Co-Managed IT Services Buyer's Guide
How Supplementing Your Internal Team with Outsourced IT Makes Them the Best They Can Be
You’ve made it to this page because you’re looking for a way to make your internal IT team more successful. Right?
Co-managed IT services can do that, but you have to have the right provider.
Pick the wrong provider and you may end up with an adversarial relationship where your internal people feel threatened. Pick the right one and your internal people will not only become free to do what they do best, but your business will become better at harnessing technology for growth and improvement.
So how do you pick the right co-managed IT services provider? That’s what we’ll cover in this buyer's guide.
What are Co-Managed IT Services?
Let’s start by defining what co-managed IT services are NOT.
Co-managed IT is not a piecemeal arrangement of “you do this” and “we’ll do that.” It’s not about collecting a bunch of different vendors that may bring various capabilities but no one is in charge.
Above all else, a co-managed IT should be a partnership between your company and one Managed Service Provider (MSP). While there should be some flexibility in exactly what services you’ll retain in-house, the ongoing responsibility for IT management and cyber security should rest with the co-managed IT services provider.
With co-managed IT, you’re not just getting services. You’re benefiting from the IT support company’s proven processes, depth of knowledge, and strategic guidance that will move your company on a path of technology improvement.
Are Co-Managed IT Services Right for Your Business?
Businesses that consider co-managed IT services usually have an internal IT team or at least an IT manager. They want to keep their staff (or at least some of them) but they recognize that running the IT function of their business takes more expertise, time, and resources than their in-house team can handle.
Companies that use co-managed IT services often want to take their utilization of technology up a level. Even if they’ve already been outsourcing some IT services, they‘ve hit a ceiling in some way and realize that they have to do something different to break through the barriers that are holding them back.
Most importantly, companies who look to co-managed IT services (or all-inclusive IT services for that matter) look at their technology as a strategic resource. IT is too important to be threatened by the risk of downtime or cyber-attack or even neglect. They want IT to work -- all the time.
How Do Co-Managed Services Work with Your Internal Team?
If a requisite of co-managed IT services is that you want to retain in-house IT, how does an MSP work with your internal team? Good question! As you read through the client stories on this page, you’ll see that co-managed IT can look a little bit different for different situations but there are some common threads that are woven through every scenario.
At Accent, we’ve found that most IT managers that we work with in a co-managed IT relationship are relieved to have an IT partner that they can rely on. They’re eager to have IT strategy experts to consult with and resources to call on when there’s a new challenge. After we get going, they forget that we’re their “outsourced” team. We’re just… their IT team.
Food Manufacturing Company Fills IT Department Gaps
This food manufacturing company has about 750 employees. Their IT staff includes a Chief Information Officer (CIO), a Director of IT and a Cybersecurity Analyst. They were working with an MSP but they lost trust in them when it became apparent that there were limits to their capability.
When they started talking with a new provider for co-managed IT services, they were especially concerned about backup management. As the conversation developed it became clear that they would benefit from the processes and tools that the MSP leveraged for IT and cyber security management.
A customized co-managed IT plan allowed the company to improve IT management and take care of routine tasks. Internal IT has a resource when support tickets need to be escalated. Access to the MSP’s advanced security tools and expertise allows them to take security up to another level.
In general, if you’re outsourcing IT management without support desk services, then you’re looking at between $25 and $250 per device per month. Each device -- workstation, tablet, server, switch, etc. -- typically has a different price for support
The total cost of co-managed IT services depends on the deliverables and the number of devices being supported. So if every employee has a laptop at home and a desktop at the office, it may make sense to rethink that arrangement if you’re considering co-managed IT and you want to reduce costs.
If you have special cybersecurity considerations like regulatory compliance requirements, that will affect your monthly price due to the advanced tools and management that are required.
However, if you were working with us, we'd help identify ways that you could decrease their compliance costs, such as limiting where the controlled data is stored and how it’s transmitted.
At Accent, when we get to a certain price point, we may suggest to a prospective client that an all-inclusive agreement may be the way to go. That doesn’t mean booting out the IT manager. It just means that there’s more opportunity to take day-to-day IT management and support off their plate than they at first realized. They just didn’t know that it was possible until we started to explore that road together.
How Will We Measure Success?
After your co-managed IT services ramp up, there will be a big sigh of relief from your IT manager. Who knows, your decision to fill gaps in IT with outsourced services may prevent internal staff from quitting. (Not kidding!)
For us, success is meeting our goal to help clients get where they need to go without technology getting in the way, and there are a lot of smaller successes that lead up to that.
In many cases, just picking up the ball where it’s been dropped, or taking care of IT management tasks that have been neglected does a lot to move towards everyone’s goal of improving the business’ IT function and getting rid of the stress and frustration that people were previously experiencing.
Practically speaking, there are metrics that you can keep track of to monitor how things are going. Some of the items on your dashboard might be:
- Status of patching and monitoring
- Alignment with IT best practices
- Hardware and software life cycle
- IT projects in progress
- Upcoming strategic initiatives
- Backup status
If the co-managed IT provider is taking care of cyber security, then the metrics that you’ll want to look at will gauge your readiness. That is, the extent that you’re set up to prevent, detect and respond to cyber intruders.
What Are the Problems with Co-Managed IT?
Another measure of success is your estimation of how well your internal team and the co-managed IT company’s team are working together. If the relationship isn’t good, then that’s a problem. One sign that the relationship isn’t working is that there isn’t enough communication.
