One of the more noticeable, lasting changes for organizations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is the accelerated adoption of business technology heightened by a remote workforce that rapidly increased in size in a condensed period. Companies of all sizes and industries—even those that had been slow to adopt cloud technology or data backup and recovery—were quickly required to adapt to new ways of working digitally.
The implementation of new technology, however, brings added complexities, including the risk of cyberattacks. As hybrid work models become the norm and the frequency of these attacks rises, a spotlight will be put on the IT professionals tasked with guiding organizations on their technology journey. These individuals will play an increasingly critical role keeping the economy afloat, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
Given the current state of organizations’ IT environments and all they’ve faced since early 2020, it’s worth examining how IT support has also evolved as a result of the pandemic. While traditionally there have been two binary options for IT—hiring the proper internal talent or leaning on the deeper expertise of an external managed service provider (MSP)—the recent acceleration of IT adoption has also accelerated change in the MSP market in terms of how and what an MSP will support.
Thus, a third, middle-ground IT option known as co-managed IT has emerged; it combines and leverages the best of internal and external support and is a mechanism for organizations to streamline their IT stacks and flourish in today’s digital economy.
The Middle Ground of the Traditional IT Binary
Co-managed IT is designed to bundle the strengths of an MSP’s offering into a package that acts as an extension of a company’s internal IT team. The major benefit of an in-house IT specialist is that they’re equipped with full internal visibility and proximity to the key decision makers. This intimate knowledge of the business provides more control and operational agility than a strictly outsourced option.
However, a single IT professional or department alone, even with the deepest expertise, can be a bottleneck of knowledge, limiting the approach and tools to a single point of view. In today’s cyber environment, where new techniques and vulnerabilities are revealed daily (and sometimes more frequently than that), it becomes a full-time task to stay current on which IT solutions are effective, and which may provide diminishing returns.
MSPs, on the other hand, offer the advantage of a network of IT professionals. Immersed in the unfolding updates in the industry, MSPs are better equipped with the latest management and automation tools to ensure business continuity in the face of unplanned disruptions (man-made and natural disasters). These providers usually allow more cost flexibility since they can adjust the scope to the specific needs of the end customer without compromising the depth of their services.
Co-managed IT reconciles the gaps in the offerings of internal and external teams. Implementing co-managed IT involves a knowledgeable IT professional inside the organization who is empowered by the outsourced IT organization rather than secondary to it. These external providers are built to supplement and complement existing IT teams rather than replace them, boosting the effectiveness and efficiency of both sides.
Co-Managed IT Aligns Business Incentives
The business model of a co-managed IT provider is designed so that the MSP and customer get the best results when working together. The co-managed IT provider becomes part of its client’s business, gaining a better understanding of the client’s operations and identifying how and where they can lend their expertise.
These co-managed providers are uniquely informed by both the internal stakeholders and external IT experts, which means that solutions can be much more tailored and effective. For instance, tools for remote monitoring and management (RMM) can be deployed by an external MSP with internal IT resources to gain better control of the IT infrastructure.
This elevates the role of the co-managed IT provider to its customers. Co-managed IT is an evolution of traditional MSPs, who are now better positioned to add value to their customers by determining business goals, making technology recommendations to best facilitate growth, and advising on tech skills for which the organization should train.
How to Capitalize on Co-Managed IT
The move toward co-managed IT solutions is a direct reflection of the trends occurring in cybersecurity and remote/hybrid work. Today’s increasing need for tech support, exacerbated by the labor shortage, only highlights the inability of the traditional binary to fulfill these needs.
Technology solutions must be within organizations, then, to meet the requirements of today’s digital world. The presence of the external co-managed IT provider enhances the roles of internal IT professionals within the entire organization, embedding the function deeper into companies than has ever been considered necessary in the past. I liken co-managed IT to legal services—many SMBs have an attorney or two on staff, but they likely have an external firm on retainer, too, for the specialization they can provide.
As the demand for these types of co-mingled solutions grows and their effectiveness is proven, traditional MSPs will be driven to evolve and become more customer focused. Soon enough, MSPs will converge on the co-managed IT model, restructuring their operations to have a stronger interface and better strategic alignment with their partners.
GREG VANDEWALKER is senior vice president, IT channel and services, at Collabrance.