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Managed IT Services: Are Your Expectations Too Low?

February 15, 2024
Reading Time: 4 mins
Author: Ray Sweeney

Managed IT services is rarely the focus of small business owners and leaders. In fact, when IT is a focus it's generally a sign that things aren't going well. As a result, when things are running ok, IT service providers are given a lot of space in which they can fly under the radar.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is a common sentiment that we have discussed previously. Alarmingly, this apathy costs SMB's thousands in lost productivity, inefficiencies & unnecessary spend.

Engaging an outsourced IT provider in managed IT services should yield more than 'out of sight, out of mind' reactive services.

So what should you, as a business, expect from managed IT services?

Understanding Managed IT Services

Managed IT services typically includes the support, management, and optimisation of a business's IT infrastructure and end-user systems. These services are typically wrapped up in a monthly service agreement.

Whilst these agreements can all look the same to an outsider, they come in many shapes and sizes.

The seemingly subtle differences have an enormous impact on your end results. The core attributes that tend to vary from business to business are:

  • Reactive vs Proactive - Whilst every provider will say they are proactive, the amount of effort and resources put into proactive tasks differs greatly.
  • Inclusive vs Exclusive - Some provide extensive, all inclusive agreements whereas some opt for cheaper fixed agreements with several exclusions and omissions.
  • Product vs Service - MSPs generally have their primary focus on either services or products.

You should think of these things on a sliding scale. No provider is 100% one or the other, but they will all tend towards one side. Understanding the impact these tendencies will have to your business will put you in a greater position to achieve the results you desire.

For example, a reactive provider with service exclusions will be cost effective upfront, but with the drawback of increased risk and unexpected expenditure. Whereas a proactive provider with an all inclusive agreement will likely appear to cost more, but also come with significant ROI through the reduction of other costs.

Outcomes vs. Deliverables

Many MSPs receive undue praise providing deliverables, despite adding little in the way of true value or business outcomes.

Ask yourself, do you want a drill (deliverable) or a hole in the wall (outcome)?

Fast Response Times Greater Staff Productivity
Managed Backup Reduced Risk
Monthly Reports Ability to make Good Decisions
24/7 Service No Downtime
Dedicated Account Manager Effortless Experience

Like a drill, deliverables offer no value or result on their own. It's possible to have all of the deliverables but none of the outcomes. An MSP can be both 'doing nothing wrong' whilst simultaneously 'delivering little value.'

Is your IT spend justified by deliverables alone? or should you consider the impact on outcomes or results your MSP is having.

Measuring IT Performance

Ask yourself a question. Is there any one person or department in your business who incurs a significant expense without being accountable to any measures, KPI's or expectations?

Commonly, the answer is IT.

It's not unreasonable to expect IT to be accountable to results any more or less than other people or functions in your business. The challenge for most is, how to measure performance.

One simple way is to measure the reduction of disruptive incidents over time. This measure is a key indicator for proactive service excellence. Why does it matter?

Consider that the average 30 user business loses 90-120 hours of productivity a month from ‘minor issues’. Based on industry averages, this equates to $250k of lost opportunity per year (see Dare to Compare).

It's possible to incur just 20-40% of the disruptive incidents seen by average businesses, a significant saving for those with mature IT operations.

In short, there are a number of ways to measure your IT performance. The key point however, is that you should have expectations that extend beyond basic deliverables and responsive service when something goes wrong.

Just as you would measure the sales of a sales rep, you should be able to quantify business outcomes and value delivered by your IT provider.

Expectations of Managed IT Services

It's important to understand when your expectations may be unrealistic. Or rather, understand when your expectations are never going to be met.

A provider cannot be proactive yet heavily focussed on response times. They cannot offer multiple service options or tiers yet boast consistent service quality. They cannot be low cost yet claim to have experienced engineers, great documentation and continual training.

These things are like oil and water, they simply do not mix.

There’s an old saying in software development that goes something like, “Fast, good or cheap — pick two.” The concept is based on these assumptions:

  • You can develop something quickly and of high quality, but it will be very costly.
  • You can develop something quickly and cheaply, but it will be of low quality.
  • You can develop something of high quality and low cost, but it will take a long time.

Likewise, you should be aware of the limitations and trades offs of your IT provider. Whilst you should not be afraid to raise your expectations, doing so may necessitate a change in provider.

To quote Nelson Sigar, COO at Sensible Business Solutions, "There's no real right or wrong, just good and bad fits".


In conclusion, given the considerable spend and investment SMBs make in technology, expectations should be raised to expect an appropriate level of value.

Likewise, you should consider that not all agreements are created equal. Two providers may appear similar on paper (same deliverables) yet in practice will yield very different outcomes.

Often the company providing better outcomes will appear more expensive on paper. However when you consider that the difference is likely the scope of their services, coupled with the fact that high performing IT reduces overhead, improves customer experience & employee engagement; the value proposition is considerable.

You should expect more.

Ready to experience better? We'd love to chat about whether or not we'd be a better fit for your business. There is no right or wrong, but there are missed opportunities - Book a Chat.


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