Imitation is the sincerest form of MSP flattery

The growth in the managed service provider (MSP) segment has been frenetic, as enterprises increasingly rely on outside help. At the same time, enterprise IT itself is starting to look more and more like an MSP.

It's striking to see this shift because, in the not-too-distant past, IT folks often viewed the MSP with a combination of skepticism and concern.  Today, however, MSPs and IT are developing healthy and profitable partnerships.  In the process, IT is learning a lot from the MSP model, and often winds up establishing its own internal equivalent of the model.  

MSPs can teach IT a lot, because they are in the business of running IT for profit.  To do this successfully, MSPs have to build rational service catalogs, continuously align the cost of those services with business value to the customer, and collaborate with the customer to continuously optimize that business value.   MSPs also have the advantage of being able to gain knowledge by working with multiple customers in multiple markets. 

Enterprise IT is ready to start learning from MSPs for a variety of reasons. One reason, as outlined in a previous post on IT's new role, is that enterprise IT is being forced to make core vs. chore decisions. As a result, IT is brokering more IT services, rather than building them.  

But even for services that are still being managed internally, enterprise IT is starting to emulate the MSP in two key areas:

  • Service Management. The biggest factor in knowledge workers' perception of IT is how fast IT responds to their needs. Whether services are sourced internally or externally, this service management role is one of the most vital for IT to get right in order to build its internal brand. Just like an MSP, IT is leveraging concepts such as service catalogs, service-level monitoring and accountability, and self-service portals. Consequently, IT is getting more efficient and delivering better service levels.
  • Investment Return. Before an MSP starts offering a new service, leadership is going to look long and hard at the financials. This mindset is growing increasingly prevalent in enterprise IT. Rather than waiting for another round of cuts, CIOs are taking a proactive look at the resources they have, the business objectives they need to support, which investments will deliver the biggest dividends, and how best to gain efficiencies.

Today, there are a lot of ways a given service can be delivered -- whether that service is virtualized, mobile, social, or on-demand. IT's job is ultimately to enable the right source at the right time for the right reasons.  IT has a lot of options, and this new MSP mindset is helping CIOs navigate them most effectively.

Chris O'Malley is CEO of Nimsoft.  He has devoted 25 years to innovation in the IT industry -- most recently growing businesses in cloud and IT Management as a Service solutions. Contact Chris via the comments below or via Twitter at @chris_t_omalley.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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