Managed Services: A View from 10,000 Ft.

From the outside Managed Services appears to be this “brave new world” for IT Support so this deserves an alternative look at this support model. There is quite a bit of buzz surrounding this as a new and improved way of supporting IT and there is a lot in Managed Services that people do not understand. In following a previous article describing WHAT managed services are, I am sure that this can seem a little overwhelming to pick the right MSP solution.

But rest assured it is not as daunting an endeavor as you might think it is… long as you look for and sign the right service provider. It is still the support model of choice and of the future. With the right provider it is one of the best decisions you can make for the future of your network support model.

There are many different angles that Managed Service providers can use to market these services. We have come across a plethora of mass-mailings, internet ads, Newspaper ads, etc etc. aimed at “solving your problems with Managed Services”. Managed Services CAN solve a lot of problems and has a set of undeniably important features……..but it is the lack of understanding that many of you have that can get you locked into a service that fails to deliver.

A common approach is to throw the term “Managed Services” around loosely as the “cure-all” IT Support solution. The fundamental core values of Managed Services can be found in any IT magazine and DO IN FACT stand as the core components to its success. The problem is there are a lot of companies out there that are not going to deliver Managed Service’s true value and worth due to pressing sales goals and marketing tactics. Marketing tactics designed to get you in and out of their prospective network “eyes”. This is not a new game but one being played on a stage where little understanding exists about the service itself.

Don’t get turned off from managed Services. I am here to tell you that if delivered correctly it will support your network in ways traditional support cannot begin to produce. The proper Managed Services model can extend equipment life, minimize the impact if issues occur and transition the network into a more “managed” state……..a more predictable state.

So how do you combat this? How do you make sure you get a solid service offering?

The main thing to remember when going to a Managed Services support contract is to make sure you stay focused on that 10,000 ft view of what the service is meant to provide. Learn the services that SHOULD be delivered with a Managed Services package and keep your eye on how they will deliver. Remain realistic about what deliverables are promised in relation to the price of the service. Managed Services is a very involved service delivery (if done correctly)….so beware of cellar-dwelling pricing. The goal is to standardize and make spending predictable along with the network. This is a 2-way street and give and take relationship. If you are promised the world for nothing….chances are the delivery is not going to be as promised. So, if done correctly, this creates an environment where the provider’s success depends on the success and well-being of your network. A fair service provider will always maintain a sense of realism and a core mind set of educating you on how their service delivery will work for you.

Let me step you through some very important elements to a successful Managed Services program.

Holistic Approach:

This is a very common marketing “curtain” right now. There are many services out there being marketed on an a-la-carte basis or as a more hands-off/monitor only delivery claiming to be proactive managed services. Without monitoring the network components as a whole you will not get the entire picture. Monitoring results may be false and you will end up with higher additional support bills…troubleshooting the wrong service. The issue may have been with a connecting device….one that was not monitored and therefore the isolation troubleshooting takes more time and may end up promoting false resolutions. Make sure your Managed Services provider intends on monitoring, supporting, remediating and maintaining the network as a WHOLE.

Proactive in Nature:

Realize that one of the fundamental benefits to Managed Services is a proactive approach. Without built-in proactive measures (to respond to issues that are identified through monitoring) the service is not as valuable… want a provider that is going to act and deliver proactively. The goal should be to evolve to less issues by being proactive….not sell a service that does nothing more than drum up more work or one that depends on you to discover a problem and ask for their help. So look for built-in “Reactive Hours” and one that manages Maintenance and security for your network.

Transitional Attitude:

No network can be made more reliable over night (especially if it has never been monitored proactively before). Managed Services is a model that will evolve your network to that point. It will not happen overnight and it will most likely uncover a lot of initial issues that you were not aware of. The right service provider should be aware of this and keep that transition in mind. Look for a provider that has a plan for this transition and one that is up front with you about the reality if this evolution. This will soothe your apprehensions of jumping into Managed Services without fully understanding it.

Watch out for flighty sales of Managed Services Programs. Make sure they are holistic, transitional and most importantly PROACTIVE in nature. Managed service’s worth is in its proactive delivery. Tools to monitor the network is only a base…..the real value is in the deliverables and the people that deliver it. If you find a provider whose focus on customer service is stressed this support model will really pay off.

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