IT Managed Services is a term that initially evolved from a concept to decentralize a variety of IT services to improve operations and cut costs.
It originated when enterprise organizations saw that outsourcing most of their IT needs allowed them to cut costs, be more efficient, and adopt new technologies quicker.
Because of its positive impact, IT Managed Service solutions quickly made their way to the private sector.
With this new demand, came the development of countless Managed IT Services Providers (MSPs).
As with most industries, when the demand for this service rose, so did companies who claimed to offer something they weren’t capable of.
That’s why a significant portion of this article educates on what look for when searching for an MSP. This article provides you with everything you need to know about Managed IT Services today, including:
- What you need to know about the History of Managed Services
- What is Managed IT Services
- TSP VS MSP
- What to look for in a TSP that offers MSP
What You Need to Know About the History of Managed Services
With the way technology evolved the past two decades, it hasn’t been efficient to have a centralized IT service model unless you’re a holding company with many different locations under your HQ.
This is why Managed Services evolved so quickly in the past two decades. Rather than having centralized IT services, companies started outsourcing to IT companies (like Mindcore) who were primarily working as reactive break-fix shops, with hourly billing, IT staffing, and providing any IT services needed.
The model for most early MSPs was utterly reactive. Reacting to IT problem, after problem, after IT problem…
The reason MSPs had to work so reactively, was because there weren’t tools available on the market that enabled them to put systems and processes in place to work proactively rather than reactively.
At the time, clients of MSPs only heard from them when there was a problem to react to, making it difficult for Managed Service Providers to have positive relationships with their clients.
Over time, software solutions like ConnectWise and Kaseya were developed specifically for IT companies.
With these solutions, IT organizations were then enabled to truly manage IT services and deliver proactive solutions rather than reacting to problems all the time.
Progressive MSPs were able to make the switch from break-fix shops to true Technology Service Providers, but most MSPs were not able to evolve and still presently function in the old reactive way.
These MSPs who did not evolve with the changes, still simply buy a set of tools, put them on systems, react to problems, and yet call themselves MSPs.
What they lack is the rest of the Technology Service Provider’s (TSPs) mindset. TSPs know it isn’t just about putting tools on systems, it’s about being a true partner to an organization and serving their growth.
So now let’s talk about what Managed IT Services really is, and what you should expect from the service.
What is Managed IT Services
Managed IT services is a methodology. It’s a way of delivering a proactive technology service where a company has their servers, their network, their computers, their mobile devices, all being monitored for issues and managed proactively. True MSPs ensure that all security patches, updates, firmware, et cetera, are fully updated, very secure, and any problems that arise on those systems get proactively addressed before they create a more significant issue.
All of that information feeds into outsourced management and monitoring tools. On the receiving end, the people who are monitoring those tools should have processes, workflows, people, and systems that enable the information to get prioritized, categorized, responded to, and for any issues to get addressed as quickly as possible.
This is where true MSPs become differentiated from IT companies who are merely supplying tools to businesses. The end users can feel the difference by either having a positive experience or having a consistently negative experience with their IT provider.
At Mindcore, we saw so many IT companies that weren’t genuinely providing a Managed Service, that we stopped using the word Managed Service Provider. So many companies out there were/are throwing a set of tools on a client’s systems without the internal processes in place to service a customer effectively. Meaning, they don’t have a reliable operation running that takes given information, analyzes it, and makes proactive decisions based on the information provided.
When inadequate systems are in place, the customer feels this by getting slow response times, having the same repeated issues, experiencing security issues, noticing a lack of proper updates or their computers and servers start running slowly and sometimes failing.
What we’ve seen/see here is that companies experiencing these issues turn around and say, “I don’t want an MSP because I’ve experienced too many issues working with one.” We’ve seen that happen so many times, that two years ago we stopped using the term MSP.
IT service re-sellers masking as MSPs is a very real issue companies face. Though the MSP model is advantageous when working with the right provider.
It’s not the tools companies provide that make outsourcing your IT a useful option; the power lies in the way the tools are used.
The real power in choosing an MSP solution is felt when you work with a provider who knows how to make the technology tools work adequately while considering your unique business needs and future goals.
