If you’ve got IT pain, we get it. So many companies do. Now, if you tend to only call when the house is already on fire, then chances are that even the sight of us IT consultants probably brings up some negative associations. But are you ready for some cold hard truth? Your IT pain may not just be about the technology or the staff you’re using; it may be in your approach.
IT consultants and tech support companies offer something called “managed services” to help clients break out of that stressful break-fix cycle. But that said, managed services is not a perfect match for every company. If everything in your company runs like a fire drill, then structured IT support may not be your cup of tea. But, if you do have structures in place, it can be the key to improved results not only in technology but your business.
That said, managed service is just a category or type of service. Although many companies offer managed services, just like investing—your results may vary. There are many IT support firms that do not do what they say they will, and do not deliver the results they promise. Often, technology pain persists. (And yeah, if you’re already an MS customer and you’re having trouble, than you’re probably nodding your head.)
Let me share with you a little history and a couple of points to consider to see if managed services would potentially be a fit for your company.
A Short History of the Break-Fix Cycle
Once upon a time, pretty much every computer service transaction was part of the break-fix cycle. It went a little something like this: computer stop, me call guy, guy show up (sometimes), guy fumble around, computer starts to work again (sometimes), guy gives me bill (always). Sound familiar?
At some point, businesses realized that guy showing up = bad. Hence that negative association. But smart leadership saw an even bigger problem. Not only was paying the IT support guy expensive, but the interruption from business was even more costly. So, forward thinking organizations told their IT support guys to start coming up with preventative tasks to try and limit the amount of problems that brought the computers to a halt. Not a bad idea, but, unfortunately, a preventative focus is rarely fully allowed in busy companies. Instead, IT gets tied up with user crises to deal with, fires, updates, new applications, sales people that need to get a proposal out – these issues always feel more urgent than regular maintenance and prevention.
But without regular maintenance, process, documentation and the support of a professional, many IT fires get started that otherwise wouldn’t have the kindling to get going. When users ignore backup request messages or other software or hardware information due to lack of capacity or understanding, then that simply feeds into the break-fix cycle.
Enter Managed Services
In the early 2000s, computer, systems and software companies started to realize that the cost of ownership was far greater than the cost of acquisition – and that the users (you, dear reader) were catching on. Effort was spent to make the systems easier to manage. Management protocols were installed into systems to try and give users insight before performance outages and the dreaded “blue screen of death.” At first, the software and systems to monitor the systems was extremely expensive – only the big boys could afford it. But, thanks to modern ingenuity, it was not too long before these tools became more efficient, more vendors entered the marketplace and prices started falling. Eventually, even small companies with only 10 or so employees could afford to maintain their machines and systems and gain the it support and cost advantages like the big boys.
With consistent management and monitoring in place, companies can better partner with an IT consulting firm to establish a plan to monitor and update systems while preventing major problems from gaining momentum. Or at least, that’s the goal. Regular maintenance does require some work, but, to put it another way, someone who stays consistently healthy often ends up in a better position than someone who binge diets, randomly exercises, and has to visit the doctor more often.
The Nitty Gritty: Managed Services vs. Break-Fix
Break-fix can feel familiar and satisfying—something is broken, so you call someone to fix it. But break-fix also means you end up with business interruption, increased cost, lower profit to deal with, and a technical bill for a specialized repair based solution. You also end up at the whim of the IT staff, and of course this stuff always happens at the least convenient time, and those two factors together can create a lot of unnecessary stress and a feeling of “crisis mode.”
A managed services approach can be more cost effective and provide greater value if two conditions are met:
• A – You actually know the real cost associated to keep technology functional in your company. If you do not have the full picture it can appear more expensive. Proper managed services actually cost less than what it takes to do it yourself. But when you calculate the total cost of doing it yourself, you need to calculate not only the IT liability, but also the equipment, installation, support, repairs, your management time, disruption, slow employee performance and distractions that all caused by avoidable technology hiccups.
• B – the managed service provider is actually providing a great service. Unfortunately, there are a lot of posers out there in the IT consultant land, which isn’t a surprise since so many companies look alike on first glance. It’s much easier to get into a bad service relationship than out of a bad service relationship.
If these two conditions are in place, then you can end up with a value priced solution that also results in better productivity from your employees, and higher morale, too. Paying an employee to sit around and wait is never fun, and nothing beats down an employee like not having the tools to do the job efficiently. Having a plan in place to ensure the smooth operation of your computer systems sends a message to your employees that their time matters, and that your company is prepared to anticipate and prevent any barriers to their work.
So, to recap, a managed service provider can bring your company greater productivity, less interruptions, proactive resolution, adding daily tracking of backup and critical systems, greater security, less malware and virus problems, and a team that focuses on their work vs. trying to be part time computer guys. We could go on about the benefits, so what’s the catch?
The most difficult part of transitioning from the break-fix mode may be adjusting your thinking. It is nice to think you can buy something once and fix a problem, but that is false when it comes to maintenance of digital machines and systems. Taking care of your technology simply needs to be put into your monthly budget, just like any other overhead cost. All of us could “save” some short term money if we cut out certain costs, but I think we all agree that we are far more productive with say, electricity and running water, than without. And in all seriousness, though managed services does require a cost, but as most things in life, you get back what you put in.
Need more? Check out our quick list of benefits to MS, then feel free to reach out to talk about transitioning your company!
The Quick and Dirty Dozen: 12 Benefits of Managed Services:
1. Increased operational efficiency
2. Controlled operating cost through a managed technology budget
3. Greater value with cost-effective access to quality support
4. Minimized downtime
5. More productivity
6. Better focus on what makes the company money vs. what technology is broken
7. Confidence and peace of mind from knowing that the network is watched 24/7/365
8. Business continuity services
9. Proactive eyes are focused and not distracted by “crisis mode”
10. A whole company focused on improving IT operations vs just one “IT guy”
11. Greater security
12. And you sleep better, lose weight and live happily ever after – (well, this one would be up to you)
Until next time – be well!