How a Co-Managed IT Service Model Can Benefit Your Business
Having a solid IT team will surely accelerate your organization's goals and its path to success. Having confidence in the scope of the team’s capabilities and knowledge is key, but how can you be sure that all of your IT bases are covered?
After all, your internal IT team undoubtedly has a strong knowledge of your organization’s technology needs, but the gamut of technology management has multiple, ever-evolving components that can be hard to stay on top of.
It is nearly impossible for a one or two person team to handle all of the IT elements for your entire organization. There are a multitude of variables, and frankly somtimes it's just hard to keep up. Although it is too be expected, technological advances are increasing on an infinite, upward trend and a one person IT team most times won't cut it. That being said, organizations should regularly be looking for ways to develop their IT team’s knowledge base.
So how can an IT Managed Service Provider be of assistance to your in-house team? Supplementing your current staff with an MSP will fill gaps that would otherwise go unnoticed.
As an MSP ourselves, it would be unfair to claim that we are impartial towards using our services. With that being said, as an MSP our mission is to ensure that your business is equipped with the tools it needs to run without interruption while maintaining maximum security. Whether or not you use us, consider the following education a guide to a balanced co-managed model.
In this article, we will discuss the general strength and weaknesses of in-house IT staff and managed services providers, and why doubling up will help you overcome weaknesses and realize the strengths of each.
The Strengths of In-House IT Staff
As you already know, there are several important strengths to having internal IT staff. They are crucial to your operation, and let’s be real, what would you do without them?
Constant Part of The Team
Your in-house IT staff is working in your tech and with your people every day. This allows them to master the particularities of the environment and their coworkers. In terms of technology familiarity, this can be a big plus when your tech is proprietary, technology is your actual product or service, or you use custom-developed applications.
Your staff can also build a personal bond with IT co-workers when they share lunch, a joke at the water cooler, or play in a fantasy league together. Additionally, internal IT staff are easily accessible to their team members. You can walk up behind them and do the shoulder-tap to get help! Even though that IT guy or gal dies a little inside every time a ticket is opened via a shoulder tap, it is nonetheless comforting for some employees to have this access. Priority Control
Another strength of having internal IT staff is that you have total control over their time, priorities, and projects. And even better yet, you can shift those at a moment’s notice. The level of control is helpful if your team has zero-tolerance for minor IT issues. An internal member gives you the ability to make a support resource available immediately to address even ‘minor nuisance’ type issues.
While an MSP will certainly help with very minor issues, they will not prioritize those over emergencies. We’re not suggesting that you should treat nuisance level issues as dire issues that demand immediate support. But having greater control over IT staff allows you to dictate their priorities and tasks more closely and depending on your staff’s attitudes, this might be relevant to you.
Finally, the cost is a potential strength of hiring internal IT staff. Depending on your size and complexity, hiring IT staff may provide you with a lower direct cost to support your technology. This is case by case depending on your unique situation and the exact opposite may also be true. Also, note that direct costs do not tell the whole story, so do your full diligence before drawing conclusions.
The Weaknesses of In-House IT Staff
While there are certainly some distinct strengths, there are also some notable weaknesses of having in-house IT staff.
The biggest cons of internal IT staff are the real limitations in coverage, capacity, and continuity. Unless you’re ready to stomach the high costs of building a sizable IT team, coverage will be an issue whenever there is an absence, illness, vacation, or departures.
IT issues happen unpredictably and can derail your internal IT staff’s focus away from value-added projects. This can cause support to suffer, lost productivity, and projects that bring the business forward may grind to a halt.
The only way to address this with an internal IT staff is to hire more IT staff than you think you need. If you have one IT person and they leave, you’re going to face some real pain. Single person IT departments are notorious for relying on memory. Even if you have a few people on your internal IT team, they will still struggle to prioritize documentation. That means when there’s a departure, you’re almost certainly losing knowledge about your tech. That will cost you later.
Lack of Specialization
Another weakness of internal IT staff is that it’s difficult to obtain adequate specialization across various areas of your tech. IT specialization is a lot like healthcare. Instead of dermatologists or cardiologists, you have network engineers, systems administrators, cybersecurity analysts, etc.
With internal IT staff, you won’t be able to hire subject matter experts (SME’s) across various IT disciplines unless you have a rich budget. Without those SME’s, you will likely have to rely on external consultants to do upgrades, struggle to resolve issues at the root cause, and make less than optimal tech decisions and investments.
Lastly, a significant drawback to hiring IT staff is that it can be more expensive than outsourcing to a managed services provider. IT labor is in high demand and there’s a short supply of professionals in the job market.
As a result, decent IT people are, in a word, expensive.
Without the added benefit of being able to offer training and development opportunities that tech firms can provide their people, you will have to rely almost exclusively on offering lucrative compensation packages. Moreover, due to the reasons highlighted above, you may likely still need to engage with an outside IT vendor, adding additional costs to your IT management cost structure.
The Strengths of an IT Managed Services Provider
Managed Service Providers are often thought of as complete entities that take over a company’s entire IT ecosystem with no need for internal staff. Contrary to popular belief, MSPs are also able to act as a part-time IT backup.
