How working in closer partnership with your Managed Service Provider can help you to align IT strategy to business priorities.

Managed Service Providers v Partners

Managed Service Providers v. Partners

The new way to align your business and IT strategies

IT as a Service is changing. It started with the Break and Fix model where a provider was paid to install hard and software then waited for the panic call from their customers when something went wrong. Managed Service Providers (MSP) take a more active approach, having negotiated with a customer a certain level of service, they guarantee to provide it.

This makes budgeting easier on both sides. The customer doesn’t have to pay extra for disaster recovery or forced upgrades, the MSP employs highly trained engineers, and uses state of the art monitoring, like Nagios to ensure that as far as possible disasters never happen.

Now the MSP is evolving again, into the MSP. This time the emphasis is on Partnership.

Providers or Partners?

When an organisation decides to stop trying to provide all IT services it needs in-house, the first step is to look for Providers to take over some of the work. Typically the IT Manager or CIO would define exactly which services were to be outsourced, then start negotiations around service levels and costs.

This doesn’t always lead to the optimum solution and an organisation could simply be shifting a less than ideal system onto someone else’s hardware and paying someone to look after it. Whereas a good MSP will always try to understand their customers’ business and make suggestions as to how the IT system could be improved, ultimately the relationship is still “customer – provider”.

The difficult economic conditions of the last few years have forced many organisations to reduce spending on IT to the bare minimum. Systems have been kept in service longer than they should have been and new developments shelved. Staff have been cut and training reduced. Meanwhile the technology has moved on and now organisations that need to improve their IT to meet new business opportunities may not be in a position to define what they need or even know what it is possible.

In other words, they don’t only need a provider, they need a partner.

The New MSP

Organisations need partnerships with MSPs that are able to devote time and expertise to fully understand the organisation’s business needs, and provide a flexible range of services that evolve as the organisation’s business develops.

A partnership SLA is designed to provide the best service for the customer now. It shouldn’t serve to tie the organisation into a particular stack of providers, services and software for the short-term benefit of the provider. Both partners benefit long term from flexible SLAs.

A Managed Service Partner works with the customer and is open about what they are doing and why. Best practice should encourage an MSP to develop a real understanding of the organisation’s business needs. Partnerships are much easier if both speak the same language, and MSPs will use methods such as agile and DevOps with standards such as ISO/IEC 27000 to ensure that they are aligning their provision with the business needs of their customer.

A true partner organisation will ensure you can access bleeding edge innovations. They should help you to understand how to use methodologies and technologies such as Cloud, DevOps and continuous integration to best effect, to meet your business challenges now and in the future.