CIOs and Managed Service Providers (MSPs) – An Essential Collaboration

By Cees Grootes

Small, medium size, and large companies all need to focus on competitiveness, innovation, profitability, and continuity. In an ever more unpredictable business environment, cutting-edge IT support and the adaptability of the IT department are essential to gain and maintain competitive advantage.

Increasingly, IT departments should be equipped to facilitate innovation, scalability and flexibility of services while maintaining secure and flawless operations.

The observation is that in many organizations, in-house IT services struggle to keep pace with the speed of all new information technology developments. This hampers both secure day-to-day operations and the innovations needed to stay competitive. As a result, in-house resources allocated to innovation are often used to supplement day to day requirements, when security and continuity of running services come under pressure.

However, to become or stay competitive, a company needs the availability and adequacy of its IT systems to be state of the art. Collaboration with MSPs and their larger partners (for example IBM) becomes an essential part of the IT mix.

 

IOs are challenged to reshape the IT function 

The role of the CIO, in the recent past simply the head of IT operations, has developed into active strategic business leadership, an advocate and enabler of business agility. A CIO is committed to keep a company innovative and to maximize performance through the provision of advanced IT services.

It is his or her task to streamline IT processes in such a way that they minimize expenses, minimize risks and the need for disaster management, while optimizing system operations and safeguarding the continuity of all systems.

The CIO, in harmony with a chosen MSP (or MSPs), should also safeguard the business resources and ensure that the workforce needed to innovate and to cater for company-specific competitive technology is not compromised.

 

Challenges

Now is the time to reconsider if large budgets totally spent on sometimes excessive full-service in-house IT systems is still the optimal choice.

As mentioned above, safeguarding smooth day-to-day IT operations becomes ever more demanding. This relates to innovation, security, scalability, privacy, data management, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, client support, and many more system features.

For instance, it is not a matter of if, rather than when, not staying up to date with revision levels of security, privacy, or standard office software, will result in the serious hampering of daily business routines.

Just think what could happen when sensitive data such as credit card data is stolen, or an enterprise server is the victim of ransomware. Constant troubleshooting, recurrent system failures, or persistent technical problems will obstruct business continuity.

For smaller IT teams these increasingly difficult and time-consuming essential tasks can become almost impossible to manage. When a business grows exceptionally fast, keeping up with adequate IT resolutions might be a burden too. As a result, IT departments, and consequently entire companies, will not be able to focus on core business objectives. Precious manpower and other resources will be needed for damage control.

The focus of the CIO should be in line with the overall company goals. He or she cannot afford to be simply reactive or apply resources to emergencies when they are needed elsewhere on matters of strategic importance.

 

Managed Service Providers are of strategic value to the CIO

In-house IT staff should in principle support IT innovations related to company specific developments and progress. They should probably be less occupied monitoring and running basic company systems, such as email handling, data management, office software and security.

These days there are hundreds of Managed Service Providers who can outsource one, some or even sometimes all IT services. CIOs can quite readily decide (for affordable fees) what tasks to outsource to an MSP, to give their internal IT staff the clear focus on company priorities.

 

It is a misconception to think that an MSP will often replace the IT department.

 

What does the MSP do for the CIO?  

An MSP can help a business to gain operational stability, and provide support to address potentially all company requirements. It can be viewed as insurance to avoid costly downtime when systems fail or operations go wrong.

It is a misconception to think that an MSP will often replace the IT department. They will supplement in-house operations and take care of the entrusted tasks and in addition probably assist in-house IT staff when required to do so. Normally the relationship is a collaborative one.

There are numerous MSP’s to choose from, so each needs to have its own “edge” – its unique skills and services – to stand out from the crowd. They all offer basic services and many offer more sophisticated services too. To provide some insight, below I have provided a list of just some of the possible services that a trusted MSP could manage for any organization. Often the MSP is integrating services from one or more of the very large IT firms (such as IBM) with its own in house offerings:

  • Prompt Help Desk backing and assistance. Sometimes 24/7 and through global contacts.
  • Cybersecurity. Virus, spam, malware, DDOS, Cyberattacks, Ransomware and other such things
  • Protection, secure password management, data protection and privacy guarantees.
  • Highest ISO/IEC standards related to information security (ISO/IEC 27001 etc).
  • Cloud computing and data management.
  • Email handling and all Office Management software.
  • Systems backup including disaster recovery.
  • High-Level of IT expertise and experience. (software, maintenance, upgrades, database management, cloud technology, security, platform integration, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, etc).
  • Software as a Service (SAAS). Partnerships with an extensive variety of third-party vendors.
  • Scalability. A service configuration scaled towards specific needs.
  • Financial stability. No surprises. Cost efficient. Fixed or (partially) subscription based.
  • Operational quality can improve dramatically having more and better specialists, each educated and aware of innovations and trends in all niches to manage your chosen operations.
  • Operational stability. Vacation, sick leave, (even a by a pandemic imposed lockdown), all can obstruct operations immensely. Job-hopping can cause brain drain and the need for continuous training to keep enough IT staff. An MSP could relieve that burden while at the same time offering additional expertise.
  • Mobile device management.
  • Unmatched data security, data storage, security (Spam, Antivirus, Cyber-attacks, etc.) are monitored and managed by the best trained experts. Because these experts sometimes work for many different companies, they are usually more experienced than in-house teams ever can be. Trusted MSPs can address potential disruptions in advance.
  • For small and medium size organizations, MSPs can offer top-end expertise they otherwise could not afford. By contracting with an MSP, a company recruits teams of specialized IT professionals that can be readily consulted.
  • Automated and requested system services and software update maintenance.
  • Scalability. An ideal MSP can grow with you when your company expands and could advise you on the matter of which IT systems to deploy.
  • Larger firms might also benefit from an MSP with a global reach offering in-house services 24/7
  • Proactive management of systems with comprehensive monitoring and reporting.

 

The options of services that an MSP can offer are almost unlimited. Most MSP’s have subscription options to get on-premise system support if and when required, or even opportunities to purchase or lease required equipment.

 

Which MSP gets chosen?

All MSPs are in essence different, despite having many common features. Therefore a CIO will select a trusted MSP that can manage (and sometimes innovate) according to the business need, considering capability, requirements and budget. Also to be considered is what damage control will cost when IT disasters hit. A careful selection of which tasks to outsource to trusted MSPs can save a lot of money by avoiding technical, security, privacy, and legal problems.

Smaller organizations (especially start-ups) with limited-scale IT requirements could choose to outsource their entire infrastructure for a flat fee package. More normally, medium size and larger companies opt for a-la-carte MSP configurations from a menu of options and have their in-house IT team take care of the specialized services deemed strategically important.

MSPs usually ally themselves with at least one of the major information technology companies, which can provide substantial support with infrastructure, systems software and technical services. If you’re an MSP, my recommendation is to investigate IBM as a potential trusted partner.

Investigate IBM as a potential trusted partner

They offer a worldwide flexible scheme of a-la-carte options to MSPs, as well as having full-featured packages to choose from.

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