Saturday, 01 June 2013 08:34

Managed IT services that deliver ROI

Over the past few 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 companies without 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 or user/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 managed IT services.

How do businesses benefit from managed services?

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 its own processes around these tools, the ‘human error’ factor of manual maintenance goes away.

With all of the benefits to managed services, if a company looks at it as its only answer to IT services, it is doing itself 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 should not be viewed as commodity services since, if delivered correctly, they 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.’ 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. It is this face-to-face interaction that leads to new efficiencies being discovered, and people at the company ultimately being more productive.

If services are delivered 100 percent remotely, the chances are slim that a person will pick up the phone and call a relative stranger to ask about the best way to do something.

How can executives be sure they derive value from managed services?

They need to see the value in IT and its effectiveness as a bottom line tool. 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. In short, when consuming IT services, make sure that you are as equally engaged as your service provider.

Make sure that you see past the commoditized services being sold to you, and that you ask your IT company to do more and to prove its real value. Assuming you are paired up with the right organization, they will 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 the 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

Published in Los Angeles

Managed services are increasing in popularity, as more companies outsource their computer network management.

“A properly structured managed services program can provide the benefits of reducing your IT costs and reducing your risks of hardware failure while standardizing IT management through streamlined efficiency, often all at lower costs than the company could manage by doing it in-house,” says Eric Folkman, manager of the Managed Services Division at Blue Technologies.

This has been especially advantageous for companies that either don’t have in-house IT talent or the capacity to manage their networks. Even with the improving economy, Folkman says many small and mid-sized businesses have not replaced the IT staff they once had on the payroll, so managed service providers (MSP) can fill that gap easily and cost effectively.

Smart Business spoke with Folkman about how a company can effectively use a MSP to cut IT costs and improve service.

What are managed service providers and how has cloud storage impacted this field?

In most cases, MSPs are value-added providers that remotely monitor and manage computer networks, which include servers, workstations, Internet usage, anti-virus, data backup and other infrastructure components. The remote access can also incorporate help desk functions as well. By providing expert assistance, MSPs deliver a significant amount of IT functionality at a lower cost.

Cloud computing already has had a dramatic impact on IT and is starting to have some impact on MSPs. Depending on what the business is looking for, MSPs can offer cloud storage or facilitate storage with a cloud service provider like Amazon or Google. Cloud storage also can be an important tool for disaster recovery. It’s a good place to store your backup files so at least you have data off-site.

How can business owners decide which service(s) to outsource? 

Some companies instinctively know what services they need to keep, but many don’t; they may have a hunch that they could be doing something better but they don’t know anything beyond that.

The MSP will ask pointed, direct questions designed to ascertain what services are of value. Expert MSPs take the core services and modularize them to put them into different packages and separate tiers, as an effort to match the bulk of a client’s needs. Then it can be customized further to get the perfect fit, as necessary.

Some companies just want monitoring, with the MSP calling or texting if there’s a problem. However, most employers who are going down this path will say, ‘It would be nice to know if there’s a problem but we don’t have the skills to deal with it.’ Therefore, the MSP should not only identify the problem but also fix it, even though that company may have the capacity to do so. A business might continue to handle, on its own, an existing backup mechanism.

If a firm is not an IT firm but has to do IT functions, does it really make sense to devote employees to these tasks? If it’s a non-core competency, you should seriously look at outsourcing these non-core competencies as a way to reduce costs and let the experts handle things.

How should companies deal with pushback from their internal IT staff?

An IT person’s first thought might be, ‘Hey that’s my job, and if someone comes in to help me I’m not doing my job right.’ There is a degree of that, but managed service providers are not out to get anyone fired. They come to help and are hopefully viewed as a friend and resource to count on.

From an IT perspective, networking computer management is not that exciting. It’s one of those necessary evils, and very frequently the smaller, internal team doesn’t have the capacity to deal with computer management — doing the patching, the anti-virus and updates. In fact, for a lot of smaller companies, there may not be a dedicated IT resource at all. Sometimes the president, CFO or the controller manage all the technology in addition to his or her full-time job.

What are some best practices when moving into managed services?

Talk to whoever is providing IT support for your company and ask very direct questions related to the costs to maintain the workstations, software revisions, server status or network status, etc. Generally, a business owner will know if there are frequent outages or problems with the network or viruses, but the owner really needs to get answers from the IT people and get it with proof. For example, a report that shows the system is fully patched or one that shows the anti-virus is up to date.

Secondly, determine the cost of maintaining your equipment. Rough estimates are generally good enough, but factor in labor costs, including salary and benefits, technology costs, contract costs, etc. Then, compare these costs against what an MSP will charge you. Look at your written proof to see if you’re in good shape or if you need a more cost-effective expert.

Finally, execute a document with your MSP called a service level agreement. This agreement spells out, in full detail, exactly how things are going to go. It’s the responsibility of both parties to negotiate and fully understand the terms before they get started. Then you know the full extent of the services and how they will be delivered, because the last thing you want is a surprise when you need somebody.

Eric Folkman is manager of the Managed Services Division at Blue Technologies. Reach him at (216) 271-4800, ext. 2249, or efolkman@BTOhio.com.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies

Published in Akron/Canton
Saturday, 31 March 2012 21:01

Managed IT services that deliver ROI

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

Published in Los Angeles