap and the tools to simplify the evolution.

In some cases, even if the talent can be acquired, the costs may be unreasonable.

The Rise of Out-Tasking

Instead of complete “out-sourcing,” many IT managers are turning to MSPs to “out-task” certain projects or management functions that require a particular expertise not readily available on staff or in today’s job marketplace. By out-tasking the IT organization can spend their valuable time on the core business goals and projects that drive additional competitive advantage at a business level.

Great examples of projects that are easy to “out-task” are release management, and legacy communication solution management. In both cases, the function is well defined but can free up significant time and remove unnecessary distractions from IT.

In this economy, moving from old to new solutions can leave a company in a lurch as they try to find the right personnel to help transform infrastructure and then ensure they maintain their skills. Out-tasking is a great solution to reduce the risk of transformation leveraging an MSP can help evolve the infrastructure much easier and faster. Working with a virtual staff and/or leveraging a cloud-based solution without having to bring people on board is likely to be the best solution for many businesses in 2014 and beyond.

The Top 5 DO’s and DON’T's to Ensure You Make the Best Choice in MSPs

Do:

  • Prepare a statement of work with clear goals, metrics, timing and fixed budget costs so that the MSP staff can make a best bid for the project. Don’t forget to focus on Performance and Growth initiatives

  • Ask about the management capabilities of the MSP employees and the team mix. How many engineers and employees are dedicated to Managed Services and how many will be assigned to you. What is their level of expertise? How many employees are on the company’s Help Desk? How many other clients leverage the Managed Services practice? Is staff available around the globe on a 24/7 basis? What types of tools are you provided to assess how your applications are being handled? Is there a portal to you can use to view your application status in real time?
  • Question how the MSP employees and solutions can help mitigate risk, reduce cost of ownership and improve overall performance. Does the MSP leverage industry standard processes and tools?
  • Ask if the MSP can offer integrated solutions that include operations, professional services, and equipment maintenance. Are the MSP offers structured to enable you to flexibly choose what you need while still maintaining full accountability?
  • Investigate what each MSP specializes in. Many companies are now realizing that to get the most out of their investment they need to leverage MSPs with specific application specialties (Collaboration/communications, ERP, CRM, marketing automation, etc.).

Don’t assume:

  • A potential partner with IT experience can enable an easy transformation or can fix the problem. New apps and technologies can require expertise that is not always readily available. Ask about related experience.

  • That the team has backup plans or that adequate security measures are being taken at all times.
  • The MSP team complies with the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) to optimize efficiency. Don’t be surprised.

  • The potential partner owns their own data center. Data centers are forever being updated and tested, which is a considerable cost that many outsource (Not necessarily a big issue). Also, don’t assume that personnel and systems are in geo-politically safe areas. Ask!
  • All MSPs can provide the full spectrum of services, from private, public and hybrid clouds to co-location. Most say they can, but dig to ensure it is more than lip service.

What have been your experiences with a Managed Service Provider?

What do’s and don’ts are missing from our list?




Edited by Maurice Nagle



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