‘Managed Services’ has been a buzzword for some time in the IT industry. Prompt them to define the term explicitly, and you’ll find otherwise. What is your managed services provider (MSP) responsibility?
As it turns out, if you can pull a definition out of your interview subject, the answer will vary widely. It depends on whom you’re asking. The client has one interpretation, the provider another. That is a disaster waiting to happen – differing meanings can be expected to result in differing expectations – the last thing either party wants!
When the client hires an MSP, the underlying reasoning will be something along the lines of “I’d like to outsource the management, support, and security of the various network, printer and computing assets” This means setting up the equipment in an optimal fashion, guarding against security threats and monitoring. They’ll plan to respond to outages in a planned and efficient manner. The provider will document your IT deployment, find holes, and plug them. The MSP is attending to this continually while applying lessons learned at one business and to their entire customer base as appropriate.
It is a reasonable expectation from the client. We are aligning with that goal.
However – in the minds of many providers, they’re going to “take over” the deployment management tasks for already-deployed gear. The initial setup is 9/10 times already complete. The client is then responsible for upgrades and deployments – in addition to the management fee. The vendor will require a change order, and you’ll get the bill. They will document for “new running state” so performance problems and other faulty behavior can be detected easily through automated remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools. Runbooks are generated to document triage and escalation paths. To manage ongoing updating, security, and monitoring of the devices, we utilize a professional services automation tool (PSA). The MSP will work with vendors to replace in-warranty hardware. All this under a Service Level Agreement (SLA) which proves adherence.
It seems evident that the client’s goal-oriented intention is very different from the operation of the vendor. Differing mindsets make reconciling this with a Statement of Work impossible.
Managed Services align business interests.
Consider an MSP that is managing a server at a business. The SoW may read that the managed services provider will ensure that the server remains available, specifying uptime targets and ensure the optimal configuration and operation of the server. Can we even define or measure ‘optimal’? Does that include the virtualization host that the application server runs on? What if the cloud vendor manages and controls it? If the provider performs work on this host, was it within the statement of work? The MSP determines it is not and sends a bill. The customer argues that they should not incur charges. Isn’t that a part of managing that server? No, not technically.
It’s not a new problem, either. The standard rendition will state that we need to understand each other’s perspective, build partnerships, communicate goals and contract, contract, contract. Of course, all these are excellent suggestions that should complement any business relationship.
While the internal systems of your managed it service provider are crucial for managing diverse and complex IT systems and ensuring service delivery excellence, it’s purpose isn’t to nickel and dime the client. It’s much simpler to establish a baseline and include all work on the existing IT, applications, hosts, and vendor relationships as one cohesive unit that ALL needs to work. For instance, a performance complaint leading to a server upgrade is a regular part of management duties. It is not a ‘special project’ and its accompanying fee.
Configuring devices, replacing outdated hardware, and software upgrades are no small part of ‘managing an IT deployment’. When you allow us to manage your IT department, we take the entire responsibility from start to finish. Once we have discussed your goals and surveyed the existing infrastructure, it shouldn’t be a surprise what it will take to maintain, service, and upgrade.