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Is It Time to Take Another Look at Managed Services?

To leverage or not to leverage, that is the question when it comes to managed services.  The use of managed services within organizations seems to be almost religious, with some companies leveraging them heavily and others shunning them in favor of doing everything themselves.  In fact, this is one of the reasons most managed service providers (MSPs) will tell you that their biggest competitor is not other MSPs but rather the “do it yourself” mentality of some IT organizations.

When I was an IT leader, I had a natural tendency to want to know and control everything.  Ask my more than patient wife, Christine, she’ll tell you that I’m still that way.  In my IT department, I wanted to know everything about everything and control the entire user experience from application to device to network to data center.

However, today I’m becoming increasingly convinced that this type of IT model simply doesn’t work or scale any more.  What’s caused my religion change?  Well, IT is becoming far more complicated and IT departments simply can’t continue to learn and control at the rate that IT is changing.  IT used to be simple (not easy) as most companies standardized everywhere that they could.  Same applications, same operating systems, standardized laptops, PCs, printers, etc.  Standardization was the key to IT success.  Today customization is the key to happy users.

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The model has completely been flipped around now.  We’ve introduced so many new technologies to create a custom experience that every worker almost has a completely unique environment.  Don’t get me wrong, technology such as virtualization, cloud computing and wireless are great as they create much greater flexibility for the IT department, but these initiatives combined with an explosion of devices are creating a complexity gap that is difficult, if not impossible, for many organizations to close.

Consider the example of enterprise voice.  Historically there was one way to deploy this technology.   Each location had a PBX, each worker had a phone connected with a cable.  If there was problem, it was the PBX, phone or cable.  Today, the PBX is now software and can be deployed as a dedicated appliance, it can run on a VM, in the cloud, on premise, in a hosting center or even on a shared server.  Workers can access voice through a dedicated phone, soft phone on a wired device, soft phone on a WiFi endpoint, or a mobile client over a cellular network.  If there’s a problem, how does one even go about troubleshooting it?  It can certainly be done but requires cross-domain knowledge of servers, clients and even the network.

This is why I’m becoming a much stronger advocate of managed services.  IT is hard and it’s getting harder and it’s extremely difficult for IT to be experts in everything.  However, that doesn’t mean IT isn’t good at anything.  Most IT departments will excel in certain areas and be weak in others.  My advice to IT leaders today is to take another look at managed services and even if the company has a strong “do it yourself” mindset, managed services can augment the IT department’s skill set.  This lets internal IT do what it does best and offload the stuff it doesn’t do so well to an MSP.

About the author
Zeus Kerravala
Zeus Kerravala
Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and with long term strategic advice. Kerravala provides research and advice to the following constituents: End user IT and network managers, vendors of IT hardware, software and services and the financial community looking to invest in the companies that he covers.