Kevin Clark, Solution Architect at Logicalis North America, looks at the drivers behind a growing trend towards managed service adoption, and the questions a sensible CIO should ask before selecting a managed service provider (MSP).
CIOs and IT departments are feeling the pressure. Budgets remain tight, so every penny of IT spend is scrutinised. On the other hand there remains intense pressure to bring the benefits of IT to bear on productivity, collaboration and innovation – there is a real sense of that the IT department has a heightened role to play in maintaining competitiveness and profitability. And all that comes on top of maintaining the essential infrastructure that is already in place.
At the heart of this dilemma is the Technology Adoption Gap – the need to invest in and support new functionality at a time when IT departments are under-resourced and under-equipped to deliver. Fundamentally, this gap is driving a significant shift towards the managed services model.
Why? For three very good reasons. First, because working with a well resourced and well equipped provider can reduce the risk of deploying and supporting new and legacy solutions. The right provider will operate as an extension to the team, getting under the skin of the organisation to deliver seamless business experience – but, since this is essentially shared resource, at a lower cost compared with taking on the entire task in house.
Second, the managed service route is a great way to maximise return on technology investment – something that should be high on every CIO’s agenda given that enterprises typically realise just 43% of the potential inherent in their technology investments (Gartner).
The third reason for the shift is the need for IT departments to move from a maintenance and repair operation, to a strategy and innovation role – the Technology Adoption Gap gets wider when CIOs and their teams do not have capacity to adopt new technologies to improve the business because they are overburdened with routine tasks. The rise in the Shadow IT phenomenon, as we recently discussed, and the need for the CIO to reassert their role in the organisation, underlines how important it is to free up strategic bandwidth.
So, managed services seem to represent an elegant solution to a multi-faceted problem – a problem that ultimately boils down to the balance between budgets and business value. But using managed services to tip that balance in favour of business value means, as usual, choosing he right vendor.
And, as ever, that means looking beyond the glossy brochures to understand exactly what you’re likely to get once the ink is dry on the contract. According to the Avaya blog that means, at a minimum, asking these seven questions:
- Will the proposed service partner support your business strategy now and in the future?
- Do you trust them to have the necessary expertise and bandwidth to provide maintenance, deliver support services or assume managed-services responsibilities?
- Will they become trusted advisors that stay engaged and serve as an extension of your IT organisation and business?
- Do they provide a portfolio of offers that span the entire service continuum and have the necessary flexibility to ensure a smooth deployment of managed services?
- What applications, diagnostics checks or analytics tools do they leverage to anticipate any problems or hidden issues?
- Do they provide a single point of contact that can quickly swarm experts to resolve an issue in your network?
- Do they really know you? Understand your solution?
After all, the real value of managed services is not in putting IT issues at arms length. It is in bringing in the skills required to derive maximum value from investment in IT, new and old – and that means selecting a vendor that is capable and reliable, and as committed to constant improvement as you are.