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You’ve probably heard the cliché, “There’s strength in numbers,” and it certainly applies to having well-run technology. In this way, MSP’s have a clear advantage over internal IT staff. MSP’s have the economies of scale to deploy a deep bench of engineers. An absence, illness, or vacation should not inhibit support levels or derail projects for an MSP.
In other words, MSP’s can provide you with greater coverage and a higher level of continuity vs. internal IT staff, unless you plan on hiring IT staff by the dozen. MSP’s are also able to rapidly accommodate increased service needs as you grow, without the headaches of you having to quickly recruit, hire, and onboard the right IT staff.
Aside from having a wide bench that can provide greater coverage, continuity, capacity and scalability, having an MSP also provides depth in the form of specialization. Think of your IT management team like a football team; that all-star kicker is perfect for the game-winning field goal, but almost useless if asked to throw a touchdown pass under pressure.
Well, IT is no different and an MSP will have talented people with subject matter expertise in various disciplines. The technology field is so broad and changing so fast, no one individual can be an expert at it all, but one good managed IT company can field experts in many areas.
Due to their scalable teams, specialization, and robust processes, MSPs can also cost your organization less than hiring more IT staff. That’s almost certainly true if you’re under 100 employees and may still be true for much larger organizations.
In fact, larger companies are leading the way in outsourcing to managed services providers. Organizations that leverage an MSP with in-house IT as well can achieve an overall lower IT management cost structure.
Of course, this can cut both ways, so we’d recommend educating yourself about the costs of managed services. It is also worth highlighting that the check you write to the MSP or your internal IT staff are not your only costs. Productivity, business continuity, opportunity costs, etc. should also factor into your decision.
The Weaknesses of an IT Managed Services Provider
While we highlighted many strengths of using a managed services provider, there are also several weaknesses we would like to discuss.
Lack of Familiarity with Your Company
An MSP’s engineers won’t have the same back-of-the-hand familiarity with your tech and people as an internal IT person would. This likely won’t matter much in a very standard environment. but this can have a real impact when there is proprietary tech.
But this can have a real impact when there is proprietary tech., when your business is delivering a technology product or service, or when you rely on custom-developed applications.
Less Accessibility and Comfort
Another potential weakness of an MSP is that your team doesn’t have the same level of accessibility and comfort as compared to internal IT staff. You cannot walk up and poke the MSP’s engineers on the shoulder or intercept them on their way to the water cooler.
This may require that your staff rebuild their habits around engaging with IT support. Also, since the MSP’s staff and yours don’t work in as close proximity as in-house IT staff likely would, your staff may take longer to build the trust- personal relationships with the staff at your MSP.
Finally, the cost of a managed services provider can cut both ways, and it is possible that hiring a managed service could cost your organization more than hiring an in-house IT person or adding to your existing IT team. You will want to learn more about the costs of managed services to assess how this could impact your costs, and do not forget to evaluate the soft costs of each as those are
How Co-Managing IT with Internal IT Staff and an MSP Can Optimize Results
If you are already sporting an internal team, you probably noticed most strengths in each category are direct comparisons of one another, but their weaknesses are drastically different.
Your in-house staff paired with MSP will bridge each area of vulnerability to create a symbiotic relationship for the greater good of the whole organization. Let’s take a moment to look at how pairing an MSP with your internal team can bridge any gaps.
With just an internal team, you are limited in capacity in regards to both scaling and finances. Your internal team can't be everywhere at one time making it hard to find the time for the larger projects. Your team is essentially limited in man-hours, and there is no easy way to scale up and down to cater to your fluctuating needs.
Let's say your three-person team has acquired a project that will take about 300 hours over two months. It would be outrageously expensive to hire on an employee for that small period, and it would take nearly the entire time for them to become familiar with your unique infrastructure. An MSP can take on your project while still sustaining basic support needs.
Secondly, no matter how big your internal team is, it is unlikely you can field specialists in all areas of technology. MSP's have experts in all different areas to help tackle complicated issues. Even a part-time MSP contract will be beneficial to the overall uptime and productivity of your organization. Having a subject matter expert, your staff can delegate tickets based on needs to also break down the recruitment and specialization barriers.
Within both areas of concern, you will save money by pairing your existing IT team with an MSP. Managed service providers can effortlessly scale the amount of support delivered to you at a lower price than to have to hire additional IT support. The average technician will cost you $50-150k a year, with specialists ranging from $80-160k.
MSP's can affordably keep specialists onboard by taking advantage of economies of scale. They can provide them to dozens of clients without them having to incur the full cost of a specialist. MSP's give you access at a fraction of a cost because they’ve leveraged accounts on thousands of endpoints
In conclusion, choosing to use only internal IT staff or an MSP resource, you leave room for error with gaps that can only be filled when utilizing both. Whichever you prefer, your decision should not be taken lightly or rushed through – this article was simply intended as a starting point.
If you are still unsure of which solution is right for your company, Framework IT can help. With over a decade of experience managing and co-managing environments with internal IT teams and we have a wide breadth of experience. If you would like to learn more about your options for the most informed decision, contact us and speak to an IT professional!