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Showing posts from December, 2008

When Selecting a Qualified MSP, Assume Nothing

Hiring a managed services provider shouldn't be a leap-of-faith decision-making process. Perhaps you have staff that could fulfill their responsibilities, but instead you entrust a key component of your IT infrastructure to another company. You believe they can do the job better and more efficiently. However, is that belief proven to be justified? This begs another question: who licenses or certifies a managed service provider? The topic came onto our radar thanks to a handful of companies claiming SAS 70 certification. The SAS 70 standard was developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) to govern service organizations. (SAS stands for statement of auditing standards; see the AICPA page relating to auditing standards for more information.) Certification's Real Meaning You may assume that a managed service provider claiming SAS 70 certification has submitted itself to rigorous tests relating to its internal processes. However, according to Judith

Progressive Business Technology Adoption Trends

Business leaders are still upbeat about the benefits of technology adoption. It's key to their market penetration, central to competitive differentiation, and vital to their supply chain and distribution strategies. However, according to Forrester Research, they are less than satisfied with their own IT organization's contributions. In fact, reducing the cost of operations is believed to be one of the few attributes where expectations are aligned. Members of the Forrester Leadership Boards (FLB) CIO Group recently discussed this challenge. Forrester presented results from their business technology survey of 600 executive leaders. The study uncovered the following significant gaps: IT teams rarely are aligned around key business priorities. When asked to rank business drivers by their importance to the firm's technology strategies, business executives identified customers, productivity, and costs as the most important themes. But, when asked to rate their IT organization ef

Four Places to Find Managed Service Providers

We spend considerable time educating businesses about the value of managed service providers ( MSPs ). Now it's time to tackle the next logical question: Assuming you're ready to outsource some or all of your IT infrastructure, where can you find a qualified, reliable MSP ? The search for an MSP that fits your business is a bit like finding a doctor: There are thousands of qualified people ready to help you, but ultimately your choice may come down to personality and bedside manner. In some cases, MSPs may serve as a virtual extension -- or complete replacement -- for your IT department. With that reality in mind, your service providers will need to have corporate cultures that blend well with your own business culture and working style. Treat your search for an MSP similar to an employee search. Interview the candidates carefully, ask about past successes and failures, and ask for plenty of references that you can contact directly. Step One: Finding MSP Candidate

Videoconferencing Enables Sales For Global Consulting Firm

The business case made the argument for Kline & Company , a management consulting and research firm about to celebrate its 50th anniversary, to investigate hosted videoconferencing. A global company, it handles approximately 40 projects at any given time. Three to six people collaborate on each project, which last three months on average. About three-quarters of its projects are global. To collaborate and share knowledge, team members confer approximately 20 times over the duration of a project. That's thousands of in-person meetings over the course of a year, between colleagues and clients who are unlikely to be in the same location. The cost -- both financially and in terms of time -- was becoming prohibitive. Serving Client Needs Companies benefit from management consulting firms' insight because of their aggregated experience. But that insight needs to be shared because not every consultant can join every engagement. That's why John Hadley, Kline’s director of IT, i

Five Ways to Avoid Business Travel Expenses In 2009

Novell has canceled BrainShare . Apple is ending appearances at MacWorld . And thousands of businesses continue to cut their travel budgets for 2009. I've got some unconventional advice for you: Stay on the road in 2009, and make sure you're meeting face-to-face with your best business prospects and sales leads. I plan to be on the road at least 40 to 50 percent of the time in 2009. But on the other hand, our business continues to embrace a range of online technologies that drive conversation and collaboration with employees, customers and partners. Here are five options that can enable your business to save money and cut travel costs in 2009. 1. Hosted TelePresence : Yes, TelePresence (next-generation video conferencing) is a great way to drive communications. But building out TelePresence studios (they resemble executive boardrooms for the digital age) can cost $300,000 or more. Lower-end TelePresence solutions can cost about $12,000 and prices continue to fall. Still, you ca

Hosted Phone System Saves Time, Money and Hassles

If you've ever had to add or move employees, you know that one of the biggest hassles is dealing with the telephone system. While many companies are deploying IP-based phone systems to ease their PBX hassles, still others are turning to hosted phone systems to eliminate their ongoing operation and management responsibly altogether. Hosted phone systems work especially well for companies that have highly mobile employees. With a hosted system, employees can just log into the system to automatically forward calls to another designated number. One big advantage: employees need only give their clients one phone number. This eliminates the complexity of dealing with multiple phone numbers and voice mail systems. Helios Realty , part of Real Living, the Midwest's largest independent real estate firm, has taken advantage of this concept. Helios relies on Cisco-Powered partner Geckotech to provide a scalable voice and data infrastructure for its highly mobile workforce of real estate

The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

I received an email the other day congratulating me on a column I wrote for NetworkWorld nearly three years ago entitled, "Why Managed Services Fail." The 'shelf-life' of web content always amazes me, but it is gratifying to have people stumble across my past writings and still find them timely. What struck me as I revisited this 2005 column was how many of my points were still true, "...Almost every supplier and service provider I talk to admits that selling managed services has been harder than expected." "The first problem these managed service providers face is packaging." "The second issue is pricing." "The third challenge is positioning these services properly." "But the biggest obstacle to selling managed services is poor sales skills." Sound familiar? Although industry research clearly shows that customers are becoming more receptive towards managed services and the economy is even driving an increasing numbe

