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    May 16, 2020

    How to Ensure a Managed Service Is Adding Value

    In the 1990’s and 2000’s, a number of new consulting models emerged in the technology industry. One that has proven to be lucrative, but has not always delivered quality, is staff augmentation. In this model, firms are essentially used as a billing office for individual consultants who need a Master Service Agreement number to work under.

    A managed service can bring value to a company in several ways:

    1. Cost efficiency
    2. Process improvement
    3. Innovation opportunities

    To add even greater value, look for ways in which a managed service can improve your business and surpass the bare minimum expectations. At Spur we maintain consistent leadership involvement on each managed service engagement we run to constantly look for ways to provide greater value.

    We help our clients run all their business processes better. Achieving bare minimum is never the goal – exceeding that bar is where Spur sets our standard.

    Involving our leadership ensures insight into everything our client is doing – how they allocate their team members, manage their budget, organize projects, etc. With this high degree of visibility we’re able to explore and identify how we can help them improve these processes.

    Always have a transition in place

    A critical component of any managed service is the ability to roll resources on and off at any given point in the managed service life cycle without causing friction. We know life happens: promotions, burn-out, personal conflicts. Transition processes need to be built ahead of time and executed quickly and efficiently, even at a moment’s notice so that your managed service continues to run smoothly, no matter what.

    Imagine: you work for a large tech company and you have decided to bring on a vendor team to help you keep things running properly so you can meet your goals. But one of the lead members on your vendor team has a family emergency and must take an immediate leave of absence. That person had the majority of their ideas and notes on scattered papers or in their head. They were the only person on the team that knew the processes well, but didn’t document any of those details.

    What now?

    Document everything

    You never want to be in the position of asking “what now.”

    It’s the responsibility of the managed service provider to ensure disruptions - anticipated or not - don’t jeopardize the work and client relationship.

    Here are some basic guidelines to ensure you’re never left in the lurch during your managed service engagement:

    • Make sure every step is documented. If the lead member from our example had documented what each service process involved, a replacement could have easily filled in, picking up where things left off.
    • Understand how your MSP brings resources on and off. It’s crucial to understand how to distribute resources logically and efficiently. Is there a team with idle members? Reallocate them to an area with greater need. You can always move those members back later if you need.
    • Look for improvements. Your process may be good, but could they be better? Improving processes ensures that resources are being used most effectively and that transitions will be cleaner. Transitioning will be difficult if the processes are ineffective and unclear.

    With the growing demand for managed services, you have the benefit of being selective when choosing a provider. If you are considering a managed service engagement, pick the company that is willing and able to drive efficiencies, and demonstrates smooth process transitions to deliver value beyond just meeting SLAs and KPIs.

    Keys to unlocking a managed service

    1. Align on your scope of work

    The first key to unlocking a managed services potential is setting up the sandbox within which it will execute. This sandbox defines the operational borders. Everything outside of those borders is out of scope. Take the time to figure out what services to manage, the duration of the engagement, and the work effort it will take to be successful. A project with undefined scope is unwieldy which is not good for anyone involved.

    2. Determine points of accountability

    Define who is on the team and what their roles and responsibilities are. You need to do this for both your company and the managed services team. These points of accountability make all the difference.

    3. Identify clear change orders

    A smart leader knows when to change strategies and the channels to go through to implement the requested or required modifications. Figure out how changes will be handled, who can approve, the documentation required, and the timeline in which this will be completed.

    Evaluating managed services models

    However, we've also seen this model create several problems for our clients. The biggest is that an undue reliance is built on individuals who become indispensable for their subject matter expertise.

    The managed services model solves the risk of relying on any one individual person completing a job. When you contract a managed service provider, you get a whole team backing the task at hand and the team can be reorganized or reassigned as needed to ensure the project always runs smoothly.

    However, running a successful managed service is not just a matter of having a team approach. Ensuring success requires clearly defined and attainable metrics.

    Measures of success

    SLAs and KPIs are metrics used to determine how successful a managed service engagement is. Together, they define success and provide guidelines for making adjustments where needed.

    SLAs are the how. They are the sandbox within our original sandbox (scope). The first sandbox defined the limits of what will be managed. SLAs determine how the individual processes and projects within that sandbox will be managed. They serve as a way of ensuring the processes and projects are well-defined and adds an element of accountability if anything goes awry.

    Conditions of Satisfaction

    KPIs are conditions of satisfaction that demonstrate how effective the vendor is at achieving the key business objectives of the managed service. KPIs should also be easy to quantify – this makes the impact of the managed service simpler to assess. 

    In the 1990’s and 2000’s, a number of new consulting models emerged in the technology industry. One that has proven to be lucrative, but has not always delivered quality, is staff augmentation. In this model, firms are essentially used as a billing office for individual consultants who need a Master Service Agreement number to work under.

    We’ve seen this model create several problems for our clients. The biggest is that an undue reliance is built on individuals who become indispensable for their subject matter expertise.

    The managed services model solves the risk of relying on any one individual person completing a job. When you contract a managed service provider, you get a whole team backing the task at hand and the team can be reorganized or reassigned as needed to ensure the project always runs smoothly.

    However, running a successful managed service is not just a matter of having a team approach. Ensuring success requires clearly defined and attainable metrics.

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    Randy Karr

    As CEO Randy sets the vision for the company, building strategic partnerships, and ensuring the Spur culture thrives. Randy has been with the team for over 14 years and has been instrumental in growing the business and developing our people.