While managed services providers at our roundtable have strong branding and value-based offerings, customers are often confused about what managed services entails, or who to trust. So how do you ensure prospective customers can tell a true and adequate managed services offering, from a rebadge break/fix service?
Although against having stringent certifications, CeTech’s Craig Barnett suggested industry-wide acknowledgement of what a managed services provider should be able to do, and what standards their offerings should adhere to, was needed.
“There are many organisations out there creating a framework, such as ITIL. Maybe there should be a standard you need to adhere to be a managed services provider. That might be that you need two-factor authentication within your organisation, or that your SLA standards need to fall into this format to let the customer know everything they need to get,” he said. “What I love about ITIL is that you don’t have to do all of it: It’s a framework you match to your business requirements. It’s flexible enough to be mostly there, and the governing body gives you a tick. The problem is it needs to be governed by someone who understands what these standards should be.”
However, BlueFire’s Jason Serda expressed concern about how many would adhere to standards.
“The number of vendors I see who claim to be compliant on security is also very grey. The reason is a lot of the security acts are making sure the client, datacentre and service provider is accredited. If you don’t have all those things, then no one is accredited. There is issues around standards out there already, let alone getting uniformity around managed services,” he said.
Kaseya’s Tim Dickinson said it was a lot easier to agree on a certification for something specific like security, than certifying a complex managed services network offering.
Seccom Global’s Gavin Matthews, meanwhile, claimed standards would only work if there were clear client value attached to them.
“Until there is a benefit on the other side – like if you use this managed services provider, you’ll get an insurance benefit – it doesn’t have value for a customer. CPAs [certified practising accountants] have a lot of value, but until there’s some true value from a client’s perspective which can be demonstrated, I don’t think it is something for us,” he said.
ComputerCorp’s Michael Van Zoggel was less concerned about enforcing standards.
He said understanding of what managed services were becoming clearer as the technology delivery method matured.
Van Zoggel, like PK Business Advantage’s Conrad Hilder, said customers were already starting to benchmark one competitor against another.
“We are probably 18 months into a far longer journey. Customers will become more fluent into technology and the metrics they use to approach the market. We’re seeing a lot of tenders out there at the moment that are written around the offerings we have,” Van Zoggel said. “So customers are certainly understand what’s going on. And the more skilled ones are going to market and doing their research. It’s only a matter of time before the intelligence is there.”