Managed service providers come in all shapes and sizes. Some vendors will call themselves cloud providers, while others focus on outsourcing IT tasks like patch management and software configuration. Shifting some of the IT burden outside the organization is certainly an attractive option for many decision makers, but is it the right option for your organization?
What’s the Risk?
The first issues that often make organizations hesitant come from a security standpoint. Imagine the frustration for an organization that built safeguard upon safeguard for all its sensitive data only to be thwarted by vulnerabilities in their managed services. Considering that companies have invested in these options for everything from software development to network management, security lapses could disrupt multiple levels of the IT ecosystem.
The other fear comes from a lack of control. If a managed service provider is taking care of everything, how do you maintain oversight of these projects? Will costs spiral out of control?
That isn't to say that all MSPs will open your systems to cybercriminals. However, it's essential to come to the negotiation table with a clear idea of goals and expectations in mind. Smart Data Collective identified several strategies for successfully utilizing managed service providers. Although focused on software development, the following lessons can be applied to a myriad of other outsourced projects:
- Clearly define requirements with specific objectives for the project
- Communicate policies and compliance mandates
- Collaborate with the MSP in both planning and execution to maintain control
- Require complete documentation for changes made, strategies used, and solutions implemented
- Create a system for measuring results before and after adoption
And the Reward?
There are a few core reasons many companies turn to a managed service provider, but it often comes down to filling a gap in expertise. Businesses that lack competency in implementing new software, for example, may find it beneficial to work with a third party to facilitate implementation and management.
In other cases, existing IT teams may be working on so many projects that they don't have time to orchestrate new ones effectively. Management wants their IT professionals to work on projects that help advance their technology in doing business versus managing day-to-day operations. Adopting managed services allows companies to keep up to date without burying their own IT teams in work. A 2013 report from B2B integration services provider GXS identified several motivations that tend to drive managed B2B service adoption, including:
- Upgrading existing applications
- Gaining additional support to expand into new markets
- Reducing IT costs
The report may have been bias in expressing the actual value of managed services, but those motivations speak to the hearts of many IT and business leaders. Even so, it's essential to treat MSPs as any other technical investment. As a result, businesses considering MSPs should also account for the potential risks of adopting one and create a plan for how their potential technology partners may fit into an overall IT strategy.