Do more with less: the ever-growing strategic relationship between MSPs and CIOs

By Nicolas Babin

Not so very long ago, the role of CIO was essentially that of a senior IT operator with responsibility for the strategic management of an enterprise’s IT systems. But times change!

The CIO is now at the leading edge of the enterprise’s business value, and all the aspirations and outcomes of the business. These days, the CIO is a business strategist and business leader, as well as a business technologist.

Needless to say, this has also profoundly changed the relationship between the CIO and the Managed Service Provider (MSP). No longer is the MSP’s role simply to provide the CIO with suitable IT services at the lowest possible price; instead, its critical function is to keep the technology under control so that the CIO can focus on innovating the business.

In terms of the bottom line, it’s all about enabling the CIO to do more with less. So, what’s driving this – and, just as importantly, how can MSPs ensure they deliver the partnership qualities that every CIO is now not only looking for, but expecting?


 Mind the gap! The CIO opportunity for MSPs.

‘Expectation’ is certainly the operative word here. In a recent survey, highlighted in this SearchCIO article, well over 80% of IT leaders expect MSPs to deliver value across areas as diverse as security, corporate initiatives, cloud migration, and even IT team morale and retention. (No pressure, then!)

And the driver behind this evolution of expectation is, quite simply, the breakneck speed at which the technology and the business environment’s needs are constantly changing, whether this is organic and ongoing, or urgently forced by external factors (think of how the entire world suddenly had to switch to working remotely when COVID-19 struck, as a vivid example…)

What this tsunami of business demands, technology proliferation and innovation-hungry customers has meant for CIOs is, fundamentally, a complete rethink of how (and why) they acquire, consume and pay for technical expertise.

Previously, the CIO was just as involved in ‘keeping the IT lights on’ as the rest of the team. Now, the CIO must focus only on technical activity that delivers additional value to the business’s core activities.

Previously, the CIO was able to cost-effectively recruit in-house teams because their expertise and domain knowledge were sufficient for the limited technical environment then at hand. Now, ever-growing technical innovation and complexity means it is no longer economically viable to have all the relevant experts (each claiming a salary and benefits) in-house.

Put the two points in bold above together, and right between them is a huge strategic and operational gap.

MSPs can potentially fill it better than anyone else – and here are a few reasons why a partnership between them and the CIO can deliver.


 MSPs and CIOs: benefit in both directions

Firstly, CIOs are looking for lower technology costs through economies of scale. The MSP approach, with its often cloud-based, multi-tenant subscription model, tends to greatly reduce the MSP’s own technology licensing costs, and this saving is passed on to the CIO’s organisation. As the CIO’s organisation itself subscribes to the services the MSP is provisioning, the MSP gets a predictable, regular income, and the CIO pays a predictable, regular cost. Win-win!

Secondly, the CIO wants expertise and talent on-tap – but not on the payroll. Again, MSPs can be well placed to fulfil this requirement, as many of them specialise in the provision of one specific type of service (security, for example), and thus amass considerable technical knowledge around it. This can translate not only into great provision and support, but additional services and consultancy opportunities that can add significant business value and enable the CIO to (you guessed it!) do more with less.

Thirdly, the CIO needs to be ahead of the technology curve, to identify emerging technologies that support emerging business trends, and to plan ahead for their evaluation and possible deployment. MSPs are not only constantly identifying and testing emerging technologies to keep their own offering up to date; they work with many different end-user organisations, and are therefore also ideally placed to advise the CIO on the technologies that have delivered proven digital transformation benefits elsewhere.

Fourthly, to cater for an unpredictable business environment, the CIO needs services that scale on demand. For many MSPs delivering services from the cloud, adding users – or capacity, or consumption – can be as simple as ticking a box. The MSP bills additionally for the extra, the CIO pays only for what the organisation really needs. Financially attractive on both sides!


 MSP: more than just the ‘new normal’

What this all boils down to, essentially, is that CIOs are looking for great partners to inspire them and prepare them not for the new normal – because that’s yesterday’s news – but for the new better.

There’s a whole lot of value MSPs can deliver to CIOs, and a whole lot of CIOs waiting to experience it.

So, when are you going to start your next new conversations?

P.S. – The cloud is the beating heart of many an MSP offering, and I’ve come across some IBM resources that enable you to build a cloud solution and take it to market, with support from developer credits and flexible pricing.

Take a look here

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