The evolving role of managed service providers — from operational support to strategic digital transformation

Digital transformation has entered a new phase, with artificial intelligence (AI) applications, Internet of Things use cases, and hybrid and multi-cloud strategies maturing fast. Most organisations need help from specialist, trusted partners to keep up with the pace of change as well as to ensure business agility and resilience in an increasingly complex landscape.

This is where managed services providers (MSPs) play an invaluable role — one which has expanded beyond simply ensuring the smooth functioning of the network. MSPs were traditionally assigned to minimising network disruptions and downtime, along with the associated loss of revenue. But that supporting operational role has now expanded into a truly strategic function: MSPs need to help organisations gain a competitive advantage through digital transformation and innovation.

MSP Network Operations Centres (NOCs) today have KPIs as enablers of business transformation. No longer is the NOC a reactive operations centre for network monitoring and ticket processing. It is also expected to be a Service Quality Management (SQM) and Customer Experience Management (CEM) centre of excellence that leverages cognitive computing for predictive insights.

One of its most important roles is to elevate cybersecurity and compliance in a time when cyber risks are growing, regulation is getting tougher, and business processes are becoming increasingly digitalised. MSPs have always run network operations centres (NOCs), but they are today expected to operate integrated NOCs and Security Operation Centres (SOCs) that enable intelligent, proactive management of network resources.

This is the realm of the digitally transformed MSP, a cutting-edge operation that leverages end-to-end ITIL processes to offer the high service level agreements — right up to five-nines (99.999%) — needed to support companies in an age of hybrid work and digital commerce. Such an MSP has the capability to process every kind of incident, no matter the type of infrastructure — IT, NOC, SOC, 5G, SD-WAN, and cloud — in a seamless manner.

The use of advanced automation is one of the key factors that sets a digitally transformed MSP apart from a traditional one. It will use robotic process automation (RPA) and AI for workflow automation to reduce the time involved in manually completing repetitive, data-intensive tasks. With MSPs building next-generation networks, it is a logical step to move into RPA and a drive towards integration with advanced analytics and artificial intelligence, together with robotics. It will enable industries to deploy more complex automation and can be conveniently accessed and controlled. This will vastly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of processes in the MSP environment.

Organisations can benefit from partnering with a digitally transformed MSP in the following ways:

1. Lower total cost of ownership

MSPs offer clients cost-effective access to the latest best-of-breed technologies and practices such as cloud, IT service management and security information and event management (SIEM) tools. A long-term integrated managed services partnership offers more than a cost reduction — it enables companies to take advantage of innovative, scalable technology, which is too expensive and time-consuming to do in-house.

2. Ability to scale more efficiently

By using an MSP, organisations can leverage specialised capabilities for IT infrastructure management that scale with their business. An MSP will deliver options tailored to the company’s exact needs, reducing excess costs and ensuring it only pays for what it needs.

3. 24/7/365 network support

Around-the-clock support is hard for organisations, especially smaller businesses, to achieve without an MSP. MSPs can provide varying support levels, giving their clients the peace of mind that their IT, network, security and data privacy requirements are taken care of while providing outstanding network availability. Functions like disaster recovery and privacy practice also form part of the MSP offering.

4. Cutting-edge data management

 Edge computing solutions, which power many of today’s most compelling Internet of Things, AI and analytics use cases, require a fundamental shift in infrastructure management. MSPs can support organisations in the deployment of edge computing, which involves the processing of data on a decentralised network away from the centralised data centre.

5. Intelligent and proactive risk management

 Managed services through a strategic partner help organisations to efficiently manage locations and processes that are expensive to maintain and regulate. These include areas such as risk management, software asset management, and cybersecurity services. This, together with proactive, AI-enabled regulatory reporting, frees up in-house resources to focus on other strategic priorities.

6. The MSP: A partner in business transformation 

For most organisations, the benefits of choosing a digitally transformed MSP to manage their communications environments over investing in their own resources, technologies and capabilities are increasingly clear-cut. Such a partner enables an enterprise to be agile in leveraging the latest technologies for innovation while reducing technical challenges.

As a specialist that understands how to optimise solutions and create access to new emerging technologies, an MSP enables companies to better organise, operate, safeguard, and futureproof their businesses. It also helps them to de-risk IT operations in the face of cyber threats like phishing, ransomware, DDOS attacks and data leakages.

Today’s MSP isn’t just a partner in cost reduction and operational efficiency — it stands alongside clients in helping them to achieve business transformation goals such as improving enterprise resilience, reducing risks, maximising efficiency of capital investment, and rapidly integrating new technologies to enhance customer and employee experiences as well as improve competitiveness.