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Outsourcing Concerns

Some commonly-held concerns about partnering for NOC and Service Desk…

…and why they need not be an issue.

In a previous article for TotallyMSP, I offered this advice: if you’re keen to partner for NOC and Service Desk – you don’t have to make an all or nothing commitment at the outset. Dipping a toe in the water is an acceptable way to start your partnership journey – provided that you are in discussions with the right partner.

In this article, I would like to move the topic on by addressing four more concerns listed in a recent CompTIA survey[1] as ‘inhibiting MSP adoption’. From my own experience, these don’t just apply to companies outsourcing to MSPs, but to those same MSPs looking to partner for NOC and Service Desk delivery themselves.

This is what they typically ask us about.

1. Perceived loss of control

Will you lose control? No – you’ll gain more control: more control of your time and more control of your resources.

You’ll retain complete control over your client relationships too. Your partner will be beavering away in the background, helping you to deliver on client expectations, leaving you with more time to manage your client relationships and develop your role as trusted advisor. Your partner will act as an extension of your business; you’ll continue to call the shots.

It should be easier to keep control of your expenditure too; and to see where your money is going. Your contract should clearly define the activities covered and set out how your partner will work with you to deliver these. Look for a partner who offers ‘pay-as-you-grow’ billing; who operates on a fixed price basis; and uses a single, simple charging structure. Check that you can add and remove devices and users at any time during the monthly billing period, so you are always just paying for what you use, with no long term commitment or upfront outlay.

2. Reluctance to partner with an outside company

As an MSP, you will have your own skilled technicians; an established team for NOC and Service Desk. You may need additional resources and skill-sets, but are concerned about the potential impact on your own people if you obtain these from a partner.

Let me be absolutely clear here. Your own NOC and Service Desk teams are the bedrock of your business. Your partner’s resources should complement them, , allowing you to scale your delivery team with minimal risk and no upfront outlay, making it easier for you to take on larger customers and to nurture existing customer relationships.

And as I pointed out in my last article, taking an incremental approach to working with a partner means you can retain what you have in place but still extend the services you offer customers.

I frequently hear MSPs bemoaning the fact that they are unable to get the most out of their highly skilled engineers, because they are all too often tied up with day-to-day maintenance and firefighting. It makes sense then to use your partner’s resources for the day-to-day grind and free up your own people to work on higher value projects – which will be more rewarding for them too.

Use your partner’s resources to extend your service to 24/7 or to undertake out-of-hours maintenance and reactive support. They can work as your overflow. They can share the load and double up your capacity or provide specialist project support. They can act as a Level 1 barrier for Service Desk. This allows you to reduce the strain on your own team but still be confident that your customers (and reputation) are in safe hands.

And remember, access to additional skilled resource can be very useful when your own people go on holiday, get sick… or leave.

3. Scepticism over cost savings/ROI

Outsourcing is just about saving money – right?

Well, you may be looking to achieve cost savings by working with a partner, but it’s increasingly more about enabling you to add value to your customers and grow your business cost-effectively.

According to the findings of a recent CompTIA survey[1], cost savings are less of a factor now in driving managed services adoption: some 30% respondents cited cost savings as a primary driver in 2015, compared with 58% in 2013. Of course cost is still a factor, but many MSPs looking to partner for NOC and Service Desk delivery are making the decision more on how this can enable them to provide customers with the broadest range of services, gain access to the widest range of skills to complement in-house resources – and to free up those in-house resources for higher value projects and the development of customer relationships.

Take out-of-hours and 24/7 for example. You could set up your own 24/7 NOC- but why reinvent the wheel? Your partner can do the hard work for you – and it can be a lot of hard work! It can involve significant capital outlay, a big investment in management time and ongoing operational expense. Not to mention a big chunk of HR worry to find and retain the right staff to work a 24/7shift pattern.

Having a partner provide extended hours services need not be costly either: look for one who offers a competitive fixed price for NOC and Service Desk but is also flexible enough to customise service scope to meet specific needs.

And never forget that this doesn’t have to be an ‘all or nothing’ decision. Many MSPs find that not all of their customers will want or will pay for 24/7. So, you have to gradually introduce 24/7 and out-of-hours coverage as an upsell; indeed, your partner should be happy to help you sell the benefits of extended services to your customers to help boost your recurring revenues.

Just make sure that your partner will allow you to add new customers at any time and select a different mix of services for each customer. For example you may opt for 24/7 NOC for Customer A; in-hours Service Desk for Customer B; out-of-hours Service Desk and NOC for Customer C and so forth.

Plus, 24/7 support doesn’t necessarily mean someone being available at 3am to take a call. Many MSPs utilise their partner’s resources ‘out-of-hours’ to implement planned maintenance and run patching and updates overnight to avoid any day-time disruption.

Of course, if you’re pitching for new business and want to gain a competitive edge, then having the ability to offer true 24/7 or out-of-hours support can often help you to snatch the deal from competitors who can’t offer this capability.

4. Difficulty finding a qualified MSP

The key to success is to find an MSP with the skill-sets and sector expertise you require. You also need to be able to trust your partner with your own and your customers’ data and credentials.

This is easy to say – but how do you go about it?

Verifying a potential partner’s credentials in the following areas should go a long way to removing it as an issue.

  •  Operating to key industry standards

Seek out a partner with recognised industry and technology accreditations: operating to ITIL standards and ISO27001 certification are both indicators that your partner will have jumped through many hoops to be able to make these claims and so maintain the high standards clients expect.

  •  Keeping your clients’ data safe

Within the UK, check that any potential partner is registered as a data controller under the Data Protection Act 1998 and adheres to the requirements of the act. Check compliance with any local data enforcement requirements such as HIPAA.

Your partner should have stringent policies and security in place to ensure the safety of your customers’ data and credentials. Check that they are using an SSAE 16 Type 11 certified secure CRM system; with both your and your customers’ credentials stored within a secure database utility. Check how data access is controlled: is role-based two-factor authentication in place; have staff been vetted and how thoroughly?

Make sure that your partner’s service delivery centre operates to the highest security standards: what physical security is in place (biometric scanning, guarded access, CCTV?); review power, connectivity and core system redundancy and establish how secure the infrastructure is.

  •  Delivering good levels of service to your customers

Response time and accuracy are key metrics for any NOC and Service Desk partner.

Your partner’s SLA agreement must be clearly defined and consistently achieved to give you the peace of mind you need. Furthermore, if you have made SLA commitments to your customers, make sure that your partner is confident of being able to at least match these.

Quality assurance (QA) is the cornerstone on which good SLA performance is built; it is an ongoing activity that provides valuable insights into engineer, customer and service delivery performance and opportunities. Well-designed and effective QA programs demonstrate a company’s commitment to its clients and engineers.

It’s OK to have concerns; it’s taken blood, sweat and tears to build up your MSP business and your customer base and you are understandably keen to ensure high levels of service are provided. But as long as your prospective partner can properly address any issues you have, don’t be deterred from growing your business by handing over day to day NOC and Service Desk activities. This will free you and your team up to focus on higher value projects, take on new, more complex customers and strengthen existing relationships.

[1] CompTia Trends in Managed Services, 2015


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