Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, managed IT services has helped businesses fill talent and resource gaps
For managed IT services providers, the initial weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic were an ‘all hands on deck’ situation. Support teams faced an onslaught of anxious calls and support tickets around the clock. Ultimately, providers have helped clients adapt to an unprecedented business disruption and quickly transition to remote work environments on a sustained basis.
Thankfully, by now the initial rush has tapered off, and today the workflow has returned to less urgent levels. As businesses move from reacting to the pandemic to focusing on building operational resilience, having a proactive and consistent technology strategy in place is an important component. Smart choices in how your organisation delivers technology services can have a dramatic impact in improving the reliability and efficiency of business processes.
When should a company opt for managed services?
In normal times, middle market businesses may look to outsource certain job functions because their ability to meet the growing needs for a specific department is hindered by a dearth of available skills. For others, there is simply not enough money in the budget to hire the people needed to cover all the bases.
The COVID-19 crisis has also amplified these issues. With a global economic downturn, many organisations have faced the difficult decision to furlough staff, leaving many departments with glaring talent and resource needs. We have helped middle market businesses address these challenges by delivering some or all of the services previously provided by the IT department, freeing management to focus on their core business.
Of course, the need for managed services is not always related to budget shortfalls or global pandemics. Sometimes it is simply due to turnover or the lack of available talent. How does a company replace key IT staff, in particular someone who has been there for a significant amount of time?
For example, some IT professionals may realise that because of limited financial resources, their current employer is not providing them access to cutting-edge technologies or training which they feel will advance their career down the road. So, they leave and find work elsewhere. A good managed services provider will not only step in and fill the operational gaps left behind by the departing staff, they often enhance the IT organisation, bringing additional strategic IT advice and technical experience.
The advantages of scalable offerings can make life easier for many businesses
As a global business with multi-disciplined offerings delivering to clients across a wide variety of sectors, we have tremendous insight into what the core IT needs are for businesses. Based on those learnings, we develop customised managed services solutions for key areas where our clients lack the support they need.
This flexible approach to delivering managed IT services comes in two models:
- Fully-managed: This offering is designed for those companies that have limited IT resources or none at all. We take a variety of products and services and package them all together for a comprehensive solution. For all intents and purposes, we essentially become an outsourced IT department for the business.
- Co-managed: This solution is best when a business does have some internal IT people—perhaps a chief information officer (CIO) or on-site engineers. The business may want to free these internal people to focus more of their energy and time on the vision and the future of the team, and hand most of the day-to-day blocking and tackling duties over to a managed services provider.
The success of managed IT services points to a truth about managed services as a whole—middle market businesses want flexibility and scalability. They need a provider who can plug the gaps, and whose offering can be tailored for their business at any point in its life cycle.
Managed services can help businesses avoid over-scoping their IT
Currently, the idea of digital transformation seems to be on everyone’s mind. Many businesses have seen glaring innovation gaps within their own digital infrastructure and are in a rush to catch up to the competition. The danger here is that companies that lack expertise may end up with more IT than they need.
This is an ideal situation in which to bring in an outside adviser who has broader experience in dealing with IT solutions. We help organisations establish where they can get the most value for their money—for instance, identifying which emerging technologies make the most sense for them to invest in, rather than just a cool new toy that may not align with business needs.
We can also alleviate the immediate fears about security within a business. The COVID-19 lockdown has meant that there are a lot of cyber criminals looking for an opportunities to wreak havoc. The amount of talent a business would have to hire to address their security needs in the new normal could be cost-prohibitive to many businesses. The mid-market solutions we have developed from a security position help provide advanced protection above and beyond where most businesses could be on their own.
Catalysing the digital transformation process
The whole notion of digital transformation means something different for every organisation. Success depends on where they are in their life cycle from a technology point of view. For example, an organisation may have a CIO who is a visionary and a strategic thinker, but who lacks the leadership experience to enact much change from their in-house resources (or even keep up with the day-to-day). In this case, a co-managed services model could be ideal, providing supplemental management experience and direction for the department.
On the flipside, a fully managed services model can enable us, as advisers, to act as their de-facto IT department. We start with a full assessment process, and onboard the people within the business to empower them before developing a technology road map to guide the path forward. The level of service means we are driving their overall digital strategy, which can be an attractive scenario for a fast-paced business that is looking to accelerate its growth.
In terms of costs, managed services are predictable
With any outsourced service relationship, the scope of work and service levels are clearly defined. This provides predictability, which is rare for technology investments.
Of course, there will always be projects that demand a little extra budget, but for the most part, the work is predictable and scalable. As a company expands and contracts—for example, through acquisition, divesture or carve out—managed services can adapt along with it. Even if a business is adding people along the way, managed services can provide flexibility to account for that give and take.
During the COVID-19 crisis, many of the organisations we have helped have encountered operational challenges, and some have scaled back to minimal staffing. However, as their managed services provider, we have been able to take care of IT operations so they can focus on getting back on their feet.
Managed services will play a big part in finding a new normal
It is fair to say that the COVID-19 crisis has reset the way that middle market businesses are managed. While we cannot be certain what the next year holds, as some business contracts, we will likely see a proliferation of managed services in the future.
Managed services can empower businesses to be more agile and predictive, rather than responsive and reactive. When you do not have to worry about unplanned downtime, it frees you up to build strategies and future-proof the business. Along with other critical lessons, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that focusing on tomorrow is just as important as focusing on today.