If you’re struggling in your business and have looked everywhere for the root of the problem but can’t find it, the answer that you’re looking for may be where you least expect it – in your IT department. Problems with IT affect all aspects of your business and that’s why more and more business leaders are looking to manage IT services to turn IT into a function that doesn’t just support operations but fuels their growth.
Whether you’re already outsourcing IT services, have a small internal team, or a few people “good with technology” taking care of things, there are similar themes that run through the stories of organizations that are struggling with IT. At the top of the list are concerned about security, IT problems that never get solved, and an inability to take advantage of new technology.
As if that were not enough, there’s a ripple effect that creates an undercurrent of frustration and stress that threatens customer and employee satisfaction when IT isn’t running smoothly. And what about the surprise bills that come in every month for things you didn’t know you needed or problems you thought were already fixed?
It’s time to stop struggling and get IT rolling with managed IT services. In this article, we’re going to walk you through the reasons why managed IT services are the solution you’ve been looking for, and how to choose the right provider so that the results of your partnership meet your expectations.
It’s time to stop struggling and get IT rolling with managed IT services. In this article we’re going to walk you through the reasons why managed IT services is the solution you’ve been looking for, and how to choose the right provider so that the results of your partnership meet your expectations.
You can’t get the results you want from IT unless you have the right approach to IT. What do we mean by approach?
What you’re most likely experiencing right now is a dependence on a reactive approach to IT. That is, IT doesn’t act until there’s a trigger. A trigger could be anything from a support request by an employee to a server crash. It could be a cyber-attack or the sudden realization that all of your software licenses have expired.
Relying on reactive IT means that you have a lot of surprises. Surprises are good if it’s your birthday, but not so good when it means that operations are down for hours, days or even weeks.
Even if your systems don’t go down, there are other signs that your approach to IT is failing you.
- You’re paying for IT support by the hour.
- Hardware failures are common.
- You feel like you’ve outgrown your IT company.
- You never get around to planning ahead.
- Your IT systems are unpredictable.
- You’ve had a cyber-attack.
The bottom line is that a faulty approach to IT means that you end up spending energy and resources that don’t get you anywhere because IT isn’t serving your business.
So if your approach to IT isn’t serving your business, what kind of approach are you looking for? The answer is one that is both proactive and reactive, and unless you’re an enterprise-level company you’re probably going to have to look to outsourcing to get it and that’s where managed IT services come in.
Managed IT services is an approach to technology management that includes both proactive and reactive activities that are focused on creating reliable, secure technology that enables business operations and sparks innovation. Services are delivered for a flat monthly fee by an experienced team of technology professionals who bring you all the IT specialties needed to run your business, including expert IT guidance to help you plan and budget for the future.
Having shared goals with your managed service provider (MSP) is key to a successful relationship with the MSP that you choose, and it’s what separates true managed IT service companies from those that are just using the term to describe a hodge-podge of services and calling them “managed.”
You can better understand this difference if you consider how an MSP is supposed to guide you along your business journey. Here’s what that looks like:
Managed IT services should enable your business goals.
They work with you to improve business operations, manage cyber risks, and help you identify ways to leverage new technology.
IT strategy creates a path for improvement.
It takes planning and proactive IT management to take you from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow.
Technology experience matters.
Wherever you are in your IT improvement journey, the interactions that your employees and customers have with technology makes a difference that translates into satisfaction and retention.
If becoming proactive and strategic with IT is the solution to your IT (and business) woes, you might be wondering if you could get the same results from internal IT. That’s a good question and we can ponder it by thinking about what you can get from each arrangement.
Some of the pluses of keeping your internal IT team are that these people are already knowledgeable about your business and have relationships with your employees. If everyone is in an office together, they can be just footsteps away when anyone needs help.
On the downside, when you have an internal IT team, staff turnover can put you in an extreme IT support deficit. Along with that, you also need to be an expert at recruiting, hiring and training IT talent.
Additionally, a small IT team has limits to their knowledge and bandwidth, and they may not have the leadership qualities or expertise needed to guide IT strategy.
If you can get past the notion that all of your IT staff need to be onsite all the time, then you can start to see how managed IT services can give you many benefits that you can’t get with a small internal team like:
- Access to every IT specialty
- Alignment of job roles with personalities
- Better management of cyber risks
- Just right capacity
- Fast response time
- Knowledge redundancy and documentation
- IT guidance
While going all-in with managed IT services will take IT management totally off your plate, sometimes it makes sense to augment your internal team with partial managed IT.
A co-managed arrangement can even be a good transition to fully managed IT, especially if you think you may have some turnover in the future with your internal team. In fact, some companies look at managed IT as not only the solution to their IT problems, but the best way to overcome their IT staffing challenges.
The direction that you go with outsourcing IT depends in large part on the capabilities of your internal team, and how much of the IT burden you want them to carry. There are generally four arrangements for managed IT services that you can consider.
All-Inclusive Managed IT Services – all IT and cybersecurity management are outsourced.
Co-managed IT Services for Infrastructure – management and maintenance of your overall network is outsourced.
Co-Managed IT Services for Service Desk – Help Desk services for employees is outsourced.
