Will working with an MSP solve the modern IT Manager’s challenges?

An IT manager’s lot is not an easy one

The role of the IT manager goes way beyond ensuring the smooth running of the IT infrastructure. It includes constant liaison with the business to ensure IT solutions fully satisfy business requirements; it requires research into the latest hardware and software solutions to ensure the best possible alignment going forward; it requires a knowledge of commercial evolution, to be able to strategically pivot towards business transformation while maintaining sufficient tactical agility to handle unforeseen emergencies (like the pandemic-driven sudden requirement for remote working); it requires the ability to find, recruit and retain IT specialists in a global skills shortage; and it needs the financial expertise to do all of this within budget. The danger is that the smooth running of the IT infrastructure can get lost within all the other requirements.

There is a solution, but it requires careful consideration: the use of a managed services provider (MSP) to ensure and maintain the smooth running of the IT function.

Are you considering working with an MSP?

An MSP can ensure that the IT function operates smoothly and efficiently. It does more; but ultimately it allows the IT manager to step back and take a more strategic view of corporate computing. Noticeably, just over half of all businesses that have engaged an MSP cite saving money[1] as their primary reason for doing so. Achieving this requires understanding of what an MSP can offer (both the advantages and the disadvantages), finding the right MSP, and working with it.

Advantages of an MSP

The first thing to consider about using an MSP is that it isn’t just another cost – it may also be a way of saving money. Not the least of the financial benefits is the immediate possibility of moving from CapEx to OpEx accounting. The known and regular cost of an MSP contract gives financial planning greater operational flexibility than up-front capital expenditure.

Secondly, the possibility of overspend on unnecessary equipment is removed. A good MSP can scale up – or back – as necessary to match the current state of business.

Thirdly, an MSP can match human resources to demand. In-house computing will have peaks and troughs of human resource demand that cannot always be matched by the available labour pool. A director of Albumedix (a client of OGL Computer’s MSP service) explains[2]:

“[We had an enormous task that] was basically setting up a new company from scratch, transferring 35 years’ worth of data that was stored all over the place… the project was a massive success. I could not be happier with the way OGL has gone about the project from start to finish. They were open, honest and proactive in dealing with any issues faced. They suggested relevant IT solutions to suit our needs and everyone we met was extremely technically knowledgeable.”

A fourth advantage of using an MSP is immediate access to existing experts in all new technological areas. There is a current demand for experts in the cloud and remote working spheres. OGL MSP customer Thompson Insurance explains its own experience:[3]

“A few employees worked from home before lockdown but now the whole team are working from home, and it’s meant our employees can work wherever and whenever they need to… we’re a service driven business so it’s key that we can always access our data to help our customers. We can’t afford for our systems to go down. The continued support from OGL is fundamental in our growth and future plans.”

Disadvantages of an MSP

The disadvantages of working with an MSP are more akin to mental blocks than they are to material problems. Nevertheless, they are important issues that need to be addressed.

The first is one of personal control. It is easy for an IT manager to fear he or she would be losing control over his or her own IT infrastructure. This isn’t true – rather the IT manager is gaining the support of a fully functional, fully staffed, fully resourced, expert, ready-made IT department. The IT manager remains the corporate IT manager.

The second is a concern about the security of company confidential data. It is very easy to believe that data held on cloud servers is not as secure as data held within your own data centre. This is a myth. As long ago as October 2019, Gartner commented, “Properly managed, security and risk management leaders can secure cloud better than their data centres.”[4] The reality is that an MSP will undoubtedly have more, and more expert, security engineers than most companies.

The third is a fear of getting locked into a relationship that simply doesn’t work. The solution here is professional due diligence in choosing the right partner in the first place.

Selecting and working with an MSP

Choosing to use an MSP is an important decision where the benefits speak for themselves. However, choosing the right MSP is an even more important decision.

Fundamental to any relationship is the rapport between the two parties. This requires full and open communication in both directions. While due diligence will determine whether an MSP is technically qualified to deliver what is needed, rapport is more emotional.

Any IT manager considering a move to an MSP should sit down and just talk to the MSP. Does this MSP fill me with confidence? Do these people care about my business beyond just my custom? Do I feel they will go the extra mile if it is necessary? If the answer is no to any of these, perhaps you should look elsewhere.

The IT manager of the OGL-partnered BENX Group reflected: “OGL’s IT Solutions Architect, Steve Bennett, filled me with confidence, he really knew his stuff and at that stage in the process you need to be able to believe in the person. It’s been a really positive experience with OGL, and I hope we can continue to build on that into the future.”[5]

But don’t just depend upon your own gut feeling. Talk to three or four of the MSP’s existing customers. They will give you an honest opinion on the MSP – if they are not happy about something, they will most certainly tell you.

Going forward, relationships don’t merely need to be started, they need to be maintained. Make sure that you choose an MSP that will always be responsive to your thoughts, concerns and wishes. Regular planning meetings are important – but perhaps most important is a single point of contact. An IT manager needs to know that he or she can pick up the phone and immediately talk to the same person each time.

Saddleback’s IT & Operations Manager, a customer of OGL, comments, “We’ve always had a strong relationship with OGL, and we have a good connection with our Account Manager. It’s essential that we have this rapport, as in many ways they’re our eyes and ears and always know what new products or solutions are available and how other businesses are making a success of using them. Not everything will be a fit for us, but it might just spark a conversation around something unexpected, which could ultimately benefit us.”[6]

Final Thoughts

No part of the IT manager’s job is easy, and the question of an MSP gives rise to two difficult decisions; whether to use an MSP, and which one to choose if so. The best results will come from careful consideration and preparation. When an MSP works well, the benefits and savings can be immense – in some cases, IT expenditures can be reduced by as much as 40%[7]. Perhaps even more valuable than this; an MSP can bring confidence, clarity and peace of mind to the IT manager, who can then focus on managing IT and moving the enterprise forward.

[1] https://www.helpnetsecurity.com/2020/12/17/msp-adoption-key-drivers/

[2] https://www.ogl.co.uk/albumedix

[3] https://www.ogl.co.uk/thompson-insurance-brokers

[4] https://www.gartner.com/en/documents/3970177/how-to-make-cloud-more-secure-than-your-own-data-center

[5] https://www.ogl.co.uk/benx

[6] https://www.ogl.co.uk/saddleback

[7] https://www.cisco.com/c/dam/en_us/services/downloads/why-managed-services.pdf