Gary Derheim – VP of Marketing & Business Development
I often tell my (now adult) children, that many of life’s most impactful lessons are learned the hard way. Well, in 20+ years of leading managed services I’ve learned plenty the hard way and would like to think, despite the scars, that I and the services I influence at PTP are better off for it. Since today is my birthday (please, hold your applause until the end) it felt like a good time to reflect and share some of those lessons in hopes that they could provide some value to others.
Lesson 1: Services not Engineering
First and foremost, it’s called Managed SERVICES for a reason, and not Managed Engineering, Managed Technician or Managed Analyst. Hire people that have the fundamental skills needed to perform their tasks well but search for those that have empathy for the customer, can understand their business and are committed to making the customer satisfied. Well-written Scopes of Work are critical, but when there is grey area, going above and beyond is what creates satisfaction and renews contracts.
Lesson 2: No ”MSP” Can Do It All
If they say they can, run. Run fast. On a call recently I heard a customer say that MSP’s grow until they no longer perform well. In most of those cases, the backbone of the MSP or Managed Services organization is a few really smart people that have breadth of expertise and are capable of supporting a diverse set of technologies. That works well until it doesn’t. The model does not scale because people with that capability are very limited. Instead, look to a Managed Services provider that can say no with good reason and understands the operational efficiency of a finite platform of tools and technologies.
Lesson 3: Offshore is Cheaper, Not Better
No eureka here, but many tasks can be executed effectively with off-shore teams. I have used this model at several companies with success in a limited model. Primarily night/weekend work with escalation to on-shore engineering that has knowledge of the customer, their environment and their unique needs. Roles with repetition that follow a well-crafted Runbook and have limited engagement with the end customer carry the most value with the least risk of degrading service levels.
Lesson 4: Transparency and Openness
Never hide metrics, juice up facts and figures related to services or lock customers out of core tools. The only time a Managed Services team would need to worry about the customer getting overly involved in their systems is if and when they are not executing at a high level. Managed Services is about building trust and building trust comes from transparency and openness, just a like personal relationship. Say what you do, do what you say, and show what you do.
Lesson 5: Drive for Show, Putt for Dough
Yeah, this is a golf term, but applies. In the Managed Services world, I compare the “driving” to the 24×7 monitoring, alerting and notification. It’s challenging, requires expertise in tooling, process and applying all the correct metrics by managed device for the specific needs of the customer. Doing this well and getting on the fairway (see how I did that with the analogy?) keeps you in play with a customer. But that does not renew contracts. Why not? Well, because while challenging, it is a commodity and by nature, a reactive business. Device/service is impaired, device/service sends a notification, the monitoring platform accepts the notification and creates a prioritized incident, the incident opens a ticket, the ticket is queued to the Operations Center, the Analyst triages and then the Analyst follows defined steps in the runbook. Yes, quite a few moving parts, but all If/Then reaction. The Putting for Dough is about the forward-looking monthly and quarterly reviews where the team is helping drive improvement and optimization – – that’s what renews contracts. Both have to be executed at a high level, but it is a safe play to over-invest in the reviews.
Nobody has all the answers, I certainly do not. But the majority of the lessons that I’ve outlined in this article were things I was never taught and had to learn on my own. While I wish I had learned them early in my Managed Services leadership, the fact that I experienced them has had a tremendous impact on how we look to execute services at PTP. No organization is 100% all of the time, but our customers know we have a great team that executes at a high level and most importantly, we put them first.