Overwhelmed? Maybe it's Time to Share or Delegate

There is no denying IT and communications technologies are evolving at a head-spinning rate, requiring continued investments in infrastructure refresh, staff training and organizational restructuring. Managed and hosted services can help relief the burden on overwhelmed IT staff and provide access to superior expertise at predictable monthly costs. But are businesses seriously considering managed services?

Frost & Sullivan’s 2010 communications & collaboration technologies end-user survey, which targeted 200 North American C-level executives, reveals that 62% of respondents’ organizations currently use managed services. Of those current users, 63% plan to increase usage over the next 12 months, and an impressive 42% of non-users intend to implement managed services within the near term. The main reason (stated by 36% of respondents) why businesses choose to pursue managed services is the need to consolidate multi-vendor relationships and solutions management, followed by limited expertise in new/specific products and technologies (34% of respondents).

Here is how respondents ranked the drivers for using managed services:

Businesses can use managed services from a variety of market participants, including vendors, VARs, systems integrators and telcos. The following chart shows that most of our respondents choose to outsource managed services from their vendors:

No surprise there – no one know Avaya better than Avaya, and no one knows Siemens better than Siemens. Also, most vendors are better equipped with remote technologies and NOC facilities to provide QoS and performance management than their smaller resellers.

But almost a quarter (23%) of respondents indicate they use several different managed services providers. While this scenario presents the advantages mentioned above, it is not very cost-effective. Frequently, each vendor relationship is managed by a separate group of people adding a significant overhead. Each contract needs to be negotiated separately and it’s hard to leverage any significant discounts or economies of scale.  Businesses find themselves in this situation because they typically manage disparate, multi-vendor infrastructures as a result of  M&A or due to varying technology requirements by site or remote location.

As businesses look to consolidate their infrastructure and develop a more coherent roadmap for the evolution of their IT environment, a strategic partnership with a single managed services provider can offer the greatest benefits in the long term.

A recent announcement by Siemens Enterprise Communications about enhancements to its OpenScale services portfolio point to vendor efforts in the following key areas:

  • Portfolio standardization and simplification (3 standard options based on degree of support required)
  • Flexibility for potential customization (site-selectable SLAs, custom reports, ability to add modular components to the main package – e.g. MACs, proactive software updates)
  • Channel benefits (active monitoring exclusive for channel partners, possibility for e-bonding with partner billing and management systems; sell-through and sell-to options available)
  • Multi-vendor managed services (across Siemens and non-Siemens data networking and call control platforms and applications)
  • Comprehensive package of application, server and network management
  • Global delivery

Other communications vendors, VARs and systems integrators are ramping up their managed services capabilities as well. I put together a table comparing the different types of managed services providers based on a set of criteria, which I believe are important for end users looking to select a managed services partner:

Each customer case is different, but a systematic approach to selecting a managed services provider could ensure that all enterprise requirements are properly addressed in the contract:

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