Jun 02 2016

4 Keys to Finding a Managed Services Partner

Managed IT services help small businesses successfully manage growth, but companies need to make sure their partners have the right tools and processes in place to help them.

Growth is the goal of every small company, but a sudden rise in business often comes with challenges. For example, when new demand isn’t supported by a solid IT foundation, customer service and quality control can quickly falter, which puts a company at risk of sending all that new business to competitors.

Fortunately, small business leaders have a safety net that not only scales for growth spikes but also helps them use their IT talent more strategically over time. The secret is managed IT services, where outside providers deliver core technology resources and functions that growing companies need, such as telephony, help desk, email, collaboration, networking, mobility, security and disaster recovery.

That’s the theory, at least. The trouble is that not every managed services provider is prepared to successfully meet the needs of growing companies. That’s why I advise leaders to focus on four areas to find an excellent service provider.

  1. People: At CDW, our people distinguish our services from the rest of the managed services industry. We hire experts in each service area and then invest time and money in training so they remain at the top of their games.
  2. Processes: Small businesses need enterprise-grade operational standards to support their IT environments. CDW designs its service offerings using IT Infrastructure Library guidelines and other best practices adopted by leading organizations.

  3. Tools: Small firms need IT monitoring tools to fully understand their environments, but many just don’t have the resources to make this happen. We fill that gap as part of our engagement contracts so clients gain an accurate view of their operations.

  4. Expertise: Moving to managed services can be a change management challenge. That’s why we schedule onsite visits with the users who will be affected by a service engagement. Working with company leaders, we help explain the larger business goals and the overall benefits to the organization — all to cultivate the buy-in that’s essential to project success.

Working closely with customers has taught me another lesson for assuring success once services are in place: Clients should designate a central person to work with our service engineers. This gives us insights into any new IT challenges that arise so they can be addressed quickly. Think of it as the informal conversations that naturally take place between business users and IT staff. For example, someone in accounts payable expresses frustration about the slow pace of invoice processing, so a colleague in the internal IT department opens a service ticket. A managed-services point person can make sure these kinds of communications continue to flow to experts on the services staff with the power to solve problems.

A Powerful Resource

The good news is, once you have internal processes in place, you’ll open the door to fast adoption of additional managed services. This puts you in an enviable position: When you need to address a business opportunity, you can quickly decide whether the best response is hiring new workers with the necessary skills or tapping a trusted partner to deliver the resources. That’s a powerful competitive position to exploit.

For more on how small businesses can use technology to grow effectively, check out, "Small Business Growth Requires Strategic IT Planning."


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