At first glance, the two terms may seem synonymous, and in some respects they are. Any work that your company is capable of doing, yet you choose to have a 3rd party vendor perform those services is truly outsourcing. If you have an internal IT Department, then any auxiliary services your IT people hire are ‘outsourced’. In the absence of in-house IT, the use of a Managed Service Provider (MSP) belongs more in the realm of ‘dynamic partnerships’ than as outsourcing.

Is MSP Just A Fancier Name for Outsourced Services?

It may seem to be a matter of semantics. Your first impulse might be to assume that using an MSP is the same as outsourcing your technological support, especially if you paint the anticipated support with the same brush as you would so many other remote customer services: some untrained halfwit going through their scripted ‘playbook’ with an accent so thick you can’t understand what they’re saying to you.

Fortunately, this is NOT the case with using a Managed Service Provider. The only similarity is that an MSP and other outsourced companies are both 3rd parties hired from outside of the organization, but the scope of the work and duties are greatly different.

Most outsourced companies provide a narrow scope of service – task specific and as often as not, temporary. An attorney might use a Private Investigator when need. Some firms outsource their own customer service Help Desks. There are any number of ‘as-needed’ services that do not require a full-time employee status.

As a metaphor, if the data and IT-supported work flow throughout the company is the ‘life blood’ of that business, then the MSP performs as the ‘Physician-in-Attendance’. Quite different from coming in once a week to water the plants.

Managed Service Providers are devotees of the ‘Big Picture’, taking a holistic view of the client’s business as a whole, and of the critical role that Information Technology plays in that company’s ongoing success and growth. The consequences of failure create a very real and serious burden to carry. That is why a TRUE MSP not only hires the most highly qualified and skilled technical staff, but schools them on the MSP’s well-established Policies, Procedures and Best Practices, which are considered by all to be Laws, not mere suggestions.

Long-Term Collaboration

The major difference between what an MSP does and what other, lesser outsourced vendors do is that an MSP is a Technology Partner, a Virtual Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the company. It’s a matter of foresight and shared enthusiasm for the client’s future. Outsourcing providers have job-by-job blinders on – they automatically do what is asked and generate invoices by rote, but there is no impetus on their part to suggest more efficient ways to run the business, as an MSP does in terms of emerging technologies.

For example, take Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems. In the fledgling days of this technology, it was a mess and left a bad taste in many early users’ mouths. As a responsible Technology Partner, IT Support LA watched this technology mature – we watched the quality and reliability improve as the costs came down. For the last few years, we have become ambassadors for this technology, but only because it reached the point that it would undoubtedly enhance our clients’ productivity and lower their operating costs.

Most improvements suggested by an MSP are small and address trouble spots in the clients’ work flow, while occasionally, suggestions, such as using AI to streamline and improve production or the supply-chain. As a Technology Partner, an MSP like IT Support LA can only present the idea – plant the seed, and it is up to the client to determine whether to apply the technology.

A plain old ‘It Guy’ who just shows up to fix something after it breaks would never make that suggestion. The outsourced company hired to perform data-entry does only that: data entry. The same goes for almost all ‘task-specific’ outsourced vendors. They exist as very small rented ‘cogs’ in the machinery of the client.

A Big Cog

An MSP like IT Support LA performs a major function for the client, and therefore takes on a major responsibility for the success of the client. Therefore, the MSP is a ‘Big Cog’. It performs well beyond the responsibilities of ‘Small Cog’ outsourced vendors.

Is this a case of ‘Delusions of Grandeur’? To answer that, all one needs to see is how well any office functions if all of the computers are off and the phone system is down.

A Big Cog, indeed.