For IT managers looking to partner with managed service providers, it can be unsettling to know their whole resource pool is no longer internal. Here’s how to help ensure you get the best from a managed services partnership, without introducing risk.
If I’m an IT Manager, there’s great comfort in having my own pool of resources looking after my ICT infrastructure (network, computers and systems). I know that when it comes to scheduling work — and in particular when a problem occurs — I can make the call in prioritising people to focus on the issue as I see fit.
But here’s the challenge: it’s difficult to maintain the cost base associated with this level of capability, especially given the current economic climate and the diversity of technical skills required.
That challenge has driven the need for Managed Service Providers to provide solutions to address this. Opex based models for the provision of Managed Services for ICT solutions are now commonplace, particularly with the growing acceptance of cloud-based infrastructure, and the capability that cloud solutions provide.
Focusing on the core business
Most organisations today are trying to focus on their core business and on customer needs – another reason that delivering core ICT services through Managed Services is an increasingly attractive option.
But as the operating model changes, the organisation needs to be very specific about what it asks from a service provider, because it’s the organisation who still carries the risk if something doesn’t work. The IT manager rightly asks this all-important question: If I’m relying on a service provider, how can I be sure they will give me the same attention when something not clearly outlined in the service happens and causes a major issue — such as a major security breach, or an IT environment failure?
Key questions to ask your managed services provider
When considering a managed services operating model, here are key aspects you should consider:
1. Can the service provider deliver combined multi-vendor, multi-technology expertise for networking, compute, storage and application solutions?
2. Can the service provider deal with multiple operating models for IT infrastructure provision – on-premise solutions, hosted and collocation solutions, private cloud (virtual machines), public cloud (internet)?
3. Can the service provider manage the full life-cycle associated with ICT solutions? Service provision is not about having someone available to phone you on a 24 hour basis to tell you when something has gone wrong. It’s about understanding your business and building a fit-for-purpose solution that proactively supports your business objectives.
4. Are the services based on a portfolio of services that are core to the business of the Service Provider? Any IT expert can design and roll out a solution, but if it’s a unique one-off solution, it can not be properly industrialised to allow for ongoing management and evolution of the ICT environment as your business grows. The Managed Service Provider should have a service catalogue that’s relevant to the business solution you are procuring.
Next time I’ll consider other factors that are important in evaluating the suitability of a Managed Service Provider, including the culture of the service provider, and accreditations to validate that the service provider can operate effectively in providing managed services.
What are the qualities you look for in a managed service provider? How are you currently balancing the issue of cost and availability of ICT skills?