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The In-House IT and MSP Dynamic | @CloudExpo @SolarWinds #AI #Monitoring

In-house IT professionals & managed service providers (MSPs) have had an interesting relationship over the course of IT history

We Can Work IT Out: The In-House IT and MSP Dynamic

In-house IT professionals and managed service providers (MSPs) have had an interesting relationship over the course of IT history. Yes, they are vastly different, but if we drew a Venn diagram of IT and the MSP, the intersection of the two is worth exploring, particularly regarding how IT professionals can best manage their MSPs and work harmoniously to advance the common goal of IT performance.

For IT professionals, the very utterance of the acronym "MSP" may conjure feelings of skepticism and fearing the reaper, which doesn't need to be the case. MSPs don't always equal outsourcing IT in its entirety. Let's explore common scenarios where in-house IT professionals and MSPs work together, because in these cases, in-house IT professionals need to understand how to get the most out of these relationships and up-level their careers by properly managing MSPs. It's a lot more involved than simply passing help desk tickets back and forth.

Scenario 1: The MSP as an elastic resource
There are two common ways the MSP as an elastic resource plays out. The first happens in a period of merger and acquisition, where a business is changing or understaffed and it will take a while to normalize and ramp back up. It's the IT department's job to help management figure out where to best assign MSP resources.

The second case is when a business is undergoing a major technology transition; say, moving to hybrid IT, for example. In this scenario, often a business doesn't need to staff up permanently, so the MSP provides this elasticity and is a more budget-friendly (and courteous) option than hiring for current needs and doing layoffs later. Like the merger and acquisition scenario, the in-house IT professional will likely be part of the decision-making process and will be able to help establish how to make the use of an MSP most effective - getting the MSP integrated into necessary systems, and assuring they have ready access and at the same time providing governance. This means there is a better chance of engaging the MSP on the IT professional's terms.

Scenario 2: An MSP is managing only a certain part of the infrastructure
Let's say an IT professional oversees a division or department within a larger IT organization, and an MSP subsequently manages global infrastructure for some part of the systems the IT professional manages. For instance, an MSP could manage the network, upstream applications, virtualization management infrastructure, or the data center. In these cases, as examples, the network engineer would work with the data center MSP, or the in-house IT professional in charge of application delivery would work with the network MSP. Here, certain portions of the IT infrastructure are outsourced, while the IT department manages everything else.

Another example of this scenario that often arises is an MSP managing high-touch, low-value devices on-premises, such as printers. In many of these cases, IT professionals may feel there are limitations placed on them by the MSP, but truly both parties have the same end goal of performance in sight.

Scenario 3: The MSP as consultant
The final common scenario typically occurs when smaller IT departments need expertise in a certain area, but can't hire. For example, if an Oracle® expert is needed, IT departments may bring on an MSP specialist to manage, perform backups, and care for the Oracle systems. This is a lot like consulting, but the MSP has a long-term contract, takes care of the specific environment, and has remote access.

Best practices for improving the IT professional-MSP relationship
To make any of these scenarios work, IT professionals should consider the following best practices:

  • Acceptance: IT professionals need to accept that MSPs are there to help. Yes, they are managing some portion of the resources IT departments may believe should be managed in-house, but in-house professionals should learn to make the most of the arrangement.
  • Communication: Especially if MSPs are managing a particular part of an IT division or department, IT professionals are going to have to deal with them regularly, so they should be sociable and seek to understand how to be collaborative and improve efficiency. This also means learning more about the MSP so IT professionals can understand the best and worst times to rely on them for help. For example, if an MSP has retailer clients, Black Friday is likely not the best time to submit an IT ticket related to a system managing a manufacturing process.
  • Business Alignment: IT professionals should seek to learn why the company has engaged an MSP rather than building in-house from the perspective of business leadership. That way, IT departments can align activities with the same business goals that drove the organization to choose the MSP route in the first place.
  • Enjoyment: At last, IT professionals should consider that perhaps weekends might actually become a bit better if MSPs have a role, even if it's just taking first level help desk calls and tickets during off hours. It might be worth a little initial apprehension to learn that working together can sometimes bring peace and time to recharge for more creative, critical work.

Given the rapid evolution of traditional IT environments, especially in a world where the cloud may be destined to draw data centers down to shadows of their former selves, in-house IT departments and MSPs must work together. IT professionals should remember that MSPs, properly managed, are not always the adversary. Sometimes working together is good for IT, the business, and end users.

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More Stories By Patrick Hubbard

Patrick Hubbard is a head geek and senior technical product marketing manager at SolarWinds, with 20 years of technical expertise and IT customer perspective. His networking management experience includes work with campus, data center, high availability and disaster recovery, and storage networks, and with VoIP, telepresence and VDI in both Fortune 500 companies and startups in the high tech, transportation, financial services and telecom industries.

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