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This post is part of a series of posts on building an effective managed services team.
In part one of this series, I shared with you some truly foundational thoughts as to how you are going to decide what to be as a company providing customer support and managed IT services – essentially establishing your identity in much the same way as a sports team decides who they will be on the field of play. I also shared with you some key traits that I believe are essential to becoming a “champion” in the managed services space – traits of Consistency, Proactivity, and Discipline. I see these as foundational as speed, strength, and intelligence when describing athletes. Speaking of the ‘players’, let’s talk about the positions or roles necessary, and who you should be looking for to fill out our championship roster!
Positions or Roles
I believe there are some absolute core areas that you must address when building out a managed services practice. Often in football, you hear about a team building from the ‘trenches out’ meaning from their offensive and defensive lines, or in basketball you hear about identifying your scorers, defenders, rebounders and the like. We can equate these notions to our managed services team too! Let’s examine.
If you are just getting started or are a smaller company, you may find it daunting to establish a help desk. There have been, and continue to be several companies that offer to fill this function for you on a retainer basis – and I’m not here to say those are necessarily bad options. Companies such as IT By Design and even distributors such as Ingram Micro can be “your” team. What I do want to convey to you is that whether you insource or outsource this function (my preference is insourced), that you double-down – scratch that – you triple-down on making sure the quality and consistency are there with that group.
Your helpdesk should be staffed by associates that are personable, conscientious and understand customer services. I have often mentioned to our team, we are *really* in the customer service business more than the IT business. It’s an important mind shift. I know by now you’re probably thinking that IT professionals that are both technically competent and personable are in the same class as unicorns and leprechauns. NOT TRUE! (but darn close!) They are hard to find indeed but do exist. While we have always tried to hire first for the “who” than the “what”, we have put even more emphasis on that idea when hiring for our help desk. We have tried to bridge the gap in technical shortcomings with better processes, documentation and in-house training, and we’ve noticed subtle trends of customer satisfaction and engagement improving, even if our Time to Resolve has degraded slightly. To us, it’s an acceptable trade-off.
To go further, within your helpdesk you *also* have multiple positions. (Just like an outfield has a Left Fielder, Center Fielder, and Right Fielder). In a Help Desk, you may have multiple tiers of associates that handle increasingly complex issues as needed. Traditional help desk structure is an L1-L2-L3 tiering system or perhaps a Triage-Resolution-Escalation. There are also recent trends in building focused groups within your help desk that work with only certain subsets of customers or industries. All models have their merits and you need to choose which one is right for you and your customers.
No matter what you choose, put in the necessary work to have outstanding processes for your help desk to follow so that your customers can experience the consistency we discussed in Part 1, with a personable and positive experience provided by your talented helpdesk team!
Contrary to some opinions, the good ‘ol Systems Engineer is NOT extinct! I have read and been in discussions where people will cite the overall reduction in complexity of technology today (primarily hardware and software) and use that to suggest that engineers aren’t needed as much as even five years ago. While I see their point and there is some basis when you consider say a Storage Area Network (SAN) five years ago would have been a six-figure equipment sale and likely a 50-100 hour project to implement and migrate data. Today, in most cases, it’s a $50K equipment sale and many are user-installable! Quite a shift! That said, I believe we are seeing an increasing need for those with technical aptitudes to stay up on technology interoperability and best practices while also wrapping everything around what a sound security posture looks like.
The reality today is that the majority of your clients-to-be for your budding managed services practices are going to have Windows servers, Windows PC’s (maybe some Macs), network printers, switches, routers, firewalls, WAPs, and the like. Pretty “traditional” stuff from an IT infrastructure standpoint. Thus far, we aren’t seeing any requests for us to put IoT or other smart devices under managed services. Given that, your engineers are still very much in vogue and will be for several years. Keep them sharp and develop them to be experts in more than one discipline. Do you have server/storage engineers? Then develop their networking expertise. Do you have ‘techs’? Grow them into engineers! We have found that the ideal “player profile” for this position is someone who thrives on variety and learning, is not afraid of trying new things (not recklessly mind you!) and has 3-5 years of experience building/deploying IT infrastructure. Experience is key in this role – so fill your roster with “vets” versus “rookies” as much as you can here.
More than likely, your new managed services clients will not have dedicated IT people, let alone IT management, or perhaps anyone that even *wants* to know about IT. They are hopefully focused on what it is their business does. That’s your opportunity to provide technical thought leadership to your client.
Think of this person as your “team leader” – the one with the “C” on their jersey. Your strategist should be informing your clients about emerging trends that can be helpful to their business (or avoid risks), establish roadmaps, budgets and get to know the business inside and out. Your Strategist will also help call the plays for your team to ensure they are in a position to succeed.
Drafting these types of players has its own challenges. They need to speak ‘business’. While not required that they are a techie, they should truly understand and also speak ‘tech’. Much like your engineer, this is not the role you put a rookie into. Find a professional – someone who has perhaps run an IT department before and give them this roster spot.
While there are more roles we could drill down on, I consider these roles the core of a winning team. In our next part, we’ll talk about the ‘coaching staff’ and any additional support required to reach a championship level.
Any other “Core” roles you feel are missing? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below!
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