In CompTIA’s recent white paper “Using Strategic IT for Competitive Advantage,” the authors argue that today there’s a “new balance” for business leaders managing IT:
“The critical difference between today’s IT and the IT of 10 or 20 years ago is the degree to which technology is being used to drive the strategic goals of a business. Certainly, there has always been some mix of tactics and strategy in the directive of any IT function, with that mix varying based on the size of the business, the vertical industry, or the attitudes of upper management. But the shift towards strategy is a general phenomenon that has affected all businesses and driven a new paradigm.”
For small to mid-size businesses (SMBs), we believe this new paradigm must revolve around relationships with IT Managed Service Providers (MSPs). Why? Because the rapid spread of digital technologies through business presents SMBs with the same opportunities and challenges from tightening cybersecurity, expanding cloud services and increasing mobility that large corporations face. And we see IT Managed Services Providers (MSPs) as a powerful means of coping with these issues.
So, when we came across an article in CIO Magazine drawing from research by Deloitte, KPMG, Gartner and others to describe the spectrum of archetypes played by enterprise IT leaders, we reviewed the profiles to extract three archetypal roles played by MSPs for SMBs. Here’s our Strategic IT spectrum for MSPs based on CIO’s personas:
- “Trusted Operator”
Your MSP focuses on IT efficiency, reliability and cost containment, described as the classic “keep-the-lights-on” relationship. You lean on your MSP for help managing technology expenses, responding to cybersecurity crises and refining IT infrastructure in general. But your MSP rarely is involved in your Digital Transformation efforts or other growth initiatives.
- “Business Co-Creator”
Your MSP is a true partner that helps you drive value from technology and accelerate your organization’s digital transformation at the appropriate scope, scale and pace to match your company’s objectives. In this type of relationship, you take the lead, instigating tactical and strategic collaboration with your MSP.
Your MSP takes initiative, too, to help you shape technology outcomes for your business. On your behalf, your MSP cultivates strong relationships with software and hardware vendors in technology ecosystems to simplify and expedite your interactions with these critical layers of IT operations. In addition, your MSP advocates for innovation by recommending emerging technologies – such as artificial intelligence (AI) – that can support business growth. But they never lose focus on their “Co-Creator” relationship with you. Because you know your business and its technology needs best. So, no one is better than you at articulating your digital strategy and technology requirements. We call this a “transformational” relationship with your MSP.
Is having a “Broker” better than having a “Trusted Operator?” or even a “Co-Creator?” The answer depends on where you see your organization in its progression toward developing true strategic IT. Today, you may need a Trusted Operator more than a Co-Creator. But, tomorrow, market forces and competitive demands may compel you to rethink your MSP relationship’s place on our spectrum of roles.
In any case, three facts are certain: Your technology needs will evolve over time, your MSP relationship will have some mix of all three points on the spectrum and you must lead the way forward. Talk to your MSP about it.