A traditional enterprise advisory engagement is often a “one and done” deal — you have an IT problem to solve or a new technology to implement and the consulting agency comes in, gathers info, makes recommendations, helps with the execution and steps out of your way.
That’s great for large-scale improvements. But modern IT practices preach continuous improvement, agile methodology, and DevOps practices even beyond the software development world. With the advent of cloud, it’s all about continuous, constant iterations of your software and services.
Many SaaS platforms take care of this for you. That may not be the case with IaaS and remaining hardware, however. Focusing your existing staff on business goals and service delivery while augmenting it with an advisory and managed service provider partner can take even your backend infrastructure and upstack applications into the realm of continuous improvement via cloud management services, automation, and feedback loops.
And, while SaaS might handle the software iteration and security itself, you’ll still need to manage contracts, API integrations, and other associated managerial duties related to the service. An MSP takes all of this off your plate.
Taken over time, a single consulting engagement might have a lower pricetag than a three or five year service contract. Consider how much your IT department and services have changed in the past five years, however. What kind of budgets have you spent on implementing new technologies like cloud, containers, or even upgrades to essential business software like Windows 10? How much staff have you hired to work those technologies?
An ongoing partnership allows you to make those adjustments on the fly and react in real-time to business challenges, rather than putting out an RFP, sorting through bids, and completing a technology project just in time for the latest IT shakeup.
Governance and compliance measures are boosted by ongoing management of your IT resources as well, with clear audit lines and chains of command/ownership spelled out within your contract and across your services.
You might still face large scale upgrades or troubleshooting situations in which you require a consulting organization. Even continuous improvement-enabled organizations occasionally face disruption. A consultant that works in concert with your MSP can help you craft a roadmap to avoid significant business interruptions and distraction, allowing you to focus on improving service delivery rather than figuring out why your systems upgrade is glitching out in that one satellite office.
You must establish clear goals with your MSP partner in order to achieve meaningful continuous improvement. That means establishing metrics to measure qualitative and quantitative process performance across time, within specific systems and within the business as a whole. You will need a benchmark from your baseline pre-engagement systems to measure these metrics against.
From your metrics, you should work with your provider to locate root causes of inefficiencies, then experiment with how to redesign and optimize your services to eliminate them. Rolling out those changes requires careful change management as well.
Challenges facing continuous improvement include implementing processes that are automated, routine, and reliable, while still flexible and agile enough to adjust when necessary. You face a complex IT environment with multiple cloud providers, SaaS, on-premises data centers, and a wide array of end user hardware that all must work in concert. Implementing IT management systems, applications, and platforms that achieve that goal while minimizing overlap, waste, and time-consuming administration can be difficult.
Take your goals to a consulting and MSP group and they can help lay the benchmarks to demonstrate improvements as they’re reached. Hold those partners accountable to those improvements.
With that complex IT environment managed in full or in part by a third party, you’re able to focus on designing cross-functional IT roles for your continual improvement initiative, implementing processes within your organization to foster efficient IT service response and administration, and working alongside executives to anticipate and proactively act on changes coming down the pipeline.