Questions to Ask a Managed Service Provider - Part 2

With more and more managed service providers (MSPs) entering the market, your choices are expanding. If you choose the wrong one, however, you might wind up with more challenges than benefits.

How do you know? According to Matt Cowall at Appia Communications, it’s often as simple as asking.

In part one of this post, we covered three of the top five questions to ask a managed service provider: How long has an MSP been in business? What kind of support does the MSP offer? And what kind of redundancy does the MSP offer?

Today we’ll cover the remaining two questions that Matt recommends you ask, and they’re arguably the two most important:

What quality of service does the MSP provide?
This is probably the most important question, of course. You’ll learn quite a bit about an MSP’s service quality when you check its references. Be sure to ask what happens when there are issues. Does the MSP respond quickly and take ownership of the problem?

Another key indicator is the MSP’s service level assurances. A service level agreement (SLA) is a document describing the minimum performance standards an MSP promises to meet. It should also clearly describe remedies — and even penalties — if the MSP ever fails to meet the minimum standards. An SLA is an essential part of a contract between you and an MSP.

Does the MSP have formal SLAs? Do the assurances cover what you’re buying? And do the assurances have ramifications? The willingness of an MSP to offer SLAs with significant penalties for service interruption is a sure sign that the MSP is a high-quality provider. No MSP can remain in business if it has strong SLAs and can’t deliver on its promises.

How willing is the MSP to meet your specific requirements?
Your company or organization is unique; it’s often that very uniqueness that has resulted in your success. Unless an MSP is willing and able to tailor its services to meet your specific requirements, you may find yourself bending your operations to suit the MSP — instead of the other way around.

You can tell a lot about an MSP’s flexibility during the procurement process. Do they ask a few questions and then send you a quote, or do they take the time to listen to your specific needs and develop a custom proposal? And since no MSP can meet every requirement, are they forthcoming about what they are able — and not able — to do, so you can make a fact-based determination of how well their offerings fit your needs?

Lastly, ask about a roadmap for their products or services. Your needs will evolve over time, sometimes quickly. Therefore, your MSP should have a plan that aligns with your future business needs.

Can Retailers Respond to Changing Corporate Needs?

Joe Panettieri did a great job describing the IT management and business implications of the growing dispersion of today's workforce in his post "Managed Services: Safe at Home".

This trend is not only creating new challenges that are driving greater corporate interests in managed services, it is also attracting a broadening array of managed service providers (MSPs) to satisfy businesses' escalating needs.

The office supply retailers are increasingly nibbling around the edges of the IT services market. The most obvious example is Best Buy's Geek Squad which has primarily served the consumer needs of the residential market, but is also responding to the needs of the small office/home office (SOHO) market which Joe described in his post.

The latest example of this trend is the recent news that Staples is going to deliver a portfolio of IT services to small and mid-size businesses (SMBs). These services are going to center around the acquisition Staples made in late 2006 of Thrive Networks Inc., and the online storage services offered by EMC's subsidiary, Mozy Inc., formerly Berkeley Data Systems which was acquired in 2007.

Although Staples' new services are primarily aimed at SMBs, they could also appeal to large-scale enterprises trying to support remote workers working in branch offices or out of their homes. Both Thrive and EMC are already serving large companies grappling with these challenges.

So, should you consider out-tasking your IT support and management requirements to these retailers?

Your Selection Criteria
Staples' on-site and remote services will appeal to many companies who could get the best of both worlds -- economical field support and cost-effective managed storage services. You can also bet that Staples will continuously expand its portfolio to include managed security and desktop services, along with a wider array of on-site capabilities.

But selecting a retailer to support your IT needs will still depend on the complexity of your end-user requirements, and the geographic reach of the retailers' local personnel.

The Scalability Challenge
While EMC's Mozy service is location agnostic, the scalability of Staples' Thrive Networks staff is still unknown. Best Buy has been able to grow its Geek Squad to satisfy the bulk of its residential customers' needs. The key to success for Staples will be the retailer's ability to recruit and retain IT professionals to satisfy the on-site needs of SMBs anywhere, anytime.

