Test the DNA of your Managed Service Provider: Command and Control

The Managed Service Provider (MSP) space is a complex multi-faceted industry from global outsourcers to many small new entrants; from SaaS providers to cloud brokers; from specialists to generalists. Over the course of the next 6 blogs under the heading Test the DNA of your MSP, I will be highlighting some of the key DNA markers that define a good Managed Service Provider.

DNA Marker #1: Command and Control

IT change events are a regular function of IT infrastructure and Application services, and many occur as a reaction to unplanned problems or the alignment of imposed legislative or compliance requirements. Changes may also be imposed as a result from internal organisational mandates designed to increase efficiency, or reflect business or service improvement initiatives.

While most large enterprises have well established IT change management processes, maintaining an audit history trail for compliance purposes, the scheduling and collaborate around planned changes and speeding up the Change Advisory Board (CAB) approvals are sometimes not well managed. These issues are further compounded when the IT organisation has limited knowledge of the application or the service that the changes apply to.

Failing to manage and maintain strong governance of IT change management processes can result in disastrous outcomes for the business such as service outages (of course unplanned), compliance audit penalties, security vulnerabilities and more.

This is one of the reasons for bringing in a Managed Service Provider with expertise to manage and maintain specific areas.

And this raises a really important point: When selecting a MSP you have to dig really deep into how they manage small and large scale changes across the scope of service.

The following are some key areas that need to be reviewed when selecting and onboarding a MSP:

  1. Identify key technical folks from each of the functional IT group (Network, Development, etc.) across your organisation to serve as a CAB and make sure the MSP has adequate representation in the CAB.
  2. Identify a Change Manager to facilitate regular (sometimes weekly depending on the rate of change) CAB meetings.
  3. The role of the CAB is to review proposed changes and determine if they’re likely to cause harm to the business. (Keep CAB focused on protecting the business from adverse impact, and don’t allow the CAB to become a bureaucratic roadblock!)
  4. Ensure your MSP has a formalised documented change management process and that their internal change process integrates well with your organisation’s change process. Ultimately the MSP is in command of the service delivery and in control of change management process.
  5. Review all changes at the CAB, which comprises of technical folks and decision makers. Also take time at these meetings to review changes from last week. If any of these changes roll back or fail, are there any lessons to be learned that could improve the CAB process?
  6. If the lessons learned are small and doable, make them part of the CAB culture immediately.
  7. You are reliant on your MSP for best practice advice. Make sure they step up to the role and provide thought leadership in this space.
  8. The MSP must maintain a transparent Change Log keeping track of proposed and approved changes. This is critical on many fronts, including the ability to switch providers as and when you deem it necessary.
  9. Make sure the changes are tracked and the desired outcomes are achieved. This includes assessing if the change delivered the benefits proposed in the initial Request for Change record.
  10. Make sure the MSP has an established emergency change process and that it integrates fully with your organisation’s emergency processes to handle urgent and critical situations.
  11. Over time, you want to see failed and rolled back changes decrease. That should be an outcome of the services from your MSP, iterating through lessons learned and subsequently tightening the criteria and rigour involved in the Change approval process.
  12. Finally, when selecting your MSP partner make sure they articulate precisely how they intend to understand and incorporate your processes into their daily operational routine.

Are these steps really going to help me?

I give you two examples:

A large pan European network service provider was having severe service outages across its central and key Service Management platform supporting all its external customers. By applying stringent change management processes, within 2 months their service up time improved from 75% to 99.5%.

Another global manufacturer who had outsourced its IT Service Management platform to a global outsourcer was achieving service uptimes of 65% (yes! Only 65%). The significant outages were down to the outsourcer treating the IT Service Management system just like any other application under its contract and not applying specific best practice when implementing changes. Once proper command and control processes were put into place, the service uptime increased to a whopping 99.7%.

Thanks for reading.

Keyvan Shirnia
Head of Managed Services

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By Daniel Swann