The MSP Report Card - Chapter 1

MSP Report Card Hero (narrow)The MSP Report Card is a nine-part blog series that helps guide you through an approach for evaluating and comparing cloud / managed services providers.

The Managed Services Provider (MSP) model has been around for a long time. We used to call this delivery concept “Application Services Provider” or “Managed Hosting” back in the day. Prospective customers would ask “what kind of servers do you use” and would fly from place to place to visit a provider’s data center. Shared or syndicated infrastructure was a data security concern, and the continued perception of required control made every customer sale an evangelical journey. Ahhh, the late 90s.

In 2003 an HBR Editor named Nick Carr wrote an article that nearly had him excommunicated from the technology and business community. Nick suggested that “IT Doesn’t Matter”. He argued that, like the railroads and power generation of their time, IT was sprinting towards commoditization. Further, Nick suggested that the risks associated with poor IT management are, in fact, the true concern. “When a resource becomes essential to competition but inconsequential to strategy, the risks it creates become more important than the advantages it provides.”

The Big Switch BookNick Carr went on to write The Big Switch, published in 2013. This work has been called “the most influential book so far on the cloud computing movement” (Christian Science Monitor). The Big Switch makes a simple and profound statement: Computing is turning into a utility. What you do with that utility (and the benefits gained from the application of that utility capacity) is the true business differentiator. It’s a bit different, though. Do you wonder whether there will be enough power? Do you wonder if the voltage and amperage will be within the ranges required by your appliances? For the most part, we assume the electric company has this well under control. We aren’t quite there yet in IT.

A good MSP helps customers embrace the commoditization of technical entitlements. The idea is to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with each customer as they embark on their personal, unique cloud journey. Realistically, some aspects of what MSPs do remain educational or evangelical. The right MSP should be an independent, professional steward of their customers' cloud experience, who do not endeavor to “cloudsplain” or mandate a specific path or route in the journey. They should instead align the “right cloud” with the “right workload” by understanding each customer’s unique requirements, constraints, and preferences.

Lego Stairs v2That’s a big concept, albeit a very important one. Denovo's mission statement ends with a commitment that we “create vastly superior outcomes for our customers.” In order to keep that commitment, we recognized that we have to actively listen, engineer thoughtfully, and curate comprehensively the cloud and managed services products configured uniquely for each customer use case. But this is not one-off or engineer to order products and services. Think Legos. We custom assemble and configure proven components in cloud space reference architectures to deliver these vastly superior outcomes.

We implement – truly – with ongoing operations in mind.

In our communications with customers over the years, we have found there are typically seven important criteria that matter to them when considering an operating managed or cloud service

  1. Application availability
  2. Incident/request responsiveness and resolution
  3. Elegant change management
  4. A safe pair of hands (security, compliance, governance)
  5. Batch and OLTP application performance
  6. Project and portfolio management
  7. Exceptional customer experience

In the coming weeks, we will explore each of these service commitments and then summarize how the attributes of a cloud and managed services report card fit together to guarantee vastly superior business outcomes. Be sure to stay tuned as you won't want to miss this.