IT departments across the board continue to strain under the increasing demand for services amongst, while having to manage greater business complexity, stringent budgets, and a continuous need to upgrade skills. Managed Services Providers (MSPs) have therefore become a critical component of many organizations, providing the much-needed support and availability, while enabling them to innovate and stay on the frontline, in a highly dynamic and unpredictable technology landscape.
An ideal MSP would typically employ best practices in managing IT resources (both people and infrastructure), provide high availability and delivers world-class services around problem management, incident cases, change, configuration, inventory, capacity, performance and multiple levels of reporting. These capabilities are standard, and benchmarked against strong SLAs, across most vendors. This makes it difficult for CIOs to take a qualified decision on these parameters alone. Also, with a maze of possibilities and IT jargon, it is easy to get lost while trying to find the solution that best suits your business needs.
Here are some important parameters, across people, process and technology, that will hopefully make it easier for you to identify the right kind of Managed Service Partner for your business.
As businesses gain a larger digital footprint, customer needs and preferences have a profound, continuous impact on nature and scale of applications, data and infrastructure. An example is the rapid growth of the digital TV market over or the increasing adoption of mobile devices in banking over the last four-five years. Enterprise IT needs are becoming more volatile, and MSPs must be able to handle change effectively.
New technologies such as big data and analytics tools are enabling greater responsiveness to customer needs, but also adding new layers of complexity to enterprise applications. MSPs need to handle complexity at many levels, with respect to customization, integration and deployment. This is even more significant in a multi cloud or hybrid IT environment. It is always preferable to partner with an MSP that has a great track record across complex implementations.
The Right Kind and Amount of Skills
For any partnership to be successful, the MSP’s expertise must go beyond the conventional network management, operating system availability and maintenance / troubleshooting issues. IT teams often fall behind because their MSP does not have adequate skilled personnel around specific technologies or the requisite industry domain knowledge. In specialized, mission critical applications such as core banking, healthcare applications or ERP, this is a major red flag. Make sure your skill requirements are clearly defined, both from a technology and a domain perspective while evaluating an MSP.
Time to market has become a critical success factor for every industry, irrespective of whether you are in the B2B or B2C space. MSPs must demonstrate that they have the necessary personnel, knowledge, infrastructure, tools and processes to ensure exceptional response times. It is important to define SLAs not just in terms of system metrics (such as performance, availability, scalability) but also in terms of human response time, speed of ramp-up, deployment time, etc.
Comprehensiveness of the Toolset
Enterprises use a wide variety of technology platforms and applications, ranging from the most arcane of legacy data warehousing systems, all the way to the most cutting-edge cloud-based CRM or collaboration apps. Typical IT environments also feature varying degrees of integration and isolation in equal measure. Your preferred MSP must have a comprehensive array of tools to effectively track, optimize and enhance your IT environment. Make sure you can map all your enterprise IT concerns with the set of tools offered by the MSP.
Governance Models in Place
While much of your infrastructure, application and data needs may be generic (in terms of performance, scalability and availability), there may be very specific scenarios that may require a high degree of data governance. Examples include data confidentiality norms in banking or healthcare, that require strong governance and security protocols, often regulatory in nature.
Flexibility across Environments
An MSP should have extensive experience across all environments and delivery models, including public, private and hybrid clouds. With adequate flexibility, organizations are likely to be more successful in creating a structured multi-strategy (inclusive of internal, managed services, outsourcing, and cloud) in meeting individual needs of the company.
Adapting to Unique Customer Needs
Your MSP should be able to play the role of a professional trusted advisor, enabling you to optimize your delivery model and choose technologies / solutions that best suit your business. The vendor needs to have a clear and accurate understanding of the specifics of your business, including your organizational culture, compliance needs and even departmental challenges.
Shared and Hybrid Service Models
If your service needs are not large and do not justify large-scale deployment of teams, your MSP should be able to provide you shared services options (e.g. shared support centre). This enables you to leverage volume benefits in terms of SLA driven service quality, wider coverage and 24 X 7 support, all at lower price points. You have the option of creating a hybrid service delivery model where some services are dedicated and some are shared.
Often, the choice of MSP boils down to addressing IT challenges and pain points that organizations need to handle on day-to-day basis. While this is important, it is also necessary to make a clear distinction between mission critical systems and peripheral applications, and create a different set of service expectations from the MSP. Companies that follow these guidelines have a higher chance of forming strong synergies, enhancing collaboration and allowing IT teams to focus on core business challenges.