Is there a difference?
The words that you use when you are looking for IT options can make a big difference in what you find. Let’s say that you are comparing managed services vs. outsourcing. Are these terms referring to the same thing or are there differences in what is being delivered that will have an impact on the value that you ultimately receive? While you can’t make everyone define the terms in the same way, you can be clear about what you are looking for so that when you are choosing an IT managed IT service company you can ask the right questions whether it’s in a google search or a conversation with a potential provider.
By its most simple definition, outsourcing refers to the purchasing of services or expertise from an outside company. The main reasons to consider outsourcing are to gain a capability in a way that is better, faster or less expensive than doing the same thing internally. You can purchase outsourced IT services as ingredients for your total IT solution if that’s what you want – data storage, firewalls, backup, cloud applications, and even infrastructure (IaaS) can be bought off the shelf. What you need to have in-house is that recipe and method that is going to turn the ingredients into the end result that you desire.
Managed Services as Outsourced IT
If you want to be really literal when defining managed services you could say that they are a form of outsourced IT. When you work with an IT managed service provider, you are bringing in services that you cannot or do not want to provide internally so that you can have improved or increased IT capability. A managed service company is going to take off your hands the decisions about the ingredients that make up the whole IT solution but that solution is still going to be made up of components that you could go out and outsource on your own.
The Real Difference
The apples to apples difference between managed services vs. outsourcing is in the business level IT guidance that they are going to provide which impacts the relationship that you develop with the provider. A managed IT services company is going to become an extension of your company. They are going to share your goals and work proactively to improve your IT environment while leveraging technology to move your business forward. The only way that they can do this is if they work with you to create an IT strategy that aligns IT activity and investment with your business objectives.
The Right Questions
Unfortunately, not all companies that call themselves managed service providers offer the strategic collaboration and proactive services that are going to make a real difference in how your business utilizes technology. If the conversation is all about them, the tools they use, that's the first clue that they probably aren't offering fully managed services.
Download our E-Book Choosing a Managed Service Provider to learn about 10 questions that will help you guide your conversation toward the value that you want to receive from the relationship.