A 5-point checklist for outsourcing your ITSM to a Managed Service Provider

Illustration: Ram Prasath

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An in-depth look at outsourcing IT through managed services — the importance, benefits, and factors to keep in mind to ensure you outsource your ITSM with complete confidence.

As the digital revolution sweeps across industries worldwide, companies are increasingly digitizing their businesses to uncover new opportunities and improved outcomes. From leveraging state-of-the-art technologies to streamlining managed services, enterprises are aligning IT service management (ITSM) capabilities with organizational goals to scale business operations and increase efficiency as a whole.

However, this presents an unavoidable challenge for business functioning on limited budgets—It increases the workload on their in-house IT teams, which in turn hampers business growth and excellence.

To deal with the significant drawback, companies across industries are gearing towards outsourcing IT operations through managed services to reduce reliance on directly-employed staff.

As it happens, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) assume full responsibility of maintaining and delivering IT services and infrastructure through active support and administration on client premises or elsewhere (remote data centers).

Since they provide in-demand talent and technologies to fulfill the needs of enterprises through IT Service Management (ITSM), MSPs today have emerged as strategic outsourcing partners for businesses looking to streamline internal processes, improve organizational efficiency, and reduce budgetary expenditures.

In this article, we'll take an in-depth look at outsourcing IT through managed services — the importance, benefits, and factors to keep in mind to ensure you outsource your ITSM with complete confidence.

What is IT Service Management?

IT Service Management—or ITSM, as we call it—is essentially a strategic approach towards end-to-end delivery of IT services. It is generally described in terms of clients/end-users and service providers and includes discrete processes across the IT lifecycle, from ideation to delivery and support.

The central concept is for organizations to deliver IT as a service—create and manage business processes using information technology.

Originally, the sole purpose of an ITSM solution was to manage service desk requests and handle incidents. For example, let's say a customer wanted to submit a request for a new laptop. All they had to do was fill out a ticket on a portal, which would then initiate a repeatable workflow. The ticket would be sent to the relevant IT team, who would then queue and address it based on priority levels.

However, ITSM has now evolved to cater to changing company needs and covers a range of functions and core processes like change management, knowledge management, asset tracking and reporting, and so on.

The primary goal of outsourcing IT service delivery is to improve business performance by reducing the workload on in-house IT teams. In this manner, organizations—particularly small and medium sized—can scale their IT services despite operating on limited budgets. It allows them to leverage innovative technologies to excel in their area of expertise and take business growth to the next level.

5 Steps to Choose a Strategic Outsourcing Partner for Your ITSM

An MSP can supply a range of ITSM tools and yet companies will struggle to find a good fit for their business. The key to boosting productivity and performance is to place ITSM capabilities in effective alignment with business goals.

Take the following steps to fool-proof outsourcing your ITSM to an MSP.

1. Evaluate your ITSM needs

Begin with understanding the needs of your organization. Carefully consider fundamental areas of business to determine your present and future requirement of ITSM strategies.

Ask yourself:

  • What functions and processes are unique to your operations?
  • Which of those core processes are likely to benefit from automation?
  • What are the key pain points that your business faces on a day-to-day basis?

The idea is to increase efficiency and improve user experience by recognizing factors that are critical for the smooth-running of your organization.

In our experience, the primary areas of consideration include:

  • Security
  • Service requests and incidents management
  • Assets tracking
  • Reporting
  • Workflow automation
  • Alerts and notifications
  • Logging actions

2. Pay attention to the MSP—not just the ITSM framework

While a top-tier ITSM solution is integral to the effective automation of business processes, we highly recommend learning about the vendor (MSP) you are outsourcing ITSM services to.

Find out how they ensure dedicated support beyond the point-of-sale and whether you can build a mutually profitable, long-term relationship with them.

A few key questions to ask here are:

  • Can they proactively respond to evolving trends and disruptions in the market?
  • Do they put forward innovative and customizable solutions to tackle existing issues? Or do they simply optimize your business functions?
  • Do they offer active support to navigate unprecedented (or otherwise) changes?

Go through their customer service record—speak with existing and previous clients if need be. Take note of how company representatives across different departments offer support. Take care while choosing your MSP, and you will avoid significant issues once the contracts are signed.

3. Learn about their ITSM framework

Even though most MSPs leverage a combination of ITSM frameworks to address different functions and provide customizable solutions, it is a good idea to ensure they adhere to predefined best practices and industry standards to provide structured IT management services.

For some perspective, here are the top ITSM frameworks favored by the world’s largest organizations in their digital transformation journey:

  • ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library): Most popularly used ITSM framework (used by 47% of Forbes Insight survey respondents), it usually serves as the starting point for companies adopting an ITSM framework.
  • MOF (Microsoft Operations Framework): Primarily used to manage IT lifecycles (from concept to retirement/replacement).
  • COBIT (Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies): It is used to develop, implement, and monitor business goals and IT governance.
  • Six Sigma: Published by Motorola, it is used to review data and reduce drawbacks in services.

Other commonly used ITSM frameworks include eTOM, DevOps, and Lean.

The right ITSM framework aligns processes, people and technology with business objectives and goals.

It should be noted though that every organization's requirements are unique; you can't copy-paste another company's tiered structure onto your organization and expect it to deliver the outcomes you want. Regardless of which ITSM framework you leverage, it takes a strong IT team to leverage their unique capabilities and approaches to add value to an IT environment.

Which brings us to our next point.

4. Favor in-demand (hard and soft) ITSM skills

Consider MSPs with IT professionals who carry domain expertise, knowledge of pipelines, key technologies and architectures, and can provide value to the organization on the whole.

Alan Zucker, founding principal at Project Management Essentials emphasizes the importance of IT talent with an eye for the the larger scheme of projects:

"IT professionals [who] develop the skill of 'seeing the whole' can make themselves indispensable to their organization… They become the future leaders because they understand how everything fits together."

In addition to this, look for soft skills in MSP representatives to ensure you will receive the level of support and assistance you desire from your outsourcing partners.

Pay attention to how effectively they can explain a technical aspect to a nontechnical audience. Are they helpful and articulate or condescending and inadequate?

It also pays when you partner with MSPs who are proactive, willing to learn and evolve, and communicate with business leaders to develop winning ITSM strategies for your organization.

5. Be mindful of your budget

Before you begin your search for an MSP, set yourself a realistic budget. How? Consider the cost of adoption for a defined term, say 5 years. Take into account service upgrades, integrations, potential scenarios that might incur additional charges, maintenance costs, etc.

Based on your unique requirements, an MSP will offer you a range of options. For instance, if you are looking for basic communication-logging and reporting features, you can go for a basic/starter plan. Whereas, if you require large-scale workflow automation, security benefits, customizations, you might have to go for a more premium offering.

The bottom line? Be prepared for these costs and set your budget accordingly.

While ITSM frameworks are evolving to include a range of business departments (such as HR and production), IT is still the most prominent use-case for service management.

As companies worldwide outsource IT through managed services, all we ask is that you closely analyze your present and future business needs, and find yourself a strategic outsourcing partner that can steer your organization towards the path of growth and productivity.

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