5 Things You Must Do When Supplementing Your Team With Managed Services

There has never been a more important time for IT managers to seek the assistance of outside partners.

Increasingly, IT managers are turning to Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to help fill the talent pool gap that prevents many from implementing helpful but increasingly complex apps and technologies.

Among the challenges are those found in December 17, 2013 blog “The Rise of the 7 Communications Trends for 2014.”

As the forward-looking 2014 trends paper stated:

“Vendors are continuously creating new applications, some of which are transforming how organizations deploy and capitalize on technology. While this innovation can help boost business growth and improve efficiency, new solutions can further burden IT organizations that are already being compelled to handle growing service demand with shrinking staff resources.

“New applications and business-consulting demands may also require skill sets beyond those of existing staff. This imbalance between requirements and resources could prompt organizations to explore staff augmentation options beyond the typical ‘manage my switch’ arrangements. They will also seek help from technology management tools that smoothly integrate into their existing operations.”

So many factors, including cloud-based solutions, demand for leveraging Big Data, mobile solution integration, a surging economy that is leading to limited talent pools, etc. have come together to create the perfect storm for overwhelmed IT managers.

While many IT managers may be motivated to replace antiquated networks that have been in use since before the Great Recession, they may be hindered by the inability to find skilled resources to define and implement a roadmap and the tools to simplify the evolution.

In some cases, even if the talent can be acquired, the costs may be unreasonable.

Related article: Blind Spots in Your CEM will Kill Your Profits

The Rise of Out-Tasking

Instead of complete “out-sourcing,” many IT managers are turning to MSPs to “out-task” certain projects or management functions that require a particular expertise not readily available on staff or in today’s job marketplace. By out-tasking the IT organization can spend their valuable time on the core business goals and projects that drive additional competitive advantage at a business level.

Great examples of projects that are easy to “out-task” are release management, and legacy communication solution management. In both cases, the function is well defined but can free up significant time and remove unnecessary distractions from IT.

In this economy, moving from old to new solutions can leave a company in a lurch as they try to find the right personnel to help transform infrastructure and then ensure they maintain their skills. Out-tasking is a great solution to reduce the risk of transformation leveraging an MSP can help evolve the infrastructure much easier and faster. Working with a virtual staff and/or leveraging a cloud-based solution without having to bring people on board is likely to be the best solution for many businesses in 2014 and beyond.

The Top 5 DO’s and DON’T’s to Ensure You Make the Best Choice in MSPs


  • Prepare a statement of work with clear goals, metrics, timing and fixed budget costs so that the MSP staff can make a best bid for the project. Don’t forget to focus on Performance and Growth initiatives
  • Ask about the management capabilities of the MSP employees and the team mix. How many engineers and employees are dedicated to Managed Services and how many will be assigned to you. What is their level of expertise? How many employees are on the company’s Help Desk? How many other clients leverage the Managed Services practice? Is staff available around the globe on a 24/7 basis? What types of tools are you provided to assess how your applications are being handled? Is there a portal to you can use to view your application status in real time?
  • Question how the MSP employees and solutions can help mitigate risk, reduce cost of ownership and improve overall performance. Does the MSP leverage industry standard processes and tools?
  • Ask if the MSP can offer integrated solutions that include operations, professional services, and equipment maintenance. Are the MSP offers structured to enable you to flexibly choose what you need while still maintaining full accountability?
  • Investigate what each MSP specializes in. Many companies are now realizing that to get the most out of their investment they need to leverage MSPs with specific application specialties (Collaboration/communications, ERP, CRM, marketing automation, etc.).

Don’t assume:

  • A potential partner with IT experience can enable an easy transformation or can fix the problem. New apps and technologies can require expertise that is not always readily available. Ask about related experience.
  • That the team has backup plans or that adequate security measures are being taken at all times.
  • The MSP team complies with the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) to optimize efficiency. Don’t be surprised.
  • The potential partner owns their own data center. Data centers are forever being updated and tested, which is a considerable cost that many outsource (Not necessarily a big issue). Also, don’t assume that personnel and systems are in geo-politically safe areas. Ask!
  • All MSPs can provide the full spectrum of services, from private, public and hybrid clouds to co-location. Most say they can, but dig to ensure it is more than lip service.

