Keeping the lights on

Over the past few years, the term “managed services” has become more prevalent.  Its how many companies consume IT services and turn IT into a service function not a core operation.  In its most basic sense, managed service delivery is the utilization of remote tools and resources in which a Managed Services Provider remotely manages and supports a client’s IT environment.

Managed services include remote monitoring, patching, upgrading and support of a client’s IT infrastructure and can sometimes extend to specific applications.  These services are usually priced on a “per device or user/per month” model.

What are the benefits of a managed service?

First, this service delivery model helps clients manage their budgets a bit more closely, as many of the services are delivered on a fixed fee. This adds predictability to the ongoing cost of IT.  If the Managed Services Provider has perfected its own processes around these tools, the ‘human error’ factor of manual maintenance goes away.  IT services should not be viewed as commodity services since, if delivered correctly, they can add serious bottom line advantages to the business.

How do you ensure they are effective?

A less known term in the industry is ‘blended services.’ Blended services are a strategic combination of managed services and professional services that are packaged together to deliver the ultimate amount of value to the customer. This consists of looking hard at those services that can take advantage of remote tool sets and automation, and subsequently injecting intellectual capital into every other facet of IT that cannot be automated.

Part of blended services consist of pre-scheduled or ad-hoc on-site time.  It is during this time that questions like, ‘What is the best way to do such and such on my computer?’ or ‘What application can solve this business process issue that we have?’ are more likely to get answered. It is this face-to-face interaction that leads to new efficiencies being discovered, and people at the company ultimately being more productive.

When you pick a provider, make sure that they have the right pedigree to support the technology you have.  Don;t pick a generic provider and expect them to be experts in unified communications for example.

How do you derive value from a managed service?

They need to see the value in IT and its effectiveness as a bottom line tool.  Too many executives have traditionally been ‘technophobes’ and view IT strictly as overhead, a necessary evil, as opposed to a bottom-line boosting critical part of the business.  In short, when consuming IT services, make sure that you are as equally engaged as your service provider.  The only way to make this win-win is for both parties to engage.  Assuming you are paired up with the right organisation, they will help you take your company to the next level.