Managed services have been available in Australia for some time, but this service has been slow to catch on. There are three main reasons this form of service isn’t as successful as it should be.
To most small and medium business and not for profit organisations, the ICT component of their business may as well be written in Swahili. Getting the computers to talk to the printer (correctly—without translating everything into Wingdings) takes skill and persistence, but in most cases the task falls to people who have limited knowledge. It becomes someone’s job by default because they have a little more knowledge than anyone else in the organisation.
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
Managers think this is a great solution—after all, it’s cheaper than hiring a top-of-the-line IT expert. In fact, a simple solution delivered by someone who knows what they are doing is normally cheaper and quicker than an on-site IT person, and more effective than handing over the task to a non-expert. It ensures that your IT problems get fixed right the first time, while freeing up your employees to do their actual jobs.
So why doesn’t business understand this? Most managed service providers are selling managed services as a way to monitor and manage your business infrastructure. They are very remiss in of explaining the total package to their clients. The thing that most organisations do not understand is that there is substantial savings in a managed services contract with a reputable provider.
Of course, some of the managed care services really are too expensive. Sometimes a managed services agreement contains hidden gotcha's— if you want a regular on-site visit, well, that’s extra. You want more reporting? That will cost a little extra, too. This is not the way to go. All on-site and offsite technical support, reporting, meetings and discussions should be a part of the original negotiations, and a flat monthly fee should be agreed on. This benefits both parties. I know, as an MSP, how much money I will have coming in and what resources I need to put in place to support your business; you know what to expect on your bill. Offering full service with no gotcha’s is the best way to attract customers to managed services.
A bad managed care service relies too much on technology. Okay, so you can’t have IT without technology, but you also can’t have a good IT service without…service. Too often the touchy-feely part of computer support is missing
We have been to businesses who have signed on for a service level agreement with another MSP and have never had a technician on site within 24 months. That’s bad. A managed services agreement should mean that you can talk to someone about any technical problem as soon as it happens—in real time, and in person if necessary. We’ve all seen how a little problem (the printers aren’t working; the server is down) can balloon into a full-blown episode because there is no one there to help. A voice at the end of the phone is no match for a technician on-site on a regular basis.
But putting out fires isn’t the only task for an IT service. Beyond having a regular technician there, there’s also a need a business conversation concerning technology and its changing role within a company. Is your security adequate? Do salespeople on the road have the devices they need to be productive? Should you switch to cloud storage, and if so, how much do you need? Small businesses need expert advice on these topics. This is an altogether different level of discussion than the one you have with your base technician. That’s why a virtual CIO or IT manager should be available.
The chance of getting shafted.
For every good MSP, there are 10 bad ones. Outsourcing your IT is only a good idea if you trust the people you’re hiring—after all, you’re putting your safety and productivity in their hands. This can put a large amount of pressure on the business. Questions like "are we getting the best support, do they know what they are doing, have they got the right qualifications?” are can nag at an SME with an outsourced ICT component. All too often, a business would rather stick with getting IT advice from tech magazines and letting Jan from accounting fix the printers. They’re not getting top-quality service, but they’re also not risking complete disaster—or so they think.
Again, this is the wrong mindset. Picking a good MSP takes an initial investment of time and effort to do the research and read the fine print. But once that’s done, it saves exponentially more time, freeing up employees to do their jobs and preventing productive hours from getting wasted on what should be minor IT annoyances.
Businesses should seek out top quality MSPs—those that provide personalized, full service with no hidden fees. If customers get savvy, this will encourage MSPs to offer and advertise great service. The good companies will rise to the top, and the bad ones will clean up their acts or wither away. Once this starts to happen, more SME’s will realize that they can’t afford not to hire an MSP.