If Staples, and other major retailers, succeed in delivering these on-site and managed services they will disrupt the highly fragmented IT services market in the same way they disrupted the office supply industry.

Managed Services: Safe At Home

As more businesses allow employees to work from home, a new IT challenge -- and opportunity -- arises. It's impossible for employers to offer on-site, full-time tech support to all of their stay-at-home workers. But the rise of managed services -- including remote monitoring and pro-active administration -- can bring order to these highly distributed workplaces.

The trend toward telecommuting is undeniable. More than 40 percent of American and Canadian companies let their employees telework, according to WorldatWork, a global HR association. As energy prices continue to fluctuate and businesses increasingly focus on environmental issues, the march toward telecommuting will surely accelerate.

Home Networks Become Complex
As a small business owner myself, my home office includes a network with multiple nodes -- three PCs running a mix of Ubuntu Linux and Windows XP; and my trusted MacBook Pro running Max OS X.

Now, multiply that IT complexity across hundreds of home offices and you'll understand why many small, midsize and even large organizations struggle to keep their home-based employees online and productive.

That's where managed services enter the picture. Increasingly, managed service providers (MSPs) and VARs (value-added resellers) use remote monitoring and administration tools to troubleshoot small and mid-size business networks.

The New Executive Suite
The managed services trend is now spilling over into the home market, where entrepreneurs and executives now demand the same level of IT service and support that they experience within corporate offices.

Small business owners and midsize business executives need to rethink their IT outsourcing strategies. In fact, all IT projects and network administration decisions must now include the extended enterprise -- including home offices and mobile devices.

The old corporate network as we know it is dead. The clear line between your enterprise and your employees' homes are gone. Going forward you need an IT architecture that blankets all of your employees -- regardless of where they're working.

Make Your Move for 2009
As you negotiate IT service contracts for 2009, ask your IT consultants and integrators how they're addressing the growing trend toward stay-at-home workers.

And make sure your IT contracts for patch management, security, storage and other automated services cover those telecommuters.

Small Community Banks, Big Managed Service Benefits

Community banks have attracted new customers by offering a truly personal banking experience that their larger rivals can't match, and by maintaining close ties to local communities.

However, all bank customers are demanding Business Technology driven services that many community banks simply can't provide with their current infrastructures. The lack of the latest technology can make migrating to new services prohibitively complex and expensive.

Community banks have depended on multiple providers for their voice and data networks. These banks found that they were paying substantially more for their network connections than larger institutions.

Moreover, having to deal with multiple providers can strain the smaller bank's modest IT staff. Implementing and operating a new converged voice/data/video IP network would overwhelm an IT team that usually handles simple tasks.

In addition, deploying a new IP network could negatively impact the community bank's operating budget. In fact, the total cost of ownership (TCO) for a typical bank's voice and data networks is second only to employee salaries and benefits.

Truly Demanding Operating Environment
Adding to these business challenges is the banking industry's strong emphasis on security and business continuity. Banks must be certain that their networks can pass their banking regulator's annual IT audit -- and deliver 24/7 services to customers in the event of a major disaster.

A strict regulatory environment and tight budgets make community bankers conservative when it comes to implementing technologies they consider unfamiliar. One solution that's proven, and likely to deliver lower operating costs, is the out-tasking of IT and communication network needs to a managed service provider.

A managed service solution can reduce a community bank's recurring voice and data expenses by 10 to 25 percent, with even greater reductions possible for larger banks.

Less Restrictions, More Freedom to Innovate
That said, an out-tasked IT and network infrastructure scenario isn’t purely about cost-reduction, it's also an enabler of customer service innovation. As an example, community banks are now deploying TelePresence applications that simplify the challenge of delivering full-service offerings at their distant branch locations.

A customer at an outlying branch can contact a bank officer at another branch and talk face to face without having to travel a great distance for the meeting. Plus, all required transactions can be completed locally.

Small community banks can now gain big Business Technology benefits, thanks to the creative use of managed services.

Small Businesses: Your TelePresence Room Is Ready

Conventional wisdom says TelePresence -- the next-generation video conferencing technology -- is best positioned for enterprise customers with big IT budgets. But through affordable managed services, small businesses are poised to join the TelePresence party.

