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Hitting your Managed Service design out of the park

I used to play cricket as a young teenager. Not having access to any proper coaching or training facilities my style resembled somewhat of a slogger. I had a keen eye and on certain days, I could effortlessly score runs. However, just like most fourteen-year-olds, I suffered from overconfidence. I felt the bowler was immaterial to the end result, certainly nothing to be feared or respected. Most of the time I didn’t even take the time to know their name or anything about their style or action.

I got ‘my shot’ at a trial day at Leverstock Green Cricket Club, where scouts were in attendance. I took my place at the crease, lined one up and got bowled, clean out, first ball. That did not go to plan. I had failed to do my homework, was underprepared and simply got taken back to school by more experienced, smarter players.

My professional life now involves the planning and design of a range of Managed Services. In contrary to my youth, my role largely revolves around preparation and planning. A Managed Service should be a long-term relationship and the best relationships start with proper planning.

With this in mind, how should you start to plan a Managed Service?

Understanding outsourcing – By thinking about insourcing

If you asked me to build a utopian ICT Service Desk, the creation of a couple of dedicated insourced facilities would appeal. Insourcing allows a level of dictation not possible in an outsourced model. Every business is unique and we’d have total control to design and build to this uniqueness. I would seek a leading tool from the Gartner top right quadrant (ServiceNow in 2018), develop tailored ITIL-based support processes and hire process/governance specialists in key disciplines. Resources would be hired to provide 24x7x365 coverage and would contain skills in all those custom line of budget apps.

What is wrong with the above approach?

Primarily, time and cost. Deadlines and budgets typically do not support this approach and I have yet to see a customer have this requirement. Instead, customers wish to leverage pre-existing service provider investments in people, process and technology, to efficiently deliver their required outcome.

Given this, how can you design a Managed Service to best leverage these investments?

1. Responsibility Before Scope

I would always recommend thinking about responsibilities before scope. Scope is challenging, for everyone. Both parties will naturally want to contract out as much risk as possible, this typically results in a lengthy and costly sales, contract and legal process. Responsibilities can be easier for both parties to understand and document. Classify your systems according to their function and criticality, then carve out which systems will fall under the responsibility of each party. It is important to include yourselves and other third parties in this process. If you can create clear lines of differentiation and identified technical boundaries, your process of identifying scope (which still needs to be done) becomes far easier. Your legal/procurement team will thank you if you can clearly point to a diagram, which colour codes the criticality of all business systems, and organises them according to the responsible party.

2. Service Level Agreements

With step one complete, the process of designing Service Level Agreements (SLAs) is simple. Identify your required SLAs according to two main principles:

  1. SLAs should act as a barometer that underpins what is important to your business and end users, anything else is a distraction and likely adds cost with little benefit.
  2. Target SLAs according to the system criticality of your business systems. Reducing or removing service levels for non-critical systems may improve the efficiency of your service design.

Keep in mind that any SLA must be measurable and reported on by the service provider. The market typically underestimates the cost of reporting. Ensure your service provider has the mechanism to collect measurable data regarding your SLAs and can report via automated processes. Business Analysts, Service Delivery Managers and Operations Managers are expensive – don’t pay for manual effort.

3. The Importance of Knowledge

The primary benefit of building an insource model is you have the ability create a solution that is unique to your business. Transferring this requirement to a service provider requires effective knowledge management. Knowledge directly relates to a range of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for a Managed Service and has a significant impact on the quality and effectiveness of the support your users will receive. Look for a service provider that takes knowledge management seriously. You are seeking some, if not all of the following:

  • Investments in a Knowledge Manager.
  • A documented, proven and enforced knowledge management process, integrated into the ITSM toolset of choice.
  • A knowledge auditing process to maintain quality standards and update out of date Knowledge.
  • Reporting to directly show where knowledge has been used successfully to resolve/fulfill Incidents or Service Requests respectively, and where not, highlight opportunities for knowledge improvements
  • Customer access to knowledge of your account via a dedicated online portal.

Red flags should be waived if your prospective service provider highlights a Wiki, SharePoint, or other similar document management system, as their way of demonstrating knowledge management capability.

4. Partnering for Efficiency

The result you seek will be directly impacted by the partnership you create with your Managed Services provider and the levels of efficiency you are mutually able to achieve. Talk to your provider about their investments, how these investments can be leveraged and the efficiency of the proposed solution. Can the service provider recommend ways to increase the efficiency and divert cost allocation to other areas, or a reduced service price? Ensuring clear responsibilities, logical and automated SLAs and effective knowledge all go towards reducing risk for the service provider and boosting service efficiency.

I wish you success in any selective sourcing initiative and hope this blog provides some benefit to you. Data#3 operates a range of Managed Services, which naturally include all of the above. Whilst I cannot detail all of the innovation we offer for fear of informing the competition, I hope you will take the time to talk to anyone at Data#3 to learn more.

These days I play a little over 40’s cricket for a small Sunday League team. I score some runs from time to time, but on occasion, I still get taken back to school. I do however know the bowler’s name and try to have a drink with them after the game to gain some tips as to how to defeat them next time.

If you’d like to know more or have any questions, please reach out to me on LinkedIn.

Tags: Managed Services, Outsourcing

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