Every business has ambition. And for most, it will be to grow and expand services and perhaps challenge a competitor. But in order to make this a reality, especially to be more competitive, most businesses will need to be on the front line of digital innovation.
However, a growing hindrance for businesses, especially SMEs, is a lack of understanding of the innovation that is available to them, or that is relevant and applicable to their business – or how to ensure their IT strategy and underlying infrastructure can accommodate it. This naivety is a remarkably common occurrence. So much so, that realising that ambitions cannot be achieved due to outdated IT is a key driver for organizations to outsource their IT environment to an IT managed services provider.
As many SMEs have discovered to their expense, any IT service provider can claim to be capable of supporting you on a strategic level. Therefore, how does a business owner identify the ones that will really deliver strategic value, and filter out the ones that will not?
The secret is knowing what are the component pieces of strategic IT service delivery.
This is the area of greatest frustration for businesses who have specifically outsourced their IT to a provider whom they believed was able to support them strategically. However, what the provider thought was required was to take a pre-agreed strategy and implement it. This is simply a tactical deployment service, frustrating business leaders who rightly feel that having to give strategic direction to the IT managed service provider (MSP) goes against the point of hiring them in the first place. What the business actually wanted was someone to devise the strategy for them based on their objectives and capabilities.
A valuable service provider will be able to take your corporate strategy and identify how and where technology can help. This will include optimizing the resources you currently have and also recommending the introduction of new technologies, and perhaps even major changes such as a cloud migration.
But most importantly, they will maintain a sense of realism. Many corporate strategies can be supported by, for instance, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. However, your business culture, infrastructure or budgets may be too far removed from such a transformation. Strategic recommendations are only actually valuable if they are practicable.
Taking the above a step further, an IT service provider can deliver more value by making sure that the IT strategy and recommendations not only serve the current business objectives but also that they are flexible and robust enough to support the as-yet-undefined plans for the future.
As part of a strategic service, an MSP will be able to advise and ensure your business is protected by complying to best practices and policies. This requires a deep understanding of your business and how it operates and where its sensitivities are, and also what may be required in the context of its industry.
- Is the industry in which your company operates regulated, and how do these requirements need to be reflected in how you want your processes to be designed?
- What privacy laws apply to your business, by virtue of your key activities, your location, or that of your customers/employees?
- What level of immediacy do you need from your back-ups, and what might your regulator require?
- How do you want to govern or even restrict your workforce’s device and software use?
- What standards and certifications, such as ISO accreditations, are necessary for you to work with certain businesses or industries, and what do you need to do to protect these qualifications?
- How will you maintain regular and reliable patching processes?
- What service levels do you absolutely need to maintain within your network, and how do these trickle down to your vendors and partners?
An MSP that really is acting strategically with you will make recommendations on all of these, and more, document the final decisions and regularly review them with you to ensure your IT strategy is keeping pace with your company’s progress.
This is a crucial part of strategic IT service delivery. SMEs often don’t have enough knowledge in technology options and capabilities, the different possible approaches or where cost efficiencies truly come from to be able to create a budget to match their strategy. We find many SMEs will underappreciate cost efficiencies and over-budget, or under-budget by not including the small details like warranty renewals.
There’s plenty of value to be gained from an MSP that can deliver strategically – not only will you be closer to meeting your corporate ambitions, but you will also be prepared for the future, protected from regulators and be able to trust your budgets.
But beyond even this, there is so much more to be gained from working with the right managed service provider. We examined our client base and discovered 101 potential benefits. Take a look at the list and identify the ones that are important to you so you can find the service provider that best meets your needs.