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Managed IT Services Guide

Business leaders understand growing pains.

It’s the discomfort that arises from change, or the pressing need to change. Because businesses these days run on technology, many of these growing pains involve IT. In pondering how to move past the barriers before them, executives come to the realization that their IT support provider isn’t bringing them everything they need to be competitive. So they start to search for a better way to resource IT and their search inevitably leads them to managed IT services.

What Are Managed IT Services?

This is an approach to IT management and support that moves an organization on a path of IT maturity. Through the use of best practices, proactive planning, and fast reactive support, organizations are able to build a predictable IT foundation on which they can leverage technology. This is how IT can have its best impact on the business, improving operations, enabling success, and providing a great technology experience for everyone.

  1. Signs of Bad IT Management
  2. Reasons Why You’re Not Happy with IT
  3. Why You Need a Partner, Not Just a Provider
  4. What An IT Partner Looks Like
  5. How to Evaluate a Managed IT Services Company
  6. What to Look for in a Managed IT Services Contract
  7. Managed IT Services Costs
  8. Onboarding with Your New Managed IT Services Partner
  9. The Outcome from Partnering with a Managed IT Service Company
  10. Time to Up Your Game

Signs of Bad IT Management​

A lot of executives and managers find that when IT performance is slipping, managing IT takes more and more of their time. In fact, it takes a lot more of everyone’s time. For the employee, this translates into dwindling efficiency. For executives, they find that their attention is continually turned away from high level goals because they have to pay more attention to what’s happening with IT.

You would think that when IT isn’t performing that the IT team would be sitting around doing nothing, but the opposite is true. They’re actually very busy. They’re just not busy with the right things and here’s how that shows up in your business:

  1. You’re the victim of a cyber attack.
  2. Technology problems never get solved.
  3. It takes forever to get IT to respond.
  4. Remote workers are hobbled instead of enabled.
  5. You can never use technology as a competitive advantage.

Reasons Why You’re Not Happy with IT

This might seem too easy, but you may not be happy with IT because IT support is not taking care of the basics. This can happen when your IT team doesn’t have the bandwidth to get to everything. They could be fixing issues left and right but never have time for basic management. It could also be that they don’t have the right processes established or even that they don’t exactly know what IT best practices should be.

How to Find Out If Basic IT Management is Being Neglected

1. How are we handling hardware and software configuration?

This sounds like you might not be able to know a good answer when you hear one because it’s technical. What you’re listening for are signs that your IT team is actually paying attention to how they’re setting everything up to work properly and that everything connected to your network is compatible. You can even ask if you’ve got some systems that don’t work very well together or that have recurring issues. Misconfiguration could be at least part of the problem.

2. Can you talk me through our IT documentation?

Even if you’re not technically trained, you can get a good idea of what you’re looking at when you ask IT to talk through your IT documentation. If there’s a big scramble to find something like a network diagram, you can bet that it’s not up to date. If your IT team can’t produce any documentation at all, then you’ve got a red flag waving.

3. Is all our software supported and up to date?

Some technology performance issues could be due to using old software but the biggest reason why you need to make sure everything is up to date is for security. Unsupported and unpatched software have known vulnerabilities that cyber criminals can exploit. If your hardware is so old that it can’t handle modern software and that’s why IT isn’t updating, then you’ve got another sign that IT basics are being ignored.

4. Can you talk me through our disaster response plan?

As an executive, it’s really your responsibility to make sure that you have a response plan should you have the misfortune to experience a disaster. While incident response plans have as much to do with communication as they do with your IT, getting primary systems back up and running as quickly as possible will be key to bouncing back. If IT can’t talk through their part of the plan, there probably isn’t one.

5. How does our physical security support data security?

Controlling access to your facility may not fall into IT’s realm of responsibility but they should be cooperating with your plant or office manager to make sure that intruders aren’t being invited in. Everyone in your company should know that they’re responsible for security and that even something as simple as leaving their computers on when they step away can pose a risk. You might have some security policies for physical access in your employee handbook. If they’re there, see if they’re being enforced.

Why You Need an IT Partner, Not Just a Provider

If you recognize the signs of bad IT management and identify with some of the reasons why you’re not happy with IT, you might be confused as to what direction to go. After all, the provider you have now might claim to be a “Managed IT Service” provider. Why then aren’t things getting managed?

The answer is that you need a different approach and you need a different type of relationship.

The approach that you’re looking for is one where you and the Managed IT Services company share the same goals. Your IT company shouldn’t make more money when you have more problems. Success for them should be measured in your success in building an IT system that’s predictable and that can be used as a springboard to innovation and resiliency. When you have that kind of approach, it naturally nurtures a partnership because the MSP isn’t just interested in your technology. They’re interested in your business, your goals, and creating a roadmap for your success.

So, how do you recognize that type of IT company?

What an IT Partner Looks Like

When you drill down to its essence, what’s going to set an IT partner apart from an IT provider is going to be three things:

More Know-How

We’ll go into these in more detail, but first we need to ask why these three qualities are so important. The answer is in the results. We’re not talking about just IT results. We’re talking about business results and that means that your vision of how IT can support your overall goals can get a lot broader.

You would think that when IT isn’t performing that the IT team would be sitting around doing nothing, but the opposite is true. They’re actually very busy. They’re just not busy with the right things and here’s how that shows up in your business:

  • Improve customer satisfaction
  • Increase sales reach to more prospects
  • Increase revenue
  • Retain employees
  • Streamline operations
  • Improve productivity
  • Increase market share

Technology should be one of the tactics you use to reach your goals. When you think of IT in this way, it suddenly is more than overhead. It’s power for your forward movement.

