During my career in SharePoint consulting, and recently, in Managed Services, I have seen many SharePoint implementations across a very wide range of organizations. For many of the same reasons people are using cloud hosting and services, they are also looking at a federated service-based approach to their SharePoint administration and support.
They’re choosing to supplement their existing teams with Managed Services.
What is Managed Services?
The basic premise is that you are hiring a vendor to assist you in taking responsibility for specific aspects of your SharePoint environment. It isn’t an all or nothing choice--there must be options for you to take advantage of the services you need from your vendor.
The goal is to offload the required work to a trusted organization that will add security, stability, credibility, support, and peace of mind to your SharePoint implementation, regardless of whether that implementation lives in-house or in Azure, is hosted with a hosting provider or another cloud service, or on Office 365.
Managed Services differs from professional services, in that you will typically negotiate for a service-level agreement that contractually governs how quickly your vendor will respond and what they will cover. It becomes an extension of your team on an ongoing basis.
Managed Services is not just patching or fixing problems. It can be anything from infrastructure monitoring and patching, all the way through to phone support to help end-users understand permissions, or how to set up a workflow.
It can also cover many elements in between.
If done correctly, it’s like having an IT infrastructure expert, SharePoint administrator, SharePoint developer, SharePoint architect, business analyst, etc., who are familiar with your environment and available when you need them--at a fraction of the cost of hiring all those skills, even on a temporary basis.
Why Would You Want Managed Services?
Organizations of different sizes face varying challenges. I will try to cover as many as possible, but I imagine you will understand the reasoning below and apply it to your particular challenges.
- A single SharePoint administrator does not understand all aspects of the platform. I haven’t come across a single person that has deep knowledge of all areas of SharePoint. You can acquire a breadth of skills on an as-needed basis versus the limited skills of current employees.
- If your SharePoint “administrator” or support person isn’t doing SharePoint full-time, then they are not an expert in it. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
- Maybe you aren’t large enough to warrant a full-time administrator, but you still need the expertise. Your organization may need more skills than your current administrator has but can’t afford to bring on a second, third, or fourth resource. You need additional support skills but can’t afford the cost of additional staff, or are not able to get the head count increased.
- You need some expertise in a certain area of SharePoint for just a few hours or a day. SharePoint consultants are not like plumbers. Finding someone who will come work with you for three hours is going to be very difficult, and they will most likely think they are doing you a favor.
- A large number of SharePoint experts don’t want to be in the support business. Your typical Solutions Architect, someone with a very long pedigree of knowledge and experience has invaluable information that you might need to tap on occasion. After revisiting the “Three Hour Rule” above, having access to these people on-demand is extremely difficult. The right Managed Service vendor will have these folks on staff. A good Managed Service company will have the balance in place to retain these folks for projects, but have them in their back pocket for some truly difficult support issues when they come up.
- Know your numbers. How much does an employee cost your organization relative to a service? It’s not just their salary. A true ROI analysis often adds 50 percent to an employee salary as an effective cost.
- What do you do when your current administrator leaves your organization? Do you have good documentation? If you have experienced this pain in the past, it is one of the main reasons many organizations are using Managed Services to help support their environments.
- You must understand the risks of not having good administration, support, and current patching if you have to little to no formal support currently.
Ryan Thomas has spent more than 15 years in the technology industry. Prior to forming Timlin Enterprises in 2010, Ryan was the director of a Boston-based consulting company, where he specialized in expanding and managing a flourishing SharePoint consulting division. Before that, Ryan worked with Monster.com as a key contributor in the architecture and implementation of their migration to the Microsoft .NET platform. He still maintains his current Microsoft technical certifications as a Microsoft Certified Professional and Microsoft Certified Application Developer.