Can managed services be the key to bimodal IT success for mid-market businesses?

IT professionals are buzzing about Gartner’s newly coined term “bimodal IT”, a method of service delivery that allows IT teams to split their focus into two separate, coherent modes: stability and agility. The latter encompasses day-to-day IT operations, which are essential to the safety and reliability of an organisation’s IT environment. The former is centred on innovation that allows the IT team to experiment and identify new ways of using technology to meet the fast-evolving demands of the business.

Today, according to Gartner, 45 per cent of CIOs use a bimodal IT service management strategy. By 2017, Gartner predicts that 75 per cent of organisations will have implemented bimodal IT strategies. In a different survey by a separate organisation, however, the majority of CIOs – 63 per cent, to be exact – said their IT spending was weighted too heavily toward the maintenance side of IT, leaving little room for new projects.

Lack of resources to dedicate to innovation is a challenge for mid-market businesses especially, as they typically have limited IT staff, and the staff they do have are too consumed with troubleshooting and helpdesk issues to drive new developments.

So how are the majority of businesses going to adopt a bimodal approach to IT service delivery within the next couple of years if the modes are imbalanced? For some businesses, the solution lies with managed services.

Bimodal IT and managed services

Some organisations are choosing to outsource basic IT functions such as helpdesk, which allows the IT unit to take a more holistic role in the business. With the changes in the nature of IT sourcing, Gartner believes that smaller IT suppliers will be able to respond rapidly to requirements, while also scaling quicker solutions by utilising cloud capabilities.

By outsourcing IT functions to a managed service provider (MSP), internal staff are then free to invest more time in IT innovation that allows the business to remain agile in a competitive marketplace. But while innovation plays a key role in advancing the business, organisations can’t afford for their service delivery times to suffer. For a business to have a successful MSP relationship that doesn’t detract from the organisation’s future progress, the business should ask the MSP the following questions:

  • Are you able to accommodate our current and future IT needs?

It may seem obvious, but it’s crucial for an MSP to have experience supporting the specific functions that will be outsourced. If a business is outsourcing the helpdesk, for example, any IT vendor that will be working on hardware should have engineers that possess a variety of skills and are fully qualified to repair equipment from an array of manufacturers (having someone without the proper qualifications work on equipment could void manufacturer warranties). The MSP will also need to be equipped to support any new technologies the business plans to implement in the future.

  • What are your guaranteed service levels?

The MSP’s promised service levels must be backed by service level agreements (SLAs), and the business must carefully examine these SLAs to ensure they align with the organisation’s goals and expectations. If possible, the business should also evaluate the MSP’s service quality by having the provider demonstrate typical response times and provide quantifiable metrics of success.

  • What degrees of support do you offer?

To prevent operational IT issues distracting the IT team from new projects, the business needs to contract the amount of coverage that guarantees the MSP will resolve IT issues satisfactorily. MSPs typically offer varying degrees of support, such as 24/7, remote or on-site support. If the MSP doesn’t offer a package that meets the organisation’s needs in terms of both budget and support coverage, the business might need to request that the MSP create a customised solution.

For businesses to stay afloat in a competitive marketplace, technological innovation is a must. Although mid-market businesses might struggle to implement bimodal IT strategies with dedicated in-house staff, working with an MSP can free up the time and skill necessary to focus on progress and ensure their spot as one of Gartner’s projected 75 per cent of businesses that have implemented a bimodal strategy.

Matt Kingswood - Head of IT Specialists (ITS) UK

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