More Know How

Technology is evolving and expanding all the time and a Managed IT Service partner will expend the time and resources necessary to stay up to date. They’ll also have enough people to cover all of the IT disciplines that make up a comprehensive IT department. Some of the roles that you’ll get access to include:

  • Network Engineer
  • Automation Engineer
  • Cybersecurity Specialist
  • Help Desk Technician
  • vCIO for IT Guidance

If you were to hire all of these positions internally, the cost would be prohibitive for many businesses so it’s a great benefit to get access to just what you need and to know that they’re experts.

More Ideas

Creative application of technology is necessary in order to leverage IT to meet your business goals. Expect an MSP partner to get to know your business and processes so that they can bring you suggestions for new ways to use technology. As you hear of tech trends in your industry and bring them to your IT partner, they should help you to evaluate the technology and determine how it could fit into your existing systems.

You should have a designated vCIO (Virtual Chief Information Officer) or IT Advisor with the Managed IT Service company who meets with you regularly to discuss and plan IT improvements.

Here are some topics that you could expect your vCIO to bring up for discussion:

  • Planning and budgeting for IT improvements
  • Opportunities for using automation to streamline processes
  • Advanced cybersecurity tactics that are needed to manage risk, compliance and attain cyber insurance.
  • Vendor suitability and their accountability for your security
  • Evaluation of technology tools for suitability

When you get IT guidance from your Managed IT Services partner about how you should invest in technology, you’re able to make well-informed decisions about how to invest.

More Commitment

Commitment has to do with the relationship that you’ll develop with your Managed IT Services partner. Commitment means that your best interests are at the heart of everything they do.

One way to get a gauge on commitment is on having shared goals, as we mentioned. Another is with the level of communication that you can expect.

Technology services are ultimately delivered by people, for people and what says “relationship” better than that? Communication forges the connections that create relationships. So whether it’s the Help Desk Technician talking to an employee, or the vCIO meeting with the CEO, communication is open, friendly, respectful and responsive.

How to Evaluate a Managed IT Services Company

Knowing what you’re looking for in an IT company is one thing, recognizing that those qualities are present when you’re evaluating them is another. Here are some talking points that you’ll want to include in your conversations to evaluate managed IT services companies.

  • What’s your approach to IT management?
  • Why will your approach get us different results than what we’re getting now?
  • Tell me how you’ll work with us to develop IT strategy.
  • What IT specialties do you have on your bench? Any certifications for your company or individuals?
  • Tell me how you’ve helped other companies innovate with technology.
  • Are your security processes and practices third-party validated?

What to Look for in a Managed IT Services Contract

By the time you’re ready to review a contract, you should be clear about how the managed IT service company will deliver services. The contract should firmly set your expectations and list any exclusions. Here are a few sections to look for:

  • Recurring Services – What they’re doing behind the scenes to manage your IT systems and keep you secure.
  • IT Strategy – How they’ll work with you to create a solid IT foundation and align technology with your goals.
  • Support Response – What to expect when you have issues or when users submit help desk tickets.
  • Exclusions – What your monthly flat does not cover.
  • Expectations for Your Relationship – How you’ll collaborate and your commitment to IT improvement.

Managed IT Services Costs

A huge benefit of using a managed services company is exchanging up and down costs for a predictable monthly fee. The fee should include all of the proactive, reactive, security and strategy activities that you’ve discussed, roughly between $125 – $200 per user per month.

Some factors that will affect your pricing include:

  • Whether you have cloud or onsite servers.
  • The level of security services you need.
  • The type and configuration of your data backup.
  • Whether the monthly fee is per device or per user.

Hardware and software purchases, migrations and other technology projects will be quoted separately. Make sure you understand other exclusions as indicated in the contract.

There’s quite a bit of work that goes into transitioning to the new IT company, so expect an onboarding fee to get everything setup and started down the rails.

Onboarding with Your New Managed IT Services Partner

Once you’ve made the decision to switch, there are some things you can do to facilitate a smooth transition. Expect your new MSP to have an onboarding process that not only provides them with everything they need to get started, but also makes sure that employees know what they need to know.

Here are some guidelines to help facilitate your transition:

  • Designate someone at your company to be the main Point-of-Contact for the transition.
  • Provide your current IT support provider with ample notice that you’re cancelling.
  • Overlap your outgoing and incoming providers by a few weeks.
  • Share information and documentation with your new MSP.
  • Provide access for the new MSP to setup their tools and take their first steps.
  • Be ready for the new MSP to discover new info about your network.
  • Plan for employee communications and training.
  • Keep the conduit of communication open.

The Outcome from Partnering with a Managed IT Service Company

When you work with a managed IT services partner, they’re going to do a lot of their work on your behalf behind the scenes. You should expect that as you move along a path to IT improvement that IT will get incrementally quieter. But just because you don’t notice it as much doesn’t mean that your IT partner isn’t doing anything.

At the same time, there will be issues that the MSP needs to deal with on both the user and network level. These issues will be handled quickly and evaluated so that the root cause is addressed. The overall outcome of working with a managed IT service company that delivers More Know How, More Ideas and More Commitment is that you’re set up to up your business game.

You are no longer captive to low IT functioning, but are set free to —

  • Focus on what you do best
  • Increase productivity
  • Improve security
  • Increase customer satisfaction and retention

Time to Up Your Game

XPERTECHS is a managed IT service company that helps organizations remove the operational hassle of technology, freeing them to focus on their core business strategy. Through our XperCARE framework, we deliver IT services with a proactive approach that is responsive to your support needs today and provides guidance to help you plan for the future.

When you have our team of IT professionals supporting your organization, you get a diverse and deep technical skillset at your disposal; you free your staff from the day-to-day burden of managing IT; and you gain the opportunity to leverage IT to drive your business forward.

If you suspect that the way that IT is being handled is holding you back, you don’t have to just trust your gut. Get an IT assessment and find out what’s really going on.