Having designed, built and run many managed services in my career, I wanted to share some thoughts on several key elements that can help make managed services successful and beneficial to both the client and the service provider.
If you’ve any thoughts or other items to add, I’d love to hear them.
1. Added Value
A managed service is there to add value to the business it serves. Whilst it might have been constructed to perhaps outsource a function, reduce cost, or avoid bringing in specialist skills, a managed service should not just be about meeting the contractual terms or service targets – though, of course, it should do those things.
Rather it should bring value to the client’s business, driving efficiencies, providing new and different perspectives, offering technical or specialist thought leadership and innovation.
Ultimately a managed service should allow a business to tap into a wider and deeper pool of capability, experience and expertise they can’t build and maintain themselves, and draw on industry and client insights a single organisation wouldn’t have.
Managed services should be complementary to those an organisation can deliver themselves. There shouldn’t be areas of overlap or competition with the client’s functions.
It is better that an MSP (Managed Service Provider) is the friend of the CIO, not a stalking horse waiting to undermine client teams to win more business for themselves. This has been the historical approach of some MSPs, and it’s a short-term play that can’t oft be repeated. Much more suitable (and successful) is working in partnership as an extended member of the organisation, complementing their teams, and helping them be successful.
When a good managed service provider knows their client’s business well, they have the opportunity to work in partnership and become a trusted advisor.
That trust must be earned and never abused. This is not about finding revenue generating opportunities (though those may come) but rather about drawing on expertise, good practice, and what they see in the market and with other customers, to offer insights and support to their client.
It is on this type of relationship that a strong, long term partnership can be built to the benefit of both parties. The client gains an advantage through insights, support and guidance they wouldn’t otherwise have access to, and – when the circumstances are right – the managed service provider gains incremental business where they are the right partner to deliver.
4. ‘Say – Do’
Service should always be excellent, meeting the agreed targets. This should go without saying. Defined services with service quality measures (SLAs) are what’s being paid for.
Likewise, promises should be kept. Both MSPs and clients have the responsibility to keep the promises made, whether on commitments to deliver service or provide business opportunities.
So, if you’re the managed service provider, deliver what you’ve contracted, only make promises you can keep and keep the promises you make. Don’t expect any prizes for doing so; this is simply the way you should operate.
As the customer you should expect receipt of the services you’ve bought to the quality agreed. And you should expect promises to be kept, giving you confidence to trust your partner with more. But, likewise, when making commitments for new opportunities, introductions elsewhere or reviews / recommendations, you also have a responsibility to keep honour these.
What you say should be what you do.
5. ‘Can Do’
Things will sometimes go wrong (technology can fail, and people will inevitably make mistakes). Business requirements will change. But it’s typically in these circumstances when the true measure of a provider, and the relationship with their client, can be seen. This is the ‘can do’ attitude.
Responding quickly, professionally and honestly to problems leads to the right outcomes and can deepen an existing relationship.
Leveraging the MSP’s broader and deeper capability to respond quickly to a customer’s urgent or changing needs, is one of the benefits they can bring and should be expected.
Get things right in these circumstances, and you’ll likely have a long and successful partnership.