Written by Rob Quickenden, Cisilion’s Chief Technology Officer,
Rowland Hills, Leithwaite’s Chief Operating Officer,
Paul Clark, L&Q’s Director of Enterprise Services and Security & David Maskell, Thatcham Research’s IT Services & Information Security Manager (left to right)
A collaborative blog on behalf of Cisilion and members of our Customer Advisory Board.
As a breakout from our monthly Fireside Chat with Cisilion roundtables, here are the highlights of some of the insights, thoughts, opinions, and trends that are affecting the future of Managed Services, through the eyes of Cisilion and members of our Customer Technical Advisory Board (CTAB), including the likes of L&Q, Leathwaite, and Thatcham Research.
From reviewing the Managed Services Provider (MSP) of the past, where Managed Services were focused on the ‘break-fix support model’, and how that has since become more cloud-based alongside the rapid pace of digital transformation adoption, to the four key areas that MSPs need to focus on moving forward – including XLAs, adoption, adaptability and enhanced security – read on for more details.
At Cisilion, we have been providing Managed Services for years. The importance weighs on the rapid pace of digital transformation, automation, and integration of IT systems and applications which, when combined with the stark realisation that the cyber threat to us all is at an all-time high, demonstrates the significant role played by MSPs (Managed Service Providers) and the need for organisations who consume and buy these services to look at the risks.
We must look towards the past, present, and future of Managed Services, sharing key tips and insights from our customer panel, to ensure that we remain relevant and continue to add value to our customers – which was the primary aim of our Fireside Chat that took place in March 2022.
The MSP of the Past
Back in the day, before the world of multi-cloud computing, most managed services were focused on the “break-fix support model” – a reactive service for the most part, where a customer would pay an upfront annual fee for support on a specific piece of hardware or architecture. When something became faulty or they needed help with IT, a helping hand would be available.
Typically, if a failure/fault happened, a call would be placed or ticketed with the MSP, and an IT engineer would be sent to fix the on-premises problem. The customer was then billed for any materials, or a hardware replacement was sent from hot spares if under warranty. At best, these types of services would offer patching and there might have been some form of Single Network Management Protocol (SNMP) based monitoring of the asset.
Then it all got Cloudy…
Things like Office 365, Gmail, WebEx and a myriad of cloud services came along, resulting in a change to the role of the MSP – as we started to move into an era of ‘shared responsibility’, continuous updates, connectors, and all of that!
As the traditional enterprise perimeter altered and things started moving to the cloud, things changed for the IT services as well as the enterprise. Cloud computing took outsourced IT support to a whole new level.
Cloud infrastructure and related apps created more productive working options; IT infrastructure became so complex that specialists were needed to optimise and maintain them. The cloud changed the way that MSP offerings were sold and delivered, entering an era of the true MSP.
The MSP of the Present
Of course, today, most organisations use different cloud services in various shapes and sizes – whether that’s CRM, ERP, Office 365, GitHub, Slack, Zoom, WebEx, Teams, or IaaS, PaaS (such as SQL as a service or Windows 365), which then may sit in Azure, AWS, Oracle, Google, or even private/hosted providers like UK Cloud etc.
The pace of digital technology adoption has already exploded this decade. Back in May 2020, just two months into the COVID-19 lockdown, Microsoft’s Satya Madella said that “we have seen 2 years of digital transformation within 2 months.”
There is no doubt that cloud computing has and continues to drive a revolution with regard to business productivity and collaboration, changing the way that we work in a fundamental way. Cloud apps have brought enormous benefits in remote working and collaboration and, in conjunction with the exponential growth of Low Code, No Code solutions, is accelerating service and interoperability, app, and process modernisation and automation at a pace never previously conceived.
Microsoft revealed that their Power Platform now has 20 million monthly active users, as of February 2022, which is up by 76% year on year with over 10 million in Power Apps. In turn, this changes the landscape further as MSPs and end-users are either ending or creating their own line of business apps in-house with Low Code, No Code services.
But why does this matter?
Well, with multi-cloud comes a new complexity, since each of these environments has its own connectivity, terminology, and technological differences. The complexity for IT is not just a part of having multiple platforms, SLAs, and operation regions, but is also multiplied when they are integrated. There is then, in most cases, the challenge of standardising how to do identity management, governance, security, interoperability, change management, and of course, user training!
As such, today’s MSPs have a different challenge as they must continue to add value in such a dynamic and complex landscape. Whilst cloud services can create great ease and simplicity for users, managing and supporting this can be more complex than ever – meaning that organisations need to decide what they support and manage in-house, what they use a partner or MSP for, and most importantly of all – which partner they use.
The above led many organisations to turn to some level of outsourcing in search of the right level of expertise and help. Research from Dell revealed that “two-thirds of organisations that currently use the cloud, also leverage some level of Managed Services.”
While some of the traditional break-fix and reactive support models still exist, MSPs have had to mature alongside the cloud technologies, to ensure that the value they provide is still relevant and competitive. For instance, here at Cisilion we are continuously shifting from response and fix SLAs to new services, which are focused more on ensuring that our customers can take full advantage of these new technologies and the constant stream of updates.