Communication gaps create inconsistencies that can turn into problems. Imagine that your internal team turned off patch management as a cost saving measure but didn’t tell the co-managed partner. Then there was a cyber attack. Ouch! If you’re going to divide and conquer, you have to make sure that everything is still covered.
Sometimes communication gaps aren’t between the IT manager and the co-managed IT service provider but with IT and business leaders. What we can do about that is to simply relay the message that IT isn’t just overhead but can be a driver for business success. Fortunately, at Accent we have a huge resource library to help us do that.
Financial Services Company Offloads MSP Adversary
This financial services company had been contracting with an MSP but they also had their own internal IT manager. The MSP positioned themselves as the authority in charge and prevented the IT manager from accessing some of the company’s systems. The lack of flexibility and adversarial nature of their relationship made it hard for anyone to make progress.
Co-managed IT services and IT strategy consulting are now provided by an MSP that values the IT manager’s input and position. The new MSP takes care of most aspects of IT and cyber security management while the IT manager oversees the IT function of the company.
Instead of causing stress, the co-managed IT arrangement reduced stress for the IT manager and staff who are freed to do what they do best. The company could finally make progress with their utilization of technology because the MSP’s and company shared the same goal for success
How Do You Talk to Your Boss About Co-Managed IT Services?
Up to this point, we’ve been talking about co-managed IT services mainly from the business leader perspective, but let’s step into the IT manager’s shoes.
Even if you are fantastic at what you do, you’re not a superhero. You’re not a superhuman who can stand the stress of unrealistic expectations day after day after day. Somethings got to give, but you don’t want to appear incompetent or lazy by asking for help.
Ask for help, and back up your request with information business leaders understand. Instead of talking only about how the problem is showing up – that you can’t get to this, or you have concerns about that, etc. Talk to them about the impact the problem is having on the business.
One way to help you organize what you want to say is to craft a business case. You may not need to create a formal business case document, but processing the problem by going through the steps in a business case will help you to better present the solution you’re recommending.
The discussion points that you can include as you’re putting together your business case can include:
- How are gaps in IT showing up in the business?
- What are the repercussions of inadequate IT?
- What have you been doing to overcome the problem?
- How will co-managed IT services fill gaps in IT?
- What outcomes can be expected from co-managed IT?
- How much will co-managed IT cost?
- What will happen if we don’t do something?
Actually, from the executive viewpoint, processing the situation in a business case is still very helpful. You still may need to get colleagues on board or just validate your own decision that co-managed IT services is the right road to travel.
How to Evaluate a Co-Managed IT Services Company
The process for evaluating a co-managed IT services provider isn’t that different from choosing a managed IT service company for all-inclusive services. Your scope of work will be different, but the qualities that you need to look for will be the same. These include:
- Their co-managed IT support agreement gets you what you need.
- Their team of specialists are certified and have up-to-date knowledge.
- They have dedicated account representatives to manage your relationship.
- They make sure that the companies they work with are a good fit.
- They’ve worked with other companies in your industry.
- Their expertise, longevity, and quality are recognized by awards and certifications.
- Onboarding is treated like an IT project and has a documented process.
- They do everything with security in mind.
- They monitor customer sentiment on both the user and executive level.
- They live by IT best practices and documented processes.
Your new company should have a process that includes these components in addition to an onboarding process that minimizes disruption for your staff. The way that your new company steps in should further build your confidence that they will take care of you and that they have your best interests in mind.
Manufacturing Company Looks to Co-Managed IT for Compliance
A manufacturing company had multiple regulatory compliance requirements that they needed to meet to retain their customers. They were working with an IT company but the expertise that was offered was limited. When the company tried to meet compliance requirements on their own, it became even more clear that they needed help.
Internal staff provide support for individual users while co-managed IT takes care of everything that has to do with IT management, and leads cyber security and compliance. A Technology Advisor provided by the MSP works with the IT manager and business leaders to craft IT strategy.
While internal IT takes care of user support, issues declined as the MSP implemented best practices and implemented improvements. Successful attainment of regulatory compliance means they can keep their current customers, seek out more, and stay competitive in their industry.
Getting Started with Co-Managed IT Services
As mentioned in the paragraph above, one of the attributes that you’re looking for in a co-managed IT services provider is a great onboarding process. The process is important because that’s what determines the kind of experience that you’re going to have.
If you’re already working with an MSP, you should expect some overlap with services. The new provider will want to gather information, install their tools and do their prep work for the transition.
If you don’t have an outsourced provider, you can still expect a timeline to get everything in place and a date for services to begin.
Whatever your situation, the onboarding process is going to involve a lot of information gathering about the devices that are being supported and documentation about your network. The more information you can share, the better. However, documentation may have been something that got pushed to the side while IT was struggling to get everything done.
Make sure you give employees plenty of notice about the change in support. Change can be hard for people, but setting expectations and giving them instructions on exactly what to do to get support will do a lot to ease their fears.
What IT Stress is Doing to Your Business
Making the change to co-managed IT services is a big decision. You could, however, choose to do nothing right now. But how different is that from wishing and hoping things will change on their own? With due diligence to vet out the best MSP partner, moving to co-managed IT services could be the best thing you ever did for your business.
Co-Managed IT Services for Southern California Companies
At Accent, we have a track record of co-managed IT success with clients who, just like you, were previously held back by IT. Get in touch to explore how we could partner with you and turn IT from an anchor into a propeller. We may or may not end up working together, but it’s worth a conversation.