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Can you benefit from the next generation of managed IT services?


Many mid-market companies are leveraging the power of managed services providers (MSP), as business growth often outpaces the capabilities of internal technology resources. In today's market, companies have several options for more cost-effective support for applications and platforms through outsourcing arrangements. However, MSP platforms have dramatically evolved recently, with additional strategic capabilities, and organizations must choose carefully to ensure they are getting the most value from investments.

Companies often utilize the same IT resources for years, but eventually require more depth of services as technology becomes more pervasive and demand increases. However, they do not necessarily need–or cannot afford–full-time resources for functions such as enterprise resource planning systems, desktop management or network administration. Therefore, outsourcing usually makes financial and strategic sense for the middle market to take advantage of additional skillsets, knowledge and staffing depth to cover any shortages.

The MSP market has undergone significant changes, with more benefits and services now available from next-generation providers. A decade ago, MSP toolsets had not evolved, and providers needed to be very creative and hands on when managing an environment. However, now, major packages exist that providers can subscribe to and implement within your company that can scale up or down with your technology needs through a common set of services.

A traditional provider typically offers a solution with a support desk that can escalate issues through the skillset with a minimal onsite component. A field aspect is typically included, providing onsite support if an issue requiring a physical interface occurs. Finally, a network operations center is used to monitor and evaluate your systems and take action if any failures or errors appear. This is where a traditional MSP's support stops; they are effective utilizing advanced toolsets that are available to everyone, but they do not apply these tools in a way that will progress the business.

However, next-generation MSPs go a few steps further with strategic IT guidance and industry knowledge, separating themselves from the majority of providers that offer the same options. Next-generation providers offer a more comprehensive and strategic technology solution, implementing a complete IT department with specific systems and processes that align with and support your business goals.

The main difference between first-generation and next-generation MSPs is the inclusion of a complete team to keep your company advancing with technology. Instead of being reactive to business needs, next-generation MSPs provide a system for moving your business forward. Most middle-market companies and traditional providers do not have the right resources in place to have these conversations about leveraging technology and increasing efficiency.

Next-generation providers also have business knowledge in addition to the necessary technical knowledge. This allows these MSPs to be more creative in implementing solutions to fit your specific needs, rather than just checking the boxes to make sure a solution is working. Progressive MSPs work with your company to build an overall strategy, and make sure technology applications align with that vision.  

It's not necessarily about supporting your applications and making sure they are working; it's more about supporting the company and making sure you are using the applications and processes to best fit how to operate as an organization.

Selecting an MSP is a commitment for both parties, and delivering necessary services does not ensure you will be happy with your provider. In addition to evaluating the depth of capabilities, you also cannot lose sight of the intangibles. Gaining a clear understanding of the entire program and more importantly, whether you can effectively work with your MSP. If there is a conflict in personality, you are already going down the wrong road.   

For example, you must understand the pricing model. Every MSP has a different pricing structure, and you could see large swings in pricing if numbers are not accurate in the bidding process. In addition, many MSPs offer a low monthly cost to cover your current environment, but fees may apply if a change to your environment is requested or required. After-hours support is also typically discussed in an engagement, but the details of that service could result in additional costs.

Other key considerations when choosing an MSP include:

  • The framework for how a provider protects your data
  • The MSP's service level and how they will handle issues
  • The provider's standards, their view of an ideal environment and the costs involved to get you there
  • The operating procedure for support processes
  • The potential exit strategy

The technology needs of middle-market companies are becoming more complex on a daily basis, and a traditional one-size-fits-all managed services solution may not be the best fit anymore. When selecting an MSP, you should not only evaluate the level of support a provider offers, but also whether you can benefit from a more inclusive platform.

At this point, every managed services provider should offer the same basic services. However, a more comprehensive, next-generation provider can bridge the gap between support and strategy, and help your company leverage technology for sustained success. Maintaining your environment is one thing–moving it forward is another.