A managed service for the network requires a strong partnership. There needs to be integration; not just tools, but the right people. This reminds me of Ants and Aphids, who have a symbiotic relationship where they mutually benefit from their working bond. This is how I see a successful culture of managed services, where a partnership is formed.

Managed services have grown in popularity, pretty much in line with the shifting everyday consumer mentality around signing up to services as opposed to owning or running them yourself. In the financial services sector, for example, research from PWC found that 41 per cent of those companies surveyed said they’d plan to increase spending on third-party partner security, with 47 per cent of all IT services being delivered by service providers.

It’s taking the biology of a managed service, and providing a culture where self-interest is low level, and trust builds strength in your network and team capabilities.

A mutualistic approach

Ants and aphids
Ants and aphids – Thinkstock / TrichopCMU

When you have a thousand other things to worry about, it can be difficult to think about your own wellbeing. That’s why partnerships with the right people are so important – they’re your support system, the people you trust to provide the highest level of service. They are your ant to your aphid, your bee to your pollen or your fish to your anemone.

You need to work closely with your supplier and you need to know that they’re going to succeed not just settle, as they’re on the frontline.

You want to be able to have frank and honest conversations with them, rather than an SLA-based, transactional relationship where box ticking is more important than insightful advice and expertise.

A clear view of the day to day operations is important and so its integral that you have a designated supplier manager to coordinate and take status reports. Within Network Services and the pace of technological change, it is now more important than ever that there is constant customer engagement – and the right type of customer engagement.

Service-service relationship

A ‘People-as-a-Service’ model is an upgrade on ‘Everything-as-a-Service’ – the on-demand, yet personalised, culture that we as consumers operate in fits well with this new business environment, but it’s true that people need to upskill to manage these new workflows.

So as the ecosystem changes around you, it may even be the case that new roles evolve at a senior level, within businesses, that specifically deal with supplier management. This sort of role would currently sit across several senior positions such as the COO, CMO and head of procurement, but the uplift in the number of third party suppliers that businesses are looking at contracting will eventually require them to manage everything.

Conservation of skills

A barnacle might attach itself to a whale, but the benefit to the whale is minimal and can cause it discomfort. This would be the same if a symbiotic managed service was built around a business that didn’t have the right skills to deliver. For a business that offers these services, it’s important that you have the right expertise. If you’re a supplier of network security solutions, you should concentrate on providing that service. There’s nothing worse than trying to be the supplier of every solution knowing that you can’t fully deliver it, as this will just erode the trust that your customer has started to build in your capabilities. Honesty is the best policy – if you’re not an expert in that field, just be honest and say that you don’t offer that service.

Let your network support flourish

Having worked in network support and services for many years, the focus must be on succeeding rather than serving. There are many things to consider developing symbiotic partnerships but here are the top five we look to as a focus:

  1. Build a culture of success that doesn’t just serve
  2. Work together, be partners not suppliers
  3. Be honest and don’t be afraid to say, ‘we can’t offer this’
  4. Focus on the people
  5. Consider the process: who and how you’re going to manage your supplier(s)

David Millar is services director at Axians UK, a company that specializes in cloud-based and managed IT services, networking and data centres