Fact is, TelePresence can benefit small businesses in many ways. It can allow entrepreneurs to meet virtually with business partners, customers, investors and even job candidates scattered across the globe -- without booking expensive business trips or depending on impersonal conference calls.

TelePresence creates a virtual environment where all participants feel as if they're seated in a single executive conference room. You can read each person's body language. You can maintain eye contact. And you can focus on deep discussions.

Only for Big Enterprises?
Now, for the challenge: The TelePresence industry is gaining momentum within large enterprises that want to improve virtual communications with customers, board members and other key influencers.

However, small business owners are not very familiar with TelePresence. And in many cases, small businesses couldn't afford the upscale conference room designs and back-end IT infrastructure that TelePresence requires.

A Better Option
Of course, entry-level TelePresence systems allow small businesses to get started with high-end video conferencing without breaking their budgets.

Still, there is another option that small businesses should consider: Managed TelePresence services, which are popping up in hotels, airport terminals and other places that involve business travel.

In a typical scenario, many upscale hotels will soon offer TelePresence conference rooms that you will be able to reserve for an hourly fee. Assuming the hotel chain has locations throughout the country and across the world, you'll be able to invite customers, partners and remote employees to participate in TelePresence sessions simply by telling them to drive to a local hotel.

The hotel, working in partnership with a service provider or major Telecom partner, will manage the entire TelePresence experience -- shielding the small business owner from any potential IT complexities.

The Quest for IT Service Management Excellence

In the highly-charged economic environment facing organizations today, competition is fierce and any competitive advantage needs to be identified and maximized to ensure survival.

Increasingly Business Technology service providers, whether internal or external, are reaching out to the growing discipline of IT Service Management (ITSM), particularly as expressed in the "IT Infrastructure Library" or "ITIL (®)" to provide the critical competencies needed to create that competitive advantage for their organization.

ITIL recognizes the need for IT departments to think of themselves as Service Providers to their business, providing technology-based services that are critical to the mission of the larger organization. In support of this mission they must, like their own suppliers in turn, meet challenges such as:
  • Providing services that are selected and positioned correctly for their internal "market"
  • Delivering real value to the business to ensure satisfaction and value
  • Working efficiently to maximize the value received from resources and capabilities
  • Prioritizing investments to manage and grow the function, in sync with their market
  • Adopting and adapting flexible work methods, and support service provisioning in an ever-changing business and technology environment.
The good news is that ITIL provides guidance on industry-tested approaches to addressing all these challenges and more. The ITIL v3 core guidance is organized around a service lifecycle, with a set of five books describing guidance on each of the five phases or stages: Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation and Continual Service Improvement.

To spread the word on ITIL specifically and ITSM in general, a global practitioner organization has grown up in the form of the IT Service Management Forum or "itSMF" with an International body as well as national chapters across the world.

Members actively share ideas and develop the methods of ITSM through national conferences, regional events, and the work of local interest groups and specialty interest groups.

itSMF takes an important and active role in the development and maturity of the actual content of ITIL, contributing many authors, reviewers and leaders to continual improvement of the materials and qualifications programs.

In future posts we'll explore ITSM practices and how they can be applied to the challenges of service provisioning and service excellence.

About the author: An IT Service Manager and ITIL v3 Expert with over 20 years of experience in service industries, Ms. Hunnebeck is the VP of ITSM Vision & Strategy at Third Sky Inc. Her passion for improving how we work led Ms. Hunnebeck to IT Service Management from a background of process consulting, training and Service Management systems consulting.

Questions to Ask a Managed Service Provider

The benefits of outsourcing make a simple and strong case, and more organizations are choosing to do so. As a natural result, more and more companies are entering the managed services provider (MSP) market.

According to Matt Cowall at Appia Communications, some of them are well-qualified; others are simply trying to take advantage of a market opportunity. Price is important, but it's not the only consideration, and the benefits of using an MSP can quickly evaporate if you choose the wrong one.