What have been your experiences with a Managed Service Provider?

What do’s and don’ts are missing from our list?

Follow Me on Twitter @Pat_Patterson_V

Related Articles:

Is Big Data in the Financial Sector Just a Numbers Game?

Banking has historically been a very data-oriented industry, but there has recently been a significant push toward implementing “big data” strategies to refine processes and better understand customers.

I was fortunate enough to attend a recent IDC webinar that talked about this very topic, with a particular focus on how banks can adopt big data analytics and how this newfound surplus of information can be used in innovative ways.

Omni-channel interaction, hyper-personalization, and single-customer view are among the areas where data and analytics are enabling innovation.

“In-market adoption of big data and analytics has reached the point where the capabilities and applications these technologies enable are becoming mainstream for a growing number of financial services firms,” said Michael Versace, Global Research Director at IDC Financial Insights.

Big data analytics can help banking executives deal with a variety of business issues such as customer engagement, risk management, productivity, and shareholder profitability. This can provide banks a potential competitive advantage, which–let’s face it–is always well received in such a tough market.

Without doubt, mobility and big data are leading the technology needs in banking. When it comes to technology enablers, we tend to make a beeline to the CTO office.

In addressing some of the business imperatives mentioned above, and specifically relating to big data, we need to look beyond the world of IT executives. Why? Because data impacts beyond IT, and line of businesses in this sector are incredibly varied, very influential and need to be considered in bids.

With a coordinated technology lens we can help support global banks and enable them to “know their customer better.” Who wouldn’t want that?

If you are an IDC customer, watch the replay of the webcast here.

Click here to learn more about Avaya’s banking solutions.

How Unified Communications Can Make Multitasking Work for You

multitasking man

I sometimes feel as if interruptions define my work life. My days are an endless stream of emails, instant messages, SMS text messages, telephone calls, and voicemails.  They are all like doorbells that won’t stop ringing.  As soon as I respond to the first, the next visitor is at the door demanding my attention.  I could ignore the bells and knocks, but how would I know that I wasn’t missing something extremely important?

I’ve come to realize that unless I quit my job and sit at home watching soap operas, this deluge isn’t going to change.  So, instead of constantly complaining, or allowing my productivity to come to a grinding halt, I do what I can to make those interruptions meaningful.  In other words, I allow the important interruptions to capture my time and energy and I send the less meaningful, or meaningless interruptions to the back of the line.

The trick to adding meaning to interruptions is finding the relevant context of those interruptions.  This allows me to categorize, prioritize, and appropriately manage the barrage of communications mediums that fill my day.

We already do this to some extent with email today.  First, there is the subject line that may help me decide at a glance whether this email is important or not.  Next, there is the preview pane that gives me the first couple of lines.  There are also the disposition indicators such as forward or reply.  All of these allow me to discern the context of an email without having to actually read it.

Those same categorization aspects can be applied to other forms of communications.  Imagine knowing why your phone is ringing before answering it.  We already have calling line and calling name identification, but they are only the tip of the iceberg.  Knowing that Mary Smith is calling is important, but it doesn’t tell me why she is calling.  Did she pick up the phone and simply dial my number?  Did she do a click-to-call from an email I previously sent?  Was it the email that asked for last month’s sales reports or the one asking if she wanted to do lunch on Friday?

Let’s take this further.  Would it help me better categorize the call if I knew that she was calling from within a document I posted on a SharePoint site?  What difference might it make if I knew the exact document?  Would I be more apt to answer her call if I knew that it was placed from the parking lot of our biggest customer?   The more I know about the context of the phone call, the better prepared I am to determine the meaning of the interruption.

