Managed Service Providers (MSPs) can potentially outsource much of the IT currently handled in-house – including the service desk. But should service desks fear MSPs or try to understand them better?
To understand the complex relationship between the service desk and MSPs, we need to look at how the purpose and approach of both parties have changed in recent years.
Service desk – incident management to tech partner
The IT support helpdesk, which morphed into the jack-of-all-trades service desk, has undergone more than a name change. The service desk was once a reactionary function processing transactions, such as customer calls where the service desk either fixes the problem/request or passes it to the party who can close the ticket.
This has evolved massively in recent years. The rise of self-service, FAQs and a universal increase in technological knowledge means the service desk has become more proactive, contacting customers to head-off problems before they escalate and populating knowledge bases with current information to allow customers instant access to answers.
In short, the service desk is now less of a processing/triage department. It has become a technology advisor helping the business harness technology.
MSP – from cost to value
The popularity of IT and other business services outsourcing was based on one proposition: price. Because IT was for many years seen mainly as a cost centre, outsourcing was an attractive way to reduce the outlay on technology. This is where the service desk fear of MSPs came from. If the decision was based purely on cost, a business could outsource the entire service desk.
But today, there is a greater awareness of the need for balance. All IT functions, including the service desk, need to deliver value rather than IT at the lowest possible price. This shift means that MSPs no longer compete purely using price. As the service desk and other business functions shift toward value, business outcomes and return on investment, MSPs have adjusted accordingly. Yes, it is possible for an MSP to take over an entire service desk, but this is less common now.
To understand how the relationship between the service desk and MSPs has changed, Miguel Lopez, senior vice president of Kaseya explains his experiences working for an MSP. “Because I understood the role, I loved working with customers who had an internal service desk where I helped unload some of the things they didn’t want to do. Say, for example, they needed 10 computers set up for new staff – this is tedious for most service desk staff and there’s not much value they can add. As an MSP, I understood this pain and was able to deliver a service that could alleviate a burden on the service desk team.”
This means that rather than wholesale outsourcing, the more common dynamic between service desk and MSP is now the blended approach. Miguel explains how this works.
“Sometimes the service desk needs some skills. Network monitoring for example – many service desks are not good at that. When there’s something you’re not good at but is essential for the business, MSPs are ideal. Don’t be afraid to hand off the things that aren’t your area of expertise.”
Security and compliance are two of the areas that businesses typically require help with, but as Miguel explains, it’s about establishing whether a third party can do something better or more cost-effectively than can be managed in-house.
“Working with an MSP can also offer valuable peace of mind for service desks. Managers and IT professionals already have lots of responsibility, so if there are a few functions that can be someone else’s problem, that alleviates some pressure.”
How to find an MSP partner
If the service desk decides it needs a partner to either eliminate those time-consuming yet low-value jobs, or it needs to bolster its expertise in certain areas, the next step is deciding what MSP to work with. This can be difficult because of the plethora of choice, but Miguel says there are certain questions you should ask.
“It sounds obvious, but you must start with a clear understanding of what you need. A lot of people get mesmerised by the shiny object in the corner, but you must look for MSPs that have done what they are claiming to be good at and crucially, have a proven track record. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals – you need to talk to a few people about their experiences working with this MSP”.
Read our previous article about MSPs: ‘Why marketing will help MSPs capture lucrative market share’