The growth of IT service provision has been relentless over recent years. Increasingly modern business has come to depend on the use of IT, and in tandem with this there has been an ever-increasing tendency to outsource IT provision as opposed to retaining it in-house.
What’s particularly attractive about outsourcing is that taking on expert help in the field frees you up to concentrate more on other aspects of your operation. You hand the job over to the professionals and they just get on with it. You are free to think about growing your business in other areas.
So, let’s take a look at how using an MSP (managed service provider) can help your business to prosper.
Negating the need for recruitment
Recruitment can take a whole lot of time and effort, particularly in an area such as IT. Taking on staff to work in your core business is one thing, but how would someone who isn’t an IT expert go about interviewing candidates for a job they themselves have limited knowledge of? And how would you be able to convey your vision in a way that a “techie” with a narrow but specialised vocational discipline would understand?
And then there is the cost. In terms of outlay and the reallocation of resources it is estimated that just the process of employing one member of an in-house IT team would cost in the region of £30,000. This is all money, of course, which could otherwise be ploughed into your core business.
When taking on an MSP, the onus shifts significantly. Suddenly you are the client, and it is service providers who are seeking out your business, your endorsement of their services.
Where they are in competition for your custom, it is they who will make the pitch. You will be able to set a budget and seek out help and support within its confines.
A service moulded around your own specific requirements
There are two types of successful business – those who innovate and create something entirely new, and those who sell something others also sell, only more efficiently. Most fall into the latter category.
Whichever is the case, each company has its own “personality”. Things you do that are different from how others do them. You are unique, and so therefore is the IT set-up that you will require. There is no such things as an off-the-peg IT service, and any that try to present themselves as such should be avoided.
A good MSP will quickly identify the qualities and the quirks which make your company unique, and develop a package around them. It is by aligning its provision to your requirements that your MSP manages to deliver a successful service.
Your managed service provider will draw up an SLA (service level agreement) which acknowledges everything you need from them, as well as outlining their own side of the deal. This has the benefit of providing some security for the MSP and it also defines what you are going to get out of the business relationship.
Providing access to developing best practice
Of course, external service provider or not your success is entirely dependent upon the competence of those who are managing your services. As such it is important that your procurement procedures are sound so that you might identify the right MSP for your business and not saddle yourself with a provider who is not up to the job.
This again is where outsourcing provides you with an edge. Recruiting an in-house team brings you a group of people who specialise in a particular thing at the particular time that you recruited them. As systems – and requirements – change, you need either to provide them with the means through which to upgrade their skills or just hope that they will somehow pick them up along the way. A company which trades solely in IT skills on the other hand will make it its business to ensure that those working for it have all the latest knowledge and skills, if only to enable it to stay in the game. And as they work on a range of systems for lots of different clients all the necessary skill sets are likely to be available to you from the provider whenever they are needed.
Cashflow is vital to any business, but more than most to an emergent or small enterprise.
When you outsource you enter into a service level agreement (SLA), which can include as much or as little service provision as you desire – or can afford. As your business grows it can be upgraded according to taste. Costs and services are agreed from the beginning, as is how and when they will be paid for. For instance, you may decide that you want your service provider to install and an SD WAN installation, then again, you might be content with a more simple support and maintenance package.
When however you take on in-house staff you are committed to servicing an employment contract, which will include holiday pay, a pension, sickness – plus of course any training that needs to take place in order to keep skills relevant. And if available work drops, they are still being paid unless you need to lay them off, which can itself cost money.
Most SLA agreements are for a maintenance-only package, which expands only when agreed by both parties.
A good MSP is utterly vital if systems are to run smoothly and downtime is to be avoided. Downtime can quite literally be the ruination of a business, especially in a company’s early stages. Having a good service provider offering round-the-clock support can be essential to avoiding lengthy – and costly – system failures.
This is particularly the case as malfunctions do not generally keep conventional office hours. A managed service provider will offer round the clock provision, giving you peace of mind even when you are not working.
In terms of savings it’s not only the staffing bill that you’ll be side-stepping effectively by farming your IT provision out. MSPs do not keep specific staff for specific clients, quite often in fact there will be economies of scale to be had through the fact that your regular provider is also offering help and services to other clients as part of their role.