Here in the age of multimodal communications you can be reached in many different ways and context can and should be applied to every one of them.  If context is important to an email, it’s more important to real-time forms of communication where time to answer and reply are more critical.  The more information you are provided at the time of the interruption the better – for you and the caller.

This kind of context processing is important to me, the desk jockey, but imagine someone who works in a high stress, life critical job.  Imagine a doctor being able to tell exactly why her phone is buzzing before responding to the phone call, text message, email, or voicemail.  Imagine how the quality of her care would go up if she were able to intelligently ignore the unimportant interruptions and spend her time responding to critical matters.

Now, before you start making calls to your favorite systems integrator, it’s important to know that not every one of these context classifications are possible with today’s unified communications products.  As far as I know, there is no system that can tell you that a call is being made from a parking lot.  However, it’s not that farfetched to imagine a time when that feature exists.  The goal of this blog is not to tell you what you can buy today, but rather what is possible and may be on the market tomorrow.

Think of how context allows you to make better decisions.  Think of how much more productive you are when you are able to sort interruptions by importance.   This is the future of communications.  This is what makes unified communications “workflow relevant.”


This article originally appeared on Andrew Prokop’s unified communications blog, SIP Adventures, and is reprinted with permission.

Q&A: Carousel Industries on How to use Big Data in your Contact Center

Nick Colintsis is Vice-President of engineering operations at Carousel Industries, one of Avaya’s leading partners (and its 2013 Customer Experience Management partner of the year), as well as lead of Carousel’s contact center practice. I spoke with him and Andrew Sherman, Carousel’s Senior Director of sales for the Pacific Southwest, at the Avaya Evolutions San Francisco show earlier this month.


This Avaya CONNECTED Blog is also available as an MP3 Audio File


Contact center trends are huge with you guys. So, Nick, why don’t you tell us a little bit about some of the CC trends that you see.

Carousel: Absolutely. Thanks, Mark, for having us. First and foremost, I think analytics has been top in mind for a lot of our existing contact center customers. And then, of course, multimedia, social media, how do we tie that all together, and then, of course, bringing it back to the analytics piece.

What do you see as the key thing behind analytics? What are customers looking for?

Carousel: It’s really about bringing the data together from all modes of communications that customers are collecting. So, for example, from their call center, from their web chat, from their email communications with customers. They’re really looking for trends and looking for operational efficiencies in that, and then how to better serve their customers at the end of the day.

So what do you consider big data? We had a discussion at dinner last night about what big data actually is, what it means, how you look at it. What’s your definition of big data?

Carousel: You know, from my standpoint, big data is really what’s important and relevant for you to drive your business. So if that’s net promoter scores for your business, if it’s looking at a specific analytics and trends in revenue, it’s really what’s important to you, and then collecting that data, and then being able to take action upon that. And that’s where I think the challenge is that most organizations have. First, they’re collecting the data. They’re finding it, but then they’re having a challenge of what do we do with it and how do we put it all together and report on it, whether it’s speech analytics, email analytics, chat analytics. They’re grabbing all this customer data and information but they’re not making it relevant to themselves. It’s just a big collection of data and trying to parse through it. And sometimes it could take months just to go through or filter through the data for relevant information.

So it could be the amount of data or it could just be the multitude of resources that the data is coming from, not necessarily a huge amount of data but just from a bunch of different resources.

Carousel: Exactly.

That’s what we were focusing on over dinner last night. We had a lot of interesting things. So are your customers coming to Carousel for this specifically, or did you bring this to your customers?

Carousel: Primarily, some of that interaction had been our existing enterprise contact center customers have been bringing that to us, asking us how do they better get relevancy with their customers in looking at that data. But to our small, mid-size customers, though, we’ve been bringing that approach of big data, how can you mine the existing data you have in your small, mid-size business that you have. So it’s an interesting approach. Our enterprise customers have been driving for the big data and looking at those analytics and wanting to get deeper and wider with what they have, but really Carousel has been taking that a step further and driving it to the small and mid-size businesses.