Matt recommends five key questions to ask before selecting an MSP. We'll discuss three of them today.

How long has an MSP been in business?
As in any business, there's an art and science to offering managed services. One obvious way to separate the experienced MSPs from the wannabes is to ask how long they've been in business.

If they've been operational for some time, they probably will have already addressed any service delivery issues they may have experienced in the beginning. Length of time in business is also an indicator of financial stability and client satisfaction.

What kind of support does the MSP offer?
One of the reasons you choose managed services is to turn your headaches over to someone else. If the MSP's support is weak, then you'll need to manage both the MSP and the problems you thought you were outsourcing.

Does the MSP have a support center that is staffed 24/7/365 (as opposed to being on call)? Does it have formal ticketing and escalation procedures? And does it monitor your services for you, or are you expected to bring problems to its attention?

What kind of redundancy does the MSP offer?
As you shop for an MSP, you'll learn about the infrastructure they use. Don't forget to ask if that infrastructure is redundant. Redundancy is the duplication or repetition of critical components in a system to provide alternative functionality in case of a failure. Even the best equipment fails from time to time, so it's essential that there are sound backups in place to ensure service isn't interrupted.

This is part one of a two-part blog post. In part two, Matt will share his thoughts on questions that managed service buyers should ask about provider quality and flexibility.

Small Businesses: Good IT Investments for a Bad Economy

My brother is chief operating officer for a real estate company in Manhattan. He's running a small business facing some very familiar challenges: Rising energy prices, unpredictable operating costs, and tenants who are facing rising unemployment.

In addition to those first-hand business challenges, people like him worry about Wall Street's financial mess spilling over into Main Street USA. The flood of bad financial news from AIG, Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch will force small business owners to rethink their financial bets in the months ahead.

Some entrepreneurs may wind up cutting their IT budgets in order to conserve cash. Fact is, they don't want surprise bills for emergency server repairs or break-fix services.

A Smarter Strategy
Instead of saying no to new technology investments, my brother is pursuing a far wiser IT strategy. He's reaching out to so-called managed service providers (MSPs). Generally speaking, MSPs charge a predictable monthly fee for ongoing network and system maintenance.

In many ways, my brother believes in the emerging Business Technology as a Service (BTaaS) mindset. The idea is to outsource as much of IT as possible to drive the business forward.

Start by transitioning on-site applications to the software as a service (SaaS) business model. Explore so-called Hardware as a Service (HaaS) approaches, where your physical infrastructure (servers, printers, PCs, laptops, etc.) is owned and operated by your service provider. Push your antiquated PBXes out the door and embrace hosted voice-over-IP (VoIP) services.

Simply put: Whenever an IT consultant or integrator tries to sell your small business a new IT product, ask if you can evaluate an outsourced alternative instead. Avoid big lump-sum costs, and pursue predictable monthly fees. And shop around to see how the fees and service level agreements (SLAs) vary from MSP to MSP.

Calling for Help
My brother is starting to pursue the so-called BTaaS strategy right now. When his company's IT help desk bills mounted, he reached out to me for advice. I told him it was time to treat his technology infrastructure the same way he'd treat his cable bill or cell phone service: Get a fixed-fee monthly service.

He started by investigating the MSPmentor 100, which tracks some of the world's top managed service providers. Yes, that's a shameless plug for a Web site I run as part of my day job. But my brother found the list valuable, and he's now in discussions with a few MSPs to nail down a service contract that involves predictable monthly fees.

You Can't Ignore IT
As a small business owner myself, I know now is not the time to cut my IT budget. Rather, now is the time to reallocate my IT budget. Aside from our basic network infrastructure, PCs and printers, our company doesn't purchase any IT assets.

The bulk of our business innovations -- and IT investments -- are directed toward our hosted Web sites. Our monthly IT service fees are built into our annual operating budget. With a few rare exceptions, there are no surprise IT costs.

That approach provides peace of mind -- for my small business, and soon for my brother's small business -- especially as the economic storm swirls around us.

Gaining the Freedom to Fuel BT Innovation

Without a doubt, the reason why most business decision makers consider an out-tasked solution -- based upon a managed service offering -- is still primarily the need for cost-reduction.

