Managed IT Services: Lessons from the front lines

managed service providers

Forget for a minute all the numbers on the growth curve predicted for information technology (IT) managed services. We know it’s rapidly growing among small to midsized businesses (SMBs). So, let’s focus on its key value propositions.

In other words, what can managed services and a managed services provider (MSP) really do for the SMBs?

Typically, a smaller SMB will not have a full time IT staff, and mid-sized SMB might have one to two IT professional. So, is the value of managed services all about taking on this IT role at a  smaller firm, or making the life of the swamped IT pros easier at a mid-sized company?  

Well, yes, a good MSP can take away much of the daily IT grind for that embattled staff person, but the managed service value proposition goes well beyond that.

The true value comes from predictability and reliability that the business can count on for daily IT functions it must have on tap, while freeing up the internal IT person to focus on the more strategic projects that blend with a company’s business needs with technology capabilities.

Think of these benefits as lessons learned on what a MSP can do for a SMB. Being a client services leader, I’ve seen again and again how these two value propositions play out for SMBs.

Make core IT functions rock solid and predictable 
Businesses of any size, even relatively smaller ones, are faced with long list of IT tasks and technology decisions. How do I provide help desk service to my employees? What sort of firewall solution can protect my messaging and network? What sort of storage area network (SAN) product will fit my budget and ensure uptime for my rapidly growing systems?

By using a MSP to provide such functions as well as recommend and deploy the appropriate technology solutions, you get reliability and peace of mind over crucial IT tasks and decisions. Many times we’ve seen businesses pick the wrong solution like a SAN array that is too costly or complex to maintain for their needs.

An experienced MSP can not only bring in the right IT choices, but eliminate risks by guaranteeing the solution with a fixed and predictable monthly cost. The business seemingly pays a premium with experienced MSP vs. acquiring and running its own IT solutions. On the flip side, the cheaper, do-it-yourself price is only cheaper until something breaks, or becomes too costly and difficult to maintain. An MSP can take all that worry away and make sure your IT engine is humming – securely and continuously.

In short, think of IT managed services as the insurance of the technology world. What you get will fit your business, fit your budget, and be reliable and predictable.

Allow your IT pro to refocus
Analyst firm Gartner has estimated that the average company spends close to 80 percent of IT resources on “keeping the lights on” activities – activities that are necessary to the business but not transformational IT projects that directly drive growth. MSPs can alleviate this dilemma by taking those day-in, day-out IT challenges, like help desk and firewall maintenance, off the plate of your internal IT person.

With a MSP taking on time consuming daily tasks, the internal IT pro—who is going to know the company best—can refocus around projects like improving reports and business intelligence, or implementing new features for a line of business system. Their lives won’t necessarily be easier, but the business will be getting better value out of that individual.

A smaller SMB without IT staff can reliably and predictably outsource the IT function to a strong MSP. The MSP also can serve as an IT advisement role to the smaller organization. In either scenario—a larger SMB with some IT staff, or a smaller company with no internal IT resource—it comes down to letting the people with hands-on knowledge of the business focus on the business, and letting the MSP take care of the IT infrastructure.

Put these two value-adds together, and you have IT capabilities you can count on, while freeing up your internal IT manager to focus on those projects that use technology to really grow the company and improve its business processes.

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