What’s IT managed service?
A managed service provider is a company that has access and manages remotely the IT infrastructure of its clients. The provided service is supported with a service level agreement (SLA) and is done in a proactive manner.
Data backup, recovery & storage, authentication, support & maintenance of software, system management, network monitoring, management & security are part of the services that can be provided.
If the service is provided via internet, cloud service provider is the other name of the managed service providers. All type of companies are using the services of such providers – from startups to Fortune 500.
Some of the biggest IT managed service providers are IBM, Accenture and Cognizant who have offices all over the world and turnover in billions.
Why is it important to have such providers? What is the value for the customers?
There are several reasons why a company should partner with an IT managed service provider:
- Efficient and reliable IT operations. For any business smooth operations this one is crucial. A company specialized in such a service has the people knowing the best practices in IT infrastructure. If your core business is different it’s hard to have such professionals as employees. This does not mean that a business should not have internal IT staff but by having external experts on demand will allow for a maximize uptime & profitability.
- Focus on the core business. A good IT managed provider can take up control of 100% of your IT infrastructure. It can maintain, build and deploy you applications, and infrastructure. Such a provider will free time for the business to focus on its key and most important aspects – sales, marketing, product development and client satisfaction.
- Better security. Daily we hear news about hacker attacks and stolen data. Security becomes top priority for every business. An IT managed service provider can be an invaluable partner in providing you with secure applications, infrastructure, databases, etc. so that your clients feel safe working with you.
- Transition to the cloud. Whether it’s a private, hybrid or a public cloud, the trends are that you will start using it. You will need experts to help you transition to the cloud in a timely, secure and cost affective way. Your IT managed service provider can definitely help.
- Cost-efficiency. You IT managed service provider will give you the freedom to focus on your core business. It will provide you with access to different IT specialists who are experts in areas like virtualization, storage, compliance, security, cloud, etc. These professionals cost a lot. having an IT partner you don’t have to hire them internally and pay their high salaries. You’ll have access to experts when needed which will save you a lot of money in the long term.
- 24/7 Support. No one want to be on call during the night. Having an IT managed service partner will free your employees from such an unpleasant job and they will secure that you will have work infrastructure up and running all the time. Your partner can provide you with immediate support at any time if there is an issue.
How to select your provider?
The big question is: how to find the right IT managed service company? You should start by considering two criteria: culture similarity and proximity if on-site work will be required regularly. Then select an area – Eastern Europe, South-East Asia, South America, etc.
As an example, let’s consider that you’re a company based in Germany and Eastern Europe is both closer(1-2 hours flight) and is much more similar culture-wise than any Asian or South American country. Next step is to find the best technical universities. Then select the cities they are at. Once you have your cities search for 3-4 companies per city that cover the following criteria:
- Disaster recovery planning
- Formal and comprehensive service level agreement (SLA)
- Proactive mindset
- 24-hour support
- Industry experience
- Good references
- On-site visits
Scrutinize their websites and online presence. Does it look good? See whether there is any content generated by the company – and if it is knowledgeable and up to date. Check their social media.
If all seems legit, contact them via email and ask for an introductory video call. The call is important to get a feel for the guys on the other end, get more info about the company and ask for referrals. Contact the referrals and and them the questions you need answered.
What to look out for in referrals
Are they from the same industry as you, are they similar in size, are they from your region? Moreover, ask the given referrals questions like:
- In what aspects did you look for quality and how did you find it in (company xyz)?
- How did …. react in difficult situations? Please give an example?
- Please share a situation where (company name) acted proactively
- How fast were they able to start offering the needed service?
- Were they available on-site if necessary?
- What is (company name) greatest strengths?
- How is the team/service organized?
- What advice do you have for me in working with (company name)?
A good article on questions to ask from a reference is this one from HubSpot.
If no testimonials are provided it should ring a bell. All these steps can be done via an intern as they are time-consuming but are important in order to find the right partner for the long term.
With all the info gathered till now, you can preselect up to 5-6 companies with whom to make a second call where you can test their actual IT skills. Ask them deep questions about their technical, delivery and process expertise. You need to see some code that has been done by them.
This call may take up to 2 hours but based on that information you can narrow the companies down to 3. Then go and visit these 3 companies to feel the vibe in the office and to meet with the potential people you’ll work with. Finally, choose the IT managed service company you feel is the most professional and close to you in culture.
This approach takes time. However, if you look for a partner with whom to work for the next several years it is definitely worth it. Of course, if you are in a hurry you may skip some steps but then the risk of picking the rotten apple increases. The following articles here and here will provide you with more info if needed.
To sum up
In summary, invest the time needed to find you IT managed service partner because you’ll work together for years if all goes well. Building a strong partnership takes time but it can help you a lot by taking care of non core business tasks but once that are really important for the smooth operation of any organization.
References are key – ask the right questions and feel the mood on the other side – is the person hesitant to answer or really positive on speaking about the vendor. Then visit the office of the potential partner to meet the people and feel the vibe – are they caring as individuals or they just speak about transactional things like how the reports and payments will be done.