Clearly, that's a valid motivation for any business leader. But, it's only a part of the inherent benefit that can be attained by choosing to play this particular game with a very different set of rules.

Ask yourself, if your IT organization can rarely find the time to invest in meaningful business innovation activity, then shouldn't you consider the common reasons why -- and seek out the proven methods to proactively apply an alternative approach?

Innovation stuck in a holding pattern
According to a Forrester Research market assessment, a fundamental "lack of time available to invest in innovation" is one of the main reasons given by CIOs and their staff to explain why they're unable to participate in substantive new business impact activity.

In reality, they're consumed by routine IT operations and associated voice and data network management work. Better project management practices can ease the load, since adding new headcount to the team really isn't an option for many companies.

However, tweaking the current model rarely delivers significant results, because most IT teams have diligently squeezed every single ounce of efficiency from their daily routines.

Granted, sometimes the only way to gain a quantum leap in effectiveness is by applying a totally different model. Also, we already know what the typical "wait and see" attitudes will likely deliver. Enough said.

A profound new way of thinking
Therefore, people who have chosen to deploy a managed service solution have, in essence, taken themselves off the treadmill of perpetual drudgery by applying swift and decisive action.

No longer victims of legacy-thinking about how their IT role should function, they've evolved. Now, they're on a new path of creative Business Technology (BT) enlightenment, by choice.

Imagine what your traditional IT team could accomplish, if only they had the time. Better yet, now take the first step towards enabling them to gain the freedom to fuel their business technology innovation ideas that have been placed "on-hold" for way too long.

How to Enable the IT to BT Transformation

According to Forrester Research, as technology becomes integral to all types of commercial offerings and associated business strategy, the traditional model of IT as an independent and monolithic entity is clearly obsolete.

A proven Business Technology (BT) model will replace IT's legacy orientation -- with a focus on providing business value through process-governed services, measured in business-relevant terms.

Forrester believes that all business professionals should understand what is driving the shift from traditional IT -- as well as the key challenges around strategy, process, and culture when implementing BT practices.

So, how do you avoid the mistakes of the past, and pro-actively transform your IT capability to address today's apparent challenges? Forrester offers three key suggestions.

Deliver services and value, not hardware and software
IT's traditional focus on system components means that it has neglected to maximize business-relevant services for its internal customers. This piecemeal approach led to excessive complexity and redundancy.

In contrast, BT convergence is meant to align or better synchronize disparate processes and technologies into integrated services that provide value to the business user.

Organize around holistic processes and a lean culture, not silos
Instead of allowing low-level tactical responses to proliferate, BT relies on a broader view of IT processes in order to make decisions that maximize value for business users.

This process shift must often be accompanied by a culture change. Lean methodologies and behaviors shed the traditional IT use of one-off workarounds in favor of continuous aggregation, experimentation, and learning that keep sight of overall business objectives.

Measure performance with business-relevant metrics, not IT assets
BT also means stronger performance management systems. IT has traditionally focused on providing resources that sometimes don't have a clear impact on business outcomes.

As an example, server availability and capacity utilization, while important, are not relevant to business executives. By replacing technical benchmarks with metrics like alignment to business strategy and IT spend ratio, the BT model enables decision makers to objectively consider business cases for the inherent value they provide.

Erasing the Line Between Business and Technology

During a recent CIO seminar I hosted in San Francisco, some attendees told me how they were trying to blur the line between business and technology. Other attendees told me they wanted to "close the gap" between business and technology.

To me, business and technology are already one and the same. Business Technology (BT) is the next evolution of Information Technology (IT). Many technology bloggers write about information, applications, data, voice or video. In stark contrast, the term Business Technology acknowledges the convergence and interactions of these elements together.

Where we came from
When I was with InformationWeek in the 1990s, we wrote about data processing, management information systems and IT. But today, BT is a new view of technology; a 360-degree view, if you will, where technology is woven throughout the business operations, decisions and functions.

The role of BT should be placed within the sequential context of people, process and technology. Meaning, a dialogue about the inherent benefits of