The last three years have been especially challenging for small and medium-sized businesses navigating the lingering challenges of the economic landscape. With an increasingly difficult regulatory environment, technology advances increasing at an exponential rate, and a real shortage of talented IT personnel, more businesses have begun to evaluate managed services as an opportunity to focus their internal professionals’ time and efforts on growing and improving their businesses, while allowing specialized outside advisors to ensure their technology is being delivered cost-effectively and securely. Many businesses are seeing the benefits of the reduced strain on internal resources and increased efficiency which can result from a well-conceived and delivered managed services model.
To get a clear picture of how organizations are benefiting from today’s managed IT services scenarios, let’s look at three areas of concern in more detail:
- Cost control
- Business alignment
- Advanced technology access.
Managed services can enhance cost control or investment optimization in three main areas—the first being strategic outsourcing of an organization’s IT support and maintenance to a qualified firm. Organizations choosing this strategy gain a highly talented IT department without the need to pay benefits, vacation and training, or worry about subsequent turnover. The hidden cost savings is on talent availability. Many small and medium-sized businesses can’t justify a full IT department, so they rely on individuals who excel at some of their responsibilities, but will, at best, need to reach out to an outside firm for projects, or highly technical needs. At worst, the businesses will use sub-par workarounds that may not provide the best technical advice to management.
The second area is proper budgeting. Most managed services firms include some type of remote monitoring and management tool in their service offerings. These tools allow them to gather critical data about the environment, and properly advise on trends and when technology needs to be upgraded or augmented, along with ensuring licensing compliance and potentially risky software add-ons, which can increase costs. A great firm will use the information it gathers and blend it with its technical/business knowledge to ensure your IT investments are optimal.
The third area of potential cost savings is access to more advanced technology than would be available otherwise. The costs associated with deploying your own advanced network monitoring, intrusion prevention services, etc., can be significant, so the majority of small and medium-sized businesses choose not to self-deploy. This places their support staff in a more reactive role as they deal with end-user symptoms rather than the underlying causes of technical issues.
This issue cuts both ways. Why are you in business? What are your people passionate about? In all probability, managing your information technology isn’t in your top five responses. With the changes most organizations have had to make in the last three years, the focus has been on serving customers, not making sure systems are patched or end users have the systems running at optimal configurations. When you work with a managed services provider, the talent within your organization can focus on those things most critical to the bottom line, and the things your people are passionate about.
Information technology service delivery is exactly what a managed services provider is passionate about. In fact, under a managed services partnership, the goal of both organizations is the same. Managed services providers are intent on ensuring your systems are running optimally, which in turn allows your organization to get the most out of your people and systems. In addition, by working with a managed services provider, you’re able to adapt much more quickly to changing conditions. Having a multi-member talented team at your disposal means nothing is out of reach.
Advanced Technology Access
Whether you have an internal IT department or rely on an outside provider, having top-level IT talent at your disposal is inherently difficult. When partnered with a qualified managed services provider, you gain much more than a single individual can provide. Top-notch managed services providers keep abreast of the latest technology and the proven processes around their delivery. In addition to the technology itself, best-of-breed managed services providers tweeze out specific business processes that help their clients succeed.
Technology adoption is enhanced as well. When technology services are delivered internally or through smaller firms, it’s difficult to adopt new technologies in a low-risk manner. Managed services providers develop proven methodologies for seamless technology rollouts and don’t suffer from the pitfalls of performing one-time projects that are soon forgotten.
While the reasons to work with a managed IT services provider discussed above are valid and compelling, it’s important to conduct proper due diligence when selecting a partner. Too many providers use the term “managed services” as a marketing message, not a methodology. Before selecting a provider, ask the following questions:
- Does the firm have a proven track record in delivering managed services?
- Does it have an organizational structure that ensures risk mitigation and efficiency optimization are priorities?
- Does it work with other organizations in your industry? If so, are they of a similar size?
- Does it have the expertise you need?
When deciding if managed IT services is right for your organization, it’s important to understand the costs and benefits of a managed services model. Costs savings, efficiencies and the ability of your internal resources to focus on other core business issues can make a real impact on your organization’s overall business plan. iBi