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Tailor a Managed Services Model That Fits

4 Nov, 2010 By: Laurel Sanders, Optical Image Technology imageSource

Tailor a Managed Services Model That Fits

The buzz word today that signifies growth opportunities is “managed services.” MS is a very broad term and includes a variety of professional, IT (managed “network” services (MNS), and customer services among others, allowing you significant latitude in defining the exact services that you’ll offer your clients.

Tailoring managed services for your clients is a lot like carving a sculpture; shaping your future with set services requires a clear vision and well-laid out plan.  It initially means however, to get started you will need to decide on what current services to keep and what to cut away, whittling, re-evaluating and refining your business model in order for your company to commit to providing “its version” of managed services to its clients.
Originally designed for large companies, smart VARS are increasingly adapting MS to serve small- to mid-sized clients.  Success requires rethinking, then retooling products and services to match SMBs’ needs.  If you approach MS strategically – focusing first and foremost on services as a way to help clients advance their businesses – your contribution to their success will boost your own. 

Managed services offers clients a critical lifeline.  At a time when tight budgets means IT staffs must do more with less, new technology initiatives often die on the vine.  Although it may demand fancy footwork and additional learning on your part, MS gives clients access to vital technology advances they need on an affordable budget, especially if you offer flexible pricing.  In tough economic times your clients need you as much as you need them – even if they don’t know it yet! 

Your success depends not only on choosing services that are needed, but selecting ones you can deliver as well – or better – than your competitors. Some you might consider:
IT Hardware, Software & Infrastructure Support & Services
• Determining hardware requirements
• Hardware and software installation, configuration, and ongoing maintenance
• Assessing technology integration requirements for systems that don’t communicate with each other
• Remote systems monitoring and reporting on network performance, network security, server health, etc.
• Outsourcing IT services needed

Business Consulting 
• Doing a document or process analysis
• Conducting a document inventory
• Creating a file or indexing plan
• Designing automated workflows
• Setting a framework of best practices for the client’s IT project
• Creating a change management plan
• Supporting IT compliance and auditing, etc.

Implement / Maintain Back-Up & Data Restoration Processes
• Disaster recovery planning as well as restoration if disasters occur
• Recommendations to help their business be more successful

The ROI for Managed Services comes in many forms, giving your clients ample enticements to engage your services if they understand the benefits.  Depending on what you offer, MS can:

• Give clients greater access to IT without adding staff
• Remove the burden of IT hassles (less time leakage)
• Advance their business while reducing IT costs, stabilizing budgets, and increasing profitability
• Provide access to current technology with minimal up-front investment
• Give them access to expert technical advice
• Enable quick problem remediation
• Let them focus on their mission and customers
• Protect their organizations from the chaos that results from IT staff turnover

Offering managed services in areas best suited for your business goals will: 
1. Make you a more valued resource
2. Strengthen your customer relationship by increasing regular and meaningful contact
3. Augment your revenue opportunities
4. Provide a steady flow of income, especially if you provide IT support via flat (or near-flat) monthly billing

Regardless of what services you offer you must: 

  • Determine whether clients need you to assume the IT role or complement     their staff where time, resources, or expertise is insufficient

  • Define in writing the set of services that you will provide for customers, and decide whether you will proactively advise clients of services they need or offer services on request

  • Choose an appropriate support and pricing model, considering monthly     fees (for a near-fixed or flat cost) to help clients to predict monthly IT     support costs (advice:  don’t nickel and dime your customers; if pricing is     fair, predictable, and sustainable, you both win long-term)

  • Determine project milestones, timelines for meeting them, and appropriate recourse if goals are unmet
  • Clarify what each client needs to have in place before you begin offering    the services (such as staff, specific reports, or scheduled meetings)

Managing services isn’t just a fad; it opens the door to new possibilities for you and your clients.  Now is the time to think carefully about the skills, products, and services that you can offer, alongside consultants and vendors you know and trust.  By doing a candid organizational and self-assessment, thinking outside the box, and partnering with those whose services complement yours, you’ll increase your value to clients and ultimately reap the rewards for your hard work.

First Steps to Prepare MS   

  1. Evaluate your current skills, available equipment, and support resources.

  3. Discover what IT resources & services your clients need to compete    effectively but can’t afford outright; consider whether these are services    you can offer.

  5. Decide what services you plan to offer. Be realistic; start small & grow.

  7. Determine additional training needed to excel. Establish timelines for    completion.

  9. Get certified in document imaging, records management, and other areas    to expand your knowledge base, add credibility, and provide access to other professionals when you require specialized expertise. Check    www.aiim.org and www.arma.org for standard certifications in business / information mgmt.

  11. Consider which areas to outsource to vendors you trust. Know your limits.

  13. Make sure your company has adequate resources to offer in the event your    staff experiences turnover, natural or man-made disasters, or other    challenges.

  15. Explain the services you offer without using technical jargon. Explanations in “layman’s terms” helps bridge the gap between sales, services and IT.

Laurel Sanders is the Director of Public Relations and Communications for Optical Image Technology. For more information or info on the company’s award-winning suite of DocFinity software, visit www.docfinity.com.

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