Co-Managed Cybersecurity Services – Cybersecurity management and monitoring is outsourced.
Whatever arrangement you choose, your shared goal with the managed IT provider should be to improve the IT function of your business. Furthermore, partnering with a managed IT service company should lead to better business outcomes including enhancing your competitive advantage.
Think of IT like a race car. The car itself is built for high performance, but the real glory comes when a driver uses it to win the race.
The way you build your technology to win the race is with IT strategy and the guidance of a virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO). When you work with a managed IT service company, you should have access to a vCIO who will meet with you on a regular basis to learn about your business and connect your business goals and challenges with technology solutions.
When you have ongoing strategic guidance about IT you can:
- Make confident decisions about technology investments.
- Create high functioning IT systems that improve business operations.
- Effectively manage cyber risks.
- Improve employee satisfaction and retention.
- Improve the way you deliver your products and services.
When it comes to choosing a managed IT service provider, you definitely want to include a discussion about business outcomes in your conversations. In fact, if the provider doesn’t talk about outcomes, but just wants to talk about their cool technology, that’s a red flag.
That doesn’t mean that you won’t talk about technology at all, but the tech talk should be framed around outcomes like – managing cyber risk, enabling your employees, and serving your customers better.
Ask questions that will help you build expectations for what it’s going to be like working together. These are questions like:
- What’s your approach to managed IT services?
- Tell me about the different IT roles that are included in your staff.
- What kind of response time can we expect?
- What’s your approach to cybersecurity?
- What will our ongoing relationship look like?
Learning about the company’s approach to IT and cybersecurity management are probably the most important areas that you want to dig into. Keep in mind that you’ll have a role to play even if you’re going the all-inclusive route.
You should be prepared to invest in IT improvements in order to create a solid technology foundation. That’s actually a goal that you and the managed IT services provider will share. You should also be ready to commit to keeping your hardware and software updated. This not only contributes to smooth running technology but is an important cybersecurity tactic.
Having a monthly fee and making a commitment to invest in your technology may mean that you’ll have to allocate more resources to IT, but it may also mean that you’re spending less. It definitely means that you’re spending wiser.
IT improvements will be identified and planned through the IT strategy process. You’re probably wondering what to expect for the flat fee.
A ballpark price range for managed IT services is between $75 and $250 per user per month.
The wide range is due to whether or not you’re going the all-inclusive or co-managed route, and exactly what’s included and not included in the monthly fee. Here are a few things to look for when you’re evaluating a managed IT service contract.
- Is unlimited help desk support included? How about escalated support?
- What kind of proactive IT management tasks will you be doing on a regular basis?
- Can you support all of our business applications and web apps?
- Is data backup included in the monthly fee?
- Is baseline cybersecurity enough?
- Are the services of a vCIO included?
It’s just as important to understand what’s not included in your flat monthly fee. Don’t expect a managed IT service provider to pick up the tab for any network improvements or new hardware. You also need to continue to cover the cost for software, licensing and third-party fees for services like voice communications and internet.
There’s a lot that the provider has to do to get services up and running so you should also expect a separate onboarding fee.
Change is hard for some people and some level of disruption is inevitable when you’re transitioning to a new managed IT service provider. The overall experience that you have will depend on the company’s onboarding process.
The most important contributor to a smooth transition is open communication. The provider is going to ask for lots of information about your IT systems and users that they’ll be supporting. You’ll need a point of contact on your end to facilitate all of that information gathering.
If you’re already working with an IT support company and you’re still on friendly terms with them, they should be able to get you what you need – if it exists. It’s possible that your network doesn’t have all the formal documentation that’s needed to learn about your IT systems. The new provider will be happy to receive whatever you can give them.
Keep in mind that during your transition is that there may be issues that need immediate attention and will incur costs. These could be things related to security like out-of-support hardware and software and other dangerous security vulnerabilities, or they could be measures that are needed to make your network supportable.
Make sure that you let employees know what’s happening and make sure they know how to contact support on day one of the new services.
As mentioned previously in this article, being strategic with IT is the way to get the most value from your technology, but what does that look like in practical terms?
For many companies, the first step is to apply IT best practices and set up an appropriate cybersecurity baseline. Oftentimes, best practices were neglected because the previous IT team didn’t have time to get to them, or they didn’t know what to do. At the same time, security lagged and didn’t keep up with new threats as they evolved.
So expect the first destination on your IT roadmap to be building a solid technology foundation. As your technology goes from noisy to quiet, you might be tempted to think that the need for managed IT services is decreased but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s because of managed IT that you’re able to mature your network and getting everything running smoothly.
Once you have that foundation laid, you’re poised to innovate. When you’ve previously never been in a position to successfully adopt new technology or utilize technology in ways that optimize business operations, you’ll find that this is when you can use technology as a competitive advantage.
Here at Bellwether, we partner with organizations in the New Orleans region to bring them all of the benefits and advantages that managed IT services can offer. Our team is 100% US-based and most of us live and work in the New Orleans area.
We’d like to help you explore what true managed IT services can do for your business. Get in touch to schedule a meeting.