By JAMES GENTRY
One of our biggest challenges as an IT firm (we are also known as Managed Service Providers, or MSPs) is convincing businesses that they really need help. We understand why. Just like you, we are inundated with endless offers of products that promise everything. We struggle to find time to evaluate even the ones we’re interested in!
But there have been times when we did engage with some sort of new vendor – and as often as not we end up thankful that we did.
The calls that I am most thankful for didn’t necessarily result in the adoption of a new tool. They are the ones that taught us something we didn’t know about our systems. Sometimes they uncover a deficiency. Sometimes they confirm that we are in good shape. But had we not engaged with those vendors, we would have continued to be ignorant, and ignorance has no place in the IT world. And since we can’t possibly stay on top of the ever-changing IT landscape, having quality help (yes even from a vendor!) is a blessing.
For us, it’s not threatening when someone comes along and shows us where we can make improvements, but this is not often the case with in-house IT staff. It’s easy to see why. Whether we mean to be or not (and we don’t), third party IT firms are perceived as a threat to job security for in-house IT.
And this is the crux of our challenge – how can we convince on-site IT staff that they need help when, before we are even introduced, they have a deep distrust of our motives and believe that we want to have them eliminated?
Moreover, how do we convince a practice manager or a provider that they need help when their in-house IT staff doesn’t even want to broach the subject?
Most reputable IT firms are more than willing to work with in-house tech staff. There is even a name for it: Co-Managed IT. This can be set up in more than one way:
1: On-site IT staff puts out all the little fires that seem to happen every day and escalates big stuff to the MSP.
2: On-site IT staff handles workstations, and the MSP handles servers.
3: Hybrid: On-site IT and the MSP agree on who will handle what, and also agree on what things will be handled jointly. Perhaps on-site IT is fine handling workstations and some servers, but the MSP is needed to handle, say, a mail server or database server that is a little more complicated.
4: On-site IT handles most everything, and the MSP is brought on to help with cybersecurity (this is becoming very common – we even hire third party cybersecurity vendors to help US stay on top of things).
So how do you, as a practice manager or provider, decide to enhance your in-house IT staff?
1: Does your IT team handle day-to-day tasks, but struggle to find time to upgrade security systems and protocols?
2: Is your practice expanding rapidly, but you can’t find quality IT help to hire quickly enough?
3: Does your IT team have current tools to work efficiently? These can be hard on the IT budget. It’s quite common to find in-house IT using outdated tools and methods because they have no choice.
4: Is your IT team getting burnt out (and, worse, potentially disgruntled)? Are they constantly working late or on weekends? Are projects not getting done on time or correctly?
5: Is your IT team creating new security measures? HINT: they absolutely should be!
6: Is your IT team showing signs of aggression or frustration at work?
When Co-managed IT is done right, the on-site IT staff will begin to see the MSP as a beneficial resource that is not interested in competing. I personally find it very rewarding to work this way. If, for example, something like a hardware failure happens, there is already someone on-site that we can confer with to help determine what is wrong. More often than not, things get fixed without having to dispatch a tech to the client site, and that saves time and money for everyone.
In closing, if you just can’t tell whether your IT staff (whether internal or outsourced) is doing everything necessary to keep you and your clients safe, consider having a third party do a network and security audit – just like in medicine, it’s sometimes a good idea to get a second opinion.
James Gentry is the president of Atlantic Data Team, a central-Florida-based business IT company. For more information go to www.atlanticdatateam.com.