As such, we now offer more around technology enablement, adoption, multi-vendor support, problem and change management. In many cases, the actual ability to ‘fix’ a problem shifts to the cloud provider.
Paul Clark, Director of Enterprise Services and Security at L&Q, says that “L&Q now is establishing an ‘ecosystem’ of partners, which they use to complement their internal teams, whilst ensuring that they maintain internal L&Q service ownership and customer intimacy.”
Additionally, he said that they are “continually reviewing their partners to ensure they move from a supplier model to a true partner model, which builds trust and shared responsibilities.” He spoke strongly about the shift from service level response times to the customer experience, and the focus on resolution, communication, and relationships within their partners that go beyond account and service management.
Rowland Hills, Chief Operating Officer at Leathwaite, mentions that whilst they have a relatively small IT team, they are still a global business and need to provide around-the-clock support for their user base who are distributed between the UK, Hong Kong and New York. As such, they rely on partners such as Cisilion to provide expertise, guidance, and support – of which, ongoing value and trust are just as important as responding to tickets and fixing issues if and when they arise.
MSP of the Future
Personally, I learned a lot from this roundtable session. As we closed out the discussion, we acknowledged that MSPs will need to continually evaluate their service offering and skills as technology continues to innovate their businesses.
The ever-increasing and evolving cyber threats, combined with the hybrid workforce and emerging technology like AI, IoT and edge computing will place greater pressure on the enterprise. The democratisation of Line of Business apps through low-code, no-code will create new challenges for organisations – in turn, they will be looking towards their partners and MSPs for support and guidance. Supporting in a strategic advisory, consolidation, PoC and optimisation approach will be a consistent role for partners.
Here are the key areas that MSPs need to focus on moving forward:
- Focus on the eXperience Level Agreement (XLA) – MSPs need to be trusted, work more closely than ever, and see their “service” as a long-term win for both the MSP and the customer. Paul Clark told us that the most important thing they need are multiple relations within the MSP. The MSP needs to invest time to understand their business, what matters, where they need help, and offer that on-going advisory service to help the customer better prepare for what is coming.
- Provide Enhanced Security Services: The panel agreed that they were actively looking for their MSPs to help them with the challenge of the increasingly complex cybersecurity threats. Whether this was alongside their teams as part of a Cyber Advisory Service or as a full-fledged Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP).
David Maskell, IT Services & Information Security Manager at Thatcham Research, stated that the security landscape is evolving so quickly – not just the threats but also the extent of the services and platforms that they use – that they simply don’t have the time to research, review, or read up on the threats to implement new controls. Thatcham leverage Cisilion to assist with configuration and change management currently but are also potentially looking to extend this to provide more of a Managed Security Operations Centre.
Similarly, Paul Clark – whilst proud of the SOC that they have created within L&Q – admitted that the security landscape was so volatile, they are looking at a way to bolster and enhance their SOC operations with partner-led services, such as incident response, red teaming and out of hours SOC/threat detection services.
- Flexibility and Adaptability: Being more transparent about the different services offerings that MSPs provide is important – it’s good to know that you offer a managed service around X, Y, or Z for example, but it’s also important to recognise that whilst standardisation is great for MSPs to sell their services, the needs of the customer may not fit into box 1, 2 or 3.
As such, the opportunity for the MSP is to customise services to meet the needs of their customer without going so far off-book that the very nature of what they scope can’t be delivered – this again comes down to trust, openness, and honesty. This may mean that the MSPs must rely on their trusted partners to provide some add-on services either in the short or long term. Dave Maskell said that this is often thought of as a weakness but can be a real strength for a partner. Again, it’s all about honesty and trust.
- Adoption and Change Management Services: Ensuring organisations continue to get the best out of their investments is key – both from an end-user perspective but also from a technical perspective. Many organisations still have a plethora of overlapping technologies, especially in the security and collaboration space. Helping the organisation consolidate these and drive adoption in their ‘preferred’ solutions is key in simplifying the user experience, support experience, and driving down unnecessary costs through ‘shadow IT’ or unsanctioned applications.
Continued rapid innovations in technology will continue to open new opportunities to help our customers stay competitive, more productive, and more efficient – but with these opportunities come more technical and security challenges.
The role of the MSP is fast becoming that of a specialist, trusted technical advisor, who not only understands how to support and optimise their customers’ environments but also provides their customers with ways to access and adopt new and emerging technologies. An MSP must, to be relevant, be a close partner to their customer and in doing so, we as an MSP will extend both our technical, operational, cross-sector and cross-vendor expertise to our customers.
Head over to for full details and a recording of ‘The State of Managed Services’ Fireside Chat with Cisilion webinar here. For more information and to register for our next live event, #CisilionLIVE, where Rob will be joined by our Microsoft Solutions Specialist, Victoria Barnard, to dive into maximising your CSP and licensing cloud budgets, click through here.