The way we look at Managed Services is as a set of tools put into a methodology, and that a client’s experience is dependent on whether that methodology is built on the provider’s solid foundation of business experience and project management.
With our Managed Services Solution, we first collectively look at the broader picture of a client’s business, what they presently need, as well as what they need to reach their goals. We then consider what managed IT services tools to recommend. With the recommendation, we also share how we’ll measure the impact these tools will make on the business, and we explain how the impact of the tools will be tracked, measured, and reviewed.
As you can see, the real value of choosing an MSP solution lies at a higher level than a provider who can give you tools, and is there if the tools break.
Unfortunately, business leaders usually lack awareness, knowledge, and the information they need to ask the right questions to discover if they’re dealing with a true MSP solution or an MSP who is simply reselling and fixing tools. And it’s no fault of the client. That’s where the role of a VCIO / CIO comes in. It’s why every company needs either a VCIO or a CIO with a solid understanding of technology and what services they need.
What we’ll do in the remainder of this post, is provide you with everything you need so you can qualify whether you’re speaking with a company that offers a real MSP solution or not.
TSP VS MSP
As stated, most MSPs are very limited in what they can deliver because they’re focused on using tools to solve a problem reactively. Because they’re tool focused, their goal is to get as many clients as they can to deliver more tools. It’s a volume mindset for them.
A TSP is a full-service technology partner who focuses on strategic planning, understanding business requirements, and delivering IT solutions and recommendations based on the understanding of the client’s business.
They have systems, processes, and workflows in place to ensure:
- Superior customer service levels are maintained and are measured and reportable.
- Projects are completed on time and within budget.
- Communications effective, frequent, and comprehensive.
- An ability to understand the clients business, and business needs
- Quoting process is efficient
- They’re shopping for the best possible deals at all times.
- Dedicated account managers are communicating all updates efficiently
- Meaningful reports are provided
- All reports enable decision-makers to make effective choices
When shopping for a provider, you should vet the TSP’s level of experience with every point mentioned above. You can do this by speaking to references or requesting that the TSP show you examples of successful project plans.
What to look for in a TSP who offers a Managed Services Solution
A Technology Service Provider (TSP) will offer a well-rounded view of possibilities for your technology landscape.
Even though TSPs can offer you more value than MSPs, it’s still important to have an awareness of what to look out for when searching for a TSP that offers a Managed Services Solution.
Keep the below points in mind when shopping for a provider:
It’s worth looking into the background of the people you’re considering understanding the depth of their business experience. They should have a breadth of business experience as well as proven project management experience.
As stated in the section above, you can vet this by calling references and asking how many transformative solutions that provider has offered their business. You can also ask the provider to show you project plans they’ve created for similar clients.
Check their internal processes
Make sure to check that the provider’s internal processes are optimized. The provider should clearly communicate that their processes are deeply based on commitment, discipline, and focus.
If you come across a company that can’t show you how process-driven and efficient their own company is, know that they won’t understand how to offer you the tools you need to keep your business running effectively.
One of the advantages of working with a TSP that runs well is that they can overlay their processes into their client’s business. It doesn’t matter what business it is, because their expertise enables them to make recommendations and have an impact in any business environment.
Make sure they offer metrics
A solid TSP will deliver reports full of meaningful metrics so that the client can match their investment to a return.
So, rather than seeing TSPs as a line item or budget, you’ll have a much broader view of the impact of your investment in technology. You’ll be enabled to match it up with how it helps the business be successful. TSPs that offer MSP solutions can do that for you while most MSPs cannot.
What to keep in mind
A disadvantage of working with a TSP can happen when you approach the partnership from the limited thinking that they’re only there to FIX your already existing IT problems. And yes, a TSP will fix problems, but as we’ve discussed, they can offer significant value if you’re open to it.
If you approach the relationship with your TSP correctly, you will benefit from the advantage of having a TSP that will fix problems before they happen. The TSP does this through their ability to really understand their client’s business and goals, and then strategically aligning their client with the right technology solutions.
The right TSP will recommend solutions in a way that is easy to understand so that decision-makers can take that information, weigh the pros and cons, and then make a decision that’s best for their business.
At the end of the day, a solid Technology Service Provider should be able to come in and supplement any area of your business that might benefit from the tools and guidance they -offer.