Exploring Managed Services - Key Performance Indicators

All business has become global. Companies of any size can now market products and services worldwide over the Internet. At the same time, competition has intensified because customers can investigate global competitors with ease. To compete effectively in the global networked economy, companies need new capabilities: Global procurement and sales 24 hours a day. Integrated internal and external business processes. Up-to-the-minute access to sales, order processing, production, and other business critical information required for informed decision making. Flexible processes that can adapt dynamically to changes in the business climate. The application of Business Technology is now a primary enabler of strategic advantage. However, chief executives have become impatient, as their companies have failed to keep pace with these advances. There are alternatives, for those who choose to act. The managed services model can be applied to accelerate this much needed change. Review the following

How Web-Based Training Delivers Business Impact

There's a touchy little secret about call centers: their employee turnover is atrocious; it can reach as high as 26 percent per year, according to one expert's estimates . As a result, companies strive to ease the stress of their customer service agents. Continental Airlines , the fourth largest airline in the U.S. with $14 billion in revenues, realized that by deploying VoIP technology with personal computers, it could route reservations calls to agents' homes. This not only reduced the need for call center real estate, but it also gives reservations agents the ability to both telecommute and time-shift their work. Today, almost 1,100 agents work at home. Turning To Videoconferencing Technology Unfortunately, even good ideas sometimes have bad side effects. Continental found that they could easily keep employees up-to-date on staff issues with regular teleconferences. But for training and evaluations -- activities that required visual interaction -- agents still had to get

Managed Services Momentum Shifts to Mid-Market

While traveling across North America in recent weeks, I've heard about the same two-part trend from multiple sources: Some small businesses are reducing their IT service contracts and delaying outsourcing decisions. But on the flip-side, mid-size businesses are accelerating their move to managed services . These trends are pretty easy to explain. Consider this: 18 percent of small-business owners in October said they were at risk of going out of business because of economic conditions, up from 9 percent in August, according to an American Express survey involving 602 businesses with 100 or fewer employees. Even worse: 79 percent of small-business owners said sales are decreasing. About two-thirds of the respondents said the tightening of credit has affected their business. 51 percent said they have had to tap personal assets in order to pay business expenses. With those concerns in mind, it's increasingly difficult for small business owners to focus on their IT strategies. The

A Boom in Managed Services - How to Prepare

New studies demonstrate the pros and cons of Business Technology deployments, especially as they relate to IT investment strategies. First, the downside: in a recent study of IT management excellence, the results showed the continuing disconnect between finance and IT roles, and the value each one brings to the organization. As the report states: "The lack of alignment within organizations is exacerbated by a lack of awareness on the part of both IT and finance about their own contributions to the problem. Nearly one-quarter of the respondents report that discord between IT, business, and finance is a frequent occurrence when making IT investments." Why Clear IT Processes Matter Lack of alignment is triggering a bigger cascade of problems relating to IT investment. For instance, sometimes companies excuse their lack of IT investment due to limited budget and resources. In reality, "companies are unsure how to define or implement management processes, therefore they are u

Global Enterprises Opting for Managed Network Services

I'm going to pull a Paul Harvey on my colleague Joe Panettieri. He wrote a couple of weeks ago about the managed service offerings of companies such as Verizon and Cablevision. For those readers outside the U.S. who don't know radio commentator Harvey, one of his catchphrases is to talk about "the rest of the story." In this case, it's the number of global enterprises who are signing deals with carriers to manage their networks. Since the time of Joe's story, there have been at least five announcements by major U.S. or global entities opting for large managed services contracts -- and those represent only the customers who were willing to announce the deals. The first deal to catch my eye was Indianapolis Power & Light's three-year contract with AT&T for integrated network solutions between multiple offices and generation plants, announced November 24th. Now, managing a network in central Indiana may not seem earth-shaking, but IPL is a subsidia

Managed Service in Search of a Market

There's a new term in the managed services space -- Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS), and it's an obvious extension of the SaaS model. Desktone is a company that provides DaaS capabilities to service providers. Its customers, according to CEO Harry Ruda, currently include Verizon and Softbank Telecom. Ruda characterizes DaaS as a service whereby users obtain their computing services through a remote connection over a network. The physical compute power, if you will, is delivered through a service provider and paid for on some usage basis. In other words, users can access operating system and applications through a completely hosted system, and the service provider would be responsible at the back-end for storing data, upgrading applications, updating virus protection, among other activities. Computing Power of a Utility It relies on the whole concept of utility computing, in which compute power is delivered the same way electricity is -- when you want it in a metered fashion. DaaS

Making Sure The Numbers Favor Managed Services

As industry analyst forecasts mount predicting the rapid growth of managed services, an increasing proportion of IT and business decision-makers are taking a closer look at how these alternatives can impact their operations. The challenge is effectively measuring the costs and benefits of these options. Gartner kicked off 2008 predicting, "By 2011, early technology adopters will forgo capital expenditures and instead purchase 40 per cent of their IT infrastructure as a service." And with today's unprecedented economy crisis, THINKstrategies believes the shift to managed services will be faster and more pronounced than predicted. As a consequence, every responsible IT and business decision-maker is obligated to carefully reassess their current operations and thoroughly evaluate all of the available alternatives to better manage their IT environments so they can better support their business objectives. Substantive Cost Comparisons However, many of the current methods

Managed Services for Every Type of Organization

Do you believe that the growth of managed services adoption will have little impact in the government sector, or other non-profit organizations? Think again. Let's consider the facts. Clearly, all organizations benefit from improving their processes. Government Insights , a global independent research and advisory firm, released a report focusing on Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and their use in managing the delivery of IT and network services. As IT and network technology are embedded further into business processes, the apparent need for productive cross-organizational partnerships becomes evident. The state of these Business Technology partnerships can be either an enabler or an inhibitor -- when negotiating an SLA. Demand for Service Level Agreements Organizations may develop SLAs with internal IT staff and/or with external IT service providers. In both cases they set guidelines and minimum standards for the delivery of IT services to the end-user community. Jan Duffy, resea