Post By Charlie Heywood on March 10, 2015

Using external experts to deliver managed IT services

e-commerce managed services

Externally managed IT services and infrastructure provide expertise on-demand for SMEs.  Your company is successful because you are an expert at your chosen product or service: this same level of expertise is available to you as a managed service for your Information Technology.

What do you get when you sign up for managed services?  Security, technology, availability, mobility. All of these are delivered to you at a higher level of quality than if you invested in each component individually from a vendor.  

Get access to a better infrastruture

Managed Service Provider companies typically deploy robust, enterprise-level platforms on which to base their services.  They do so because it makes sense: they deliver higher levels of performance but need more up-front investment.  Companies do this because it saves them money in the long run.  They require less maintenance, provide clients with more functionality than they could afford themselves and, importantly, clients have higher levels of satisfaction.

For example, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems can effectively allow you to manage your business from one software system including giving access on a mobile basis. You can access your data from your wireless device. SAP Business One is a very powerful tool for managing resources and allowing managers to make better, more informed decisions. This software is an example of how managed systems provide form and function to daily operational tasks.  SAP B1 integrates information from sales, customer service, accounting, inventory, stock, even logistics to provide a more complete view of the business.  Hosting a system like this on a managed service platform makes a lot of sense.

Someone to take the load

Hiring external experts means no learning curve for you as a business owner.  Externally central management services means you only pay for what you need – running your own department demands staff (with all the attention on-costs) and capital expenditure. It needs experts.  But you can’t be expert at everything so there is a tendency to employ IT generalists.  With this service you don’t need to be concerned about this; you can focus on your specific business while the IT experts take the strain with the back-office tasks.  

Outsourcing the implementation of new software can quickly help your entire company from a sales perspective, from customer service, from inventory control and in accurate job costing. The software provides a template that all team members, no matter their department, will be able to modify according to their role.  You get much better consistency.   What you get, so to speak, is the ability to deploy more complex software in a safe, stable environment.  It is then looked after properly and the maintenance is taken care of.  It allows the business to focus its limited time on the more important things needed for the business.  You are taking care of the ‘big picture’.

IT managed services provide data that can be used to increase customer satisfaction.  When your customers are happy, they return and become repeat customers.  And with repeat customers you, as the business owner or manager, have the opportunity to receive valuable information from the people who actually use your product or service regularly.

How you can get a better infrastructure

Service Management can be the foundation that supports your present and future business efforts.  E-commerce is everywhere. Mobile is everywhere.  You may not sell online today but you will have an online presense. Potential customers receive their initial impression of your enterprise from your website.  Wouldn’t you like to know how they arrived there?

And you have IT which everyone now takes for granted.  Continuous access to email (on all your various devices) and to Word, Excel and PowerPoint (or their equivalents) that make your business operate from day to day.  Your business needs to deliver continuous access to these if it is to prosper. A managed IT service provides you this, to your business line managers and to your decision makers.

Additionally, customer data is vital to your success. The data itself needs to be collected from the customer in a secure fashion (via online purchasing, payment, and delivery information or the like).  A security breach could cost your company more than legal fees, it could cost you your hard-earned reputation.  With managed services, the IT experts provide a higher standard of data security as a part of their service to you.   It is widely known that staff as they move to new jobs have a tendency to download sensitive data which might be useful in new jobs.  You can better manage this risk using an external managed service.

One other aspect of external data security is the additional security offered by a tier 1 data warehouse.  Whilst a large server on-site might appear to be ‘safe’, it is unlikely to have the degree of physical security and anti-virus protection available in a commercial setting.

Someone to take responsibility if things do go wrong

There are days when systems go awry.  No technology is perfect. What makes the unavoidable more tolerable is to be able to email or phone someone who understands your operation, and who can help correct the problem promptly.  For example, if your payment system is unable to accept online payments you have a direct line to assistence – “One call and it’s done” as the saying goes.  It means you have only one call to make, one point of contact to call and the issue will be resolved.

This resource will make a point of understanding your systems and, therefore, potential risks and problems.  It will understand these better than an employee or an IT generalist.  When the unexpected happens, your team is better placed to respond. 

And, lastly, this service is covered by a contract and there will be remedies which are visible to all and are transparent.  As a client you will have contractual terms which guarantee minimum response times.  And, if the worst comes to the worst, then there will be the prospect of compensation.

Moving IT from a support service into a strategic asset

So, you have moved to a Managed Services provider and your company is in good working order (leaving more time to better serve customer’s needs).  As an owner, the less time you spend on technical issues the more time you have to sell, improve products, focus on customer feedback and to expand your business.

This is a mutually beneficial relationship. The Managed Services company can help your enterprise by recommending and guiding the next systems the business could use.  This is how a Managed Service company transforms from a simple service provider into a partnership, becoming virtual IT director.  You get the strategic advice your business needs and you continue to grow your business.  It becomes a virtuous circle where they will advise about how your company can deploy newer technologies, like mobile or Software as a Service in a safe way.  

The cycle is one that improves efficiency and effectivenes in your organisation.  When you or your management team is not distracted by the day-to-day technical issues, they have the time and energy to focus on improving the things that really matter: sales, customer service, operations and finance.  

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