This is the second is a series of three articles sponsored by Ricoh looking at how real companies facing transformation evaluated their MSP options. The variety of services MSPs provide can range from the monitoring of IT networks to being responsible or all repairs, updates, and patches, as well as providing new software, hardware, infrastructure, cloud services, and staff resources. While solutions always need be tailored to individual circumstances, the case studies demonstrate the different ways MSP can aid in profitability and peace of mind.
Mircom is a Toronto-based global designer, manufacturer, and distributor of intelligent building solutions. Founded in 1991, its product lines include fire detection and alarms, emergency audio, communications, building automation, and security.
A client’s challenges are managed service provider’s biggest opportunities. Many organizations do not implement change until there is some level of risk or pain, says Wade Ball, Director of IT Services with Ricoh. Typically, the challenge triggers the downtime of critical systems, the loss of applications and data, or a dramatic drop in end user productivity. These all impact a business’s ability to deliver its products and services to drive revenue and provide the critical seamless customer experience required in today’s competitive marketplace.
In September 2019, Mircom suffered a debilitating cyber-attack. All of its servers were compromised, including its email server and its databases. It was a surprise – the company’s CEO admitted that he was aware of the danger of cyber-threats but didn’t think Mircom was big enough for hackers to consider.
The challenge of recovery turned into an opportunity to revamp systems in a robust and more secure way.
Waiting for an event that hinders the business operations and shuts down the technology that supports it is not an ideal plan. Preparing and maintaining a strategic IT roadmap with a clear set of initiatives, timelines, and budget can help an organization when they need to act quickly with technology changes, whether it is proactive or reactive, says Ball. Knowing your path with technology before severe, cost impacting events occur does help save time when moving forward is essential.
“The catalyst to drive us quickly was really, really rapid recovery from a cyber-attack,” said CIO David Polsky. His first task was to get the business moving again, as quickly as possible. He did that by shifting everyone to Microsoft cloud applications: Office 365 (now rebranded Microsoft 365), hosted Exchange email and Azure Active Directory authentication. “We knew that this was a great solution because once we recovered our servers and all of those PST files, we would be able to just rejoin them to the cloud-based service and we’d have our email history,” he noted.
He also encouraged adoption of Microsoft Teams, which turned out to be a timely initiative. With Teams, plus the other hosted solutions from Microsoft, Mircom was able to segue to work from home literally overnight when the pandemic lockdowns struck.
“Mike (Yankoo, manager of security and infrastructure) can take a lot of the credit for that,” Polsky, said. “He had built out such a good infrastructure in such a good footprint solution here that we didn’t have licensing issues, we didn’t have hardware issues, we didn’t have bandwidth issues. A lot of companies struggled during those first couple of weeks in March when people had to work at home, but it was almost a non-event for us.”
The move to modernize
“Every problem is an opportunity,” Jason Falbo, Mircom’s Chief Technology Officer observed during an ITWC webinar. “(The cyber-attack) made us take a hard look at what we needed to do to modernize with a hybrid cloud architecture to meet the needs of our company and our security position.”
For Polsky, that included taking a hard look at the company’s licensing. The legacy Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA) partner was unresponsive (Yankoo said that he didn’t even know they existed until he’d been with Mircom for a couple of years; there had been zero contact from them), and since that agreement was about to expire, he saw an opportunity to consolidate its legacy licensing with the new licenses for the SaaS solutions.
When a client makes the decision to enhance their technology and mitigate risk with a cloud-first approach, Ball believes a migration to an on-demand, as needed, from anywhere SaaS solutions is a prudent choice. Your MSP partner must work collaboratively and in a timely fashion with the business and key personnel to develop a plan that targets the right steps at the best time to maintain operations – while minimizing risk, downtime, and productivity. The depth and breadth of the team’s speedy migrations is critical. Having a skilled, experienced, and certified partner to drive and support initiatives ensure the business, the key stakeholders, and the end users are working in lock-step when it comes to change management, training, and expected results.
Go the extra mile
“(The incumbent) serviced us like, what’s in it for them, and we really wanted a partner that would be looking out for us a little more,” Polsky said.
His two main selection criteria were service quality – especially speedy response to requests – and the depth and breadth of services offered. A third was the quality of partner that the provider would bring to the table when Mircom was shopping for net new products or services.
When checking a provider’s references, he recommended getting the reference to tell a story – not to just say “they’re great”, but to explain why they’re great.
Always align with the business case
Technology in business is not a “set it and forget it” mindset or approach. With the rapid pace of technological change, the growth in cybersecurity threats, and an increasingly competitive marketplace, Ball says managing your technology investment is crucial.
Your MSP must provide regular status updates and share relevant information on the services and solutions they are supporting. They should constantly be suggesting how to optimize services, save costs, and increase productivity, so you can stay focused on what you do best.
You must understand the value technology adds to your business and you must hold your partner accountable for the managed services they provide. Ball says businesses must challenge their MSP partner to match corporate goals and initiatives against real business outcomes. The final plan must align technology investment with cost management, efficiency, productivity, minimizing risk, an improved customer experience or navigating change.
“Our biggest worry was, are we going to get a really great level of attention during the sales cycle, and then limited attention during the operational phase, which is what happened with the previous EA partner,” Polsky explained. “I’m really, really happy to say that since we signed that agreement, we’ve been getting everything they promised us.
Delivering against promises
‘They do quarterly reviews, where they look at what our profile is in terms of license spend and is there a way to save money somewhere. They’re looking at optimizing our use of cloud services. We’ve had three different projects that we needed some assistance on where they brought really good expertise internally to the table, and then brought in really good partners. So I think we established the right criteria, and we’ve made an excellent choice in our partner because they’ve been delivering against those criteria.”
You may also be interested in this case study:
Choosing an MPS : Westoba Credit Union