Despite an obvious lack of skills within the ICT managed services and outsourcing space – and an environment that is defined by constant change, the reality of the market today is that partnership with a reputable, capable and informed Managed Services Provider (MSP) is essential so as to allow business to take advantage of the unique opportunities presented by the rapidly changing technological landscape.
Those who focus their attention on this competitive area of the ICT sector believe the managed services segment is in a healthy state and are drawn to, amongst others, the largely untapped network security and Software as a Service (SaaS) spheres.
André Fourie, Operations Manager at Network Alliance, says this buoyancy in the market is fuelled by a desire by companies to capitalise on the benefits of outsourcing and managed services in general. “By partnering with a credible and experienced Managed Services Provider a company is able to focus on their core business in the knowledge that the execution of their ICT strategy and the management & support of their network infrastructure, communication facilities and data centre is in the hands of a reliable and knowledgeable partner with a proven track record of demonstrated delivery.”
“By appointing and working with an MSP who offers end-to-end management of virtually all elements of the network infrastructure, companies are able to leverage off the significant investments in systems, technology and people made by MSP’s, all of which are extensively utilised to pro-actively monitor network health, optimise infrastructure utilisation and ensure system and application availability. A stable and reliable network is conducive to a more productive environment, thus allowing decision makers to focus their energy on their core business,” Fourie continues.
Other advantages to those investing in the Managed Services Provider model are increased efficiencies brought about by the consolidation of disparate systems and technologies, a comprehensive value proposition as well as extensive experience and expertise.
Fourie also points out the fact that service providers make provision for uninterrupted service delivery in their resource and costing models, which, together with the extensive utilisation of IT automation frameworks, pave the way for comprehensive, measurable managed services at competitive price-points.
The point that Network Alliance continues to make is that the emerging managed services market represents a significant move away from the legacy ‘break fix’ approach to infrastructure management. A more pro-active approach allows MSP’s to anticipate problems and identify and resolve the root cause of problems faster and more cost-effectively, which results in both direct and indirect benefits to businesses.
According to Fourie and executive leadership at Network Alliance, those MSPs with a clearly defined strategy that have invested in IT Automation frameworks or similar systems and with suitably-skilled and knowledgeable technical resources, have a clear opportunity to differentiate themselves from competitors. “By competitors, we refer specifically to those who still rely on outdated approaches, systems and technology,” Fourie adds.
While this differentiation adds value by helping to establish and maintain service standards within the industry, it also means companies have to be highly vigilant as far as choice of potential partners is concerned.
ICT services experts emphasise the importance of vetting any MSP prior to entering into a contract. The vetting process covers aspects like a proven track record, evidence of long-standing associations with multiple customers of varying sizes, and verification of the administrative, technical and system-driven capabilities.
“Once satisfied with the MSP’s capabilities, prospective customers should contact between three and five of the MSP’s customers in order to ascertain levels of satisfaction with the MSP’s service delivery. Specific emphasis should be placed on the execution of IT strategy, the measurable outcome of recent projects completed, compliance with Services Agreement and other criteria,” says Fourie.
Network Alliance’s point of view is that, when considering appointing an MSP, due diligence is worth its weight and will in most cases prevent disappointment and frustration. This trend will escalate in importance and influence going forward.