The following depiction is used as an oversimplification of the market to help you visualize the types of service providers offering outsourced IT Services. This generalization is based on our opinions and knowledge of the market for what we often call “Managed IT Services”. In greater Pittsburgh alone there are likely over 100 outfits to choose from, but this interpretation can serve as a general depiction of the IT services market in its entirety – well beyond our geographic reach in Western Pennsylvania.
We share this oversimplified illustration of the IT services market with the hope to educate business executives and their buying committees so they can understand the different options available to them when seeking an outsourced partner to manage their IT operations. The three flavors, or three buckets of providers represent a scale of service delivery and operational maturity from basic to advanced. Different businesses at different stages of their journeys have their own respective needs, but over time a small organization may mature from bucket #1, to bucket #2 and on to bucket #3 as the business evolves.
#1) Independent Operators: Two Bob’s and a Dog
Cheekily referred to as “Two Bob’s and a Dog,” these independent operators carve out a niche in the IT landscape by offering budget-friendly solutions. They are typically a small team, if not just one or two individuals, who provide personalized services. While their prices may be enticing, their clients are heavily dependent on the knowledge and availability of these key personnel. This personal touch can be both an advantage and a limitation.
- Cost-Effective: Independent operators can offer competitive pricing due to their lean structure.
- Personalized Service: Clients often work directly with the operators, leading to a deeper understanding of their unique needs.
- Dependency: Relying on a small team can be risky if those individuals are unavailable.
- Potential Corner Cutting: To maintain low costs, there may be instances where corners are cut in terms of service quality or comprehensive solutions. They may not have proper access to professional tools and may lack partnerships with manufacturers of hardware equipment.
#2) Small Business Service Providers: Silver, Gold, and Beyond
These mid-sized IT service providers have grown beyond the independent operator stage and established themselves with 10 to 30 employees. They offer tiered service packages (Silver, Gold, etc.) to their clients, allowing businesses to choose the level of support that suits them best. These providers are known for their organized operations and standardized solutions. They may even require you use specific tools and types of hardware that they are comfortable supporting.
- Scalable Services: Tiered packages cater to different business sizes and budgets, providing a versatile range of options.
- Smooth Operations: These providers excel at maintaining predictable IT operations, reducing downtime and disruptions.
- Standardization vs. Customization: While standardized solutions streamline support, they might not perfectly align with every client’s unique needs. Their focus on standardization may result in delayed innovation and an expectation that the status quo is good enough.
- Limited Service Delivery: As providers grow, maintaining a personal touch with clients can become more challenging. Often as they grow the technical ability of their staff is diminished along with their ability to efficiently deliver support.
#3) Mature Service Providers: Engineering Excellence
Mature service providers have reached a level of sophistication and scale, with employee counts ranging from 25 to 100 or more. They boast specialized teams of engineers with certifications that showcase their capabilities. These providers have a broad client base, spanning various industries and sizes, and they focus on delivering top-notch solutions for complex IT challenges.
- Expertise and Certifications: With specialized engineers and advanced certifications, these providers bring a high level of technical knowledge to the table. They can manage diverse technologies across various industries, and can implement solutions tailored to individual client needs. They can provide more than just good service, they can provide guidance to business executives and operators.
- Risk Mitigation: Operationally mature firms follow proven frameworks to identify and mitigate technical risks. They have the structure and discipline to ensure vulnerabilities in their clients’ environments are identified and addressed. They can help their clients meet advanced compliance and regulatory requirements.
- Premium Pricing: Advanced expertise often comes with a higher price tag, making these providers better suited for businesses that require specialized solutions. Not every business needs such high-level expertise, which can result in unnecessary costs.
- Resource Allocation: With a wide array of clients and complex projects, mature service providers might face challenges in balancing resource allocation. Priority might be given to another client with a critical project, potentially leading to longer response times when access from one of their specialists is required.
In the realm of IT service providers, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. The three flavors—Independent Operators, Small Business Service Providers, and Mature Service Providers—each offer distinct advantages and considerations. Choosing the right flavor depends on your business’s size, complexity, budget, and preferences. By understanding the unique strengths of each provider type, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your IT needs and goals. Whether you’re seeking a budget-friendly option, standardized support, or engineering excellence, there’s a flavor that’s just right for the current stage of your business.
At Advanticom we know selecting the right partner is critical to the success of outsourcing IT operations. If you select a firm from the wrong bucket the partnership is often doomed from the start. As a decision maker you have to be honest with the technical needs of your firm and the service capabilities of your partner to ensure alignment. Once engaged, ongoing partnerships should be regularly assessed for proper fit and when necessary you must prepare your organization to upgrade to a more mature IT service provider. Some organizations may stick within the same bucket for their entire existence, but many organizations upgrade from bucket to bucket seeking more mature service providers as their business scales or falls under increasingly strict regulations or compliance requirements.
If you’re looking to get started with a mature IT service provider, or if you’re looking to upgrade from a small business service provider — Advanticom might be the partner you’re looking for. As Pittsburgh’s only ISO 27001 accredited IT services firm we leverage our proven operational maturity to bring our clients into compliance with best practices.