Over the last several years, the term “managed services” has become more prevalent in the IT services community. It’s how many companies these days are consuming IT services, especially those companies who don’t have the need or the budget for a full-time IT department. In its most basic sense, managed service delivery is the utilization of remote tools in which an IT service company can remotely manage and support a client’s IT environment.
These tools allow the remote monitoring, patching, upgrading and support of a client’s servers, workstations, and network devices. These services are usually priced on a “per device/per month” model, with the idea that a network can be maintained for a “fixed fee” per month.
“There are distinct advantages to this IT service delivery model, both to the IT company as well as to the client,” says Zack Schuler, founder and CEO of Cal Net Technology Group. “First, from the IT company’s perspective, they can automate most of the routine tasks that are associated with maintaining a computing environment. These remote management tools have many automated processes that can be turned on, thus saving the IT company time and money.”
Smart Business spoke to Schuler about how to get the most from using managed services for IT.
How do businesses benefit from managed services?
From the client’s perspective, there are advantages as well. First, this service delivery model helps clients manage their IT 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. Next, if the IT company has perfected their own processes around these tools, the ‘human error’ factor of manual maintenance goes away. For both parties, the benefits of automating what can be automated can be realized.
With all of the benefits to managed services, if a company looks at it as their only answer to IT services, they are doing themselves a huge disservice. While managed services might be the answer to basic maintenance of the system, it neglects helping companies to truly drive value out of their IT resources. Managed services, when pitched as the solution, put consumers in a highly commoditized mindset. IT services as a whole should not be viewed as commodity services, since these services, if delivered correctly, can add serious bottom line advantages to the business.
How can businesses ensure these services are effective?
A less known term in the industry is ‘blended services.’ This term is less known because I made it up myself within the last year. 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 on-site consulting time. The face-to-face interaction that occurs during this time is invaluable to the business. 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. Internally, we use the term ‘walk-by.’ This is when a consultant from our firm is on-site and is walking by an employee of the company and they are stopped in their tracks to answer what are sometimes very important questions. It is this face-to-face interaction that leads to new efficiencies being discovered, and people at the company ultimately being more productive at their job.
If services are delivered 100 percent remotely, the chances of a person picking up the phone, and calling a relative stranger on the other end of the line to ask about the best way to do something, is slim. Those phone calls are rarely received. It takes face-to-face time and a relationship that’s been developed for people to really be able to work well together, and for the partnership to be just that — a partnership.
How can executives be sure they derive value from managed services?
All of this also takes some commitment from the management of the business. They need to see the value in IT and it’s effectiveness as a bottom line tool. Far too many executives at companies 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. Luckily as time goes on, this is happening less and less, as IT is being taken more seriously every year. In short, when consuming IT services, make sure that you are as equally engaged as your service provider.
My advice is to make sure that you see past the commoditized services that are being sold to you, and that you ask your IT company to do more and to prove their real value to you. Assuming you are paired up with the right organization, they will be able to help you take your company to the next level. This might cost more in the very short run, but in the not too distant future, the ROI will be there.
Zack Schuler is founder and CEO of Cal Net Technology Group. Reach him at ZSchuler@CalNetTech.com.
Insights Technology is brought to you by Cal Net Technology Group