Managing with a helping hand for complex tasks

Managed services can help businesses control IT and OT functions, such as helpdesk, but which aspects should be outsourced and which should remain in-house?

Nick Connors, group chief executive, TEKenable: ‘Organisations are shifting more generally to outsourcing’

Security, print and, increasingly, helpdesk: these are the three areas of information and operational technology (OT) that businesses are increasingly turning over to external service providers. However, in many cases handing off total responsibility to someone else is not the ideal approach.

Nick Connors, group chief executive of TEKenable, said that helpdesk, for instance, should be approached in a particular fashion.

“We look on helpdesk as having three different layers. It has to be quite structured and have good technology apportioning it,” he said.

The first layer is basic access information, such as login, and helping the user. That should typically be done internally because organisations that outsource it are effectively giving away control. However, more complex helpdesk needs are better outsourced, he said.

“The second level is bugs in the system and data issues. These are things that most users couldn’t triage. The third level is fundamental changes or deep-rooted issues in the software,” said Connors.

As a rule of thumb, Connors said, high-volume but lower skill tasks can be kept in-house, whereas complex tasks should be obtained as a managed service.

“Why would you have software development in-house if you have nothing for them to do for most of the year?” he said.

Some organisations do push the entirety of their helpdesk out to a managed service provider, and Connors said that this is certainly an option for businesses that simply want to remove IT from the equation altogether. Nevertheless, his experience has taught him that it is usually better to get help with the more complex end of the spectrum.

“A lot of people outsource everything [and] there’s good and bad with that. What we’ve seen is that the best option is the blended model where you can keep simple stuff in-house,” he said.

One way of thinking about IT, then, is to see it as akin to a utility: something that is essential for a business to function, but not part of the core competency of the business.

“It’s very important, but it’s not your business. IT and software should be looked at like your water, your electricity; like your bin collection,” he said.

Indeed, with the growth of software as a service (SaaS) this approach extends right into the software used on a daily basis.

“Software now is a service and you should be able to control costs that way, too,” Connors said.

When it comes to advising clients on the best path forward, TEKenable started by consulting in order to understand what a business needed and what its current operations looked like. The first task, then, is to assess the size of an organisation’s estate in relation to its software and the number of users in the system.

“We can give a very good estimate of what that will cost and the service we can provide, but we say to every customer: ‘Let’s monitor that and we are happy to tweak it up and down.’ What you tend to find is that when you tweak software you get peaks, but it levels off in a trough after that, settling down very quickly.”

Ultimately, Connors said the goal of working with a managed service provider was to put the business and its core operations at the centre of things instead of allowing IT to drain resources.

“I think organisations are shifting more generally to outsourcing; they will have an internal team to keep up with business as usual, but they outsource things like helpdesk and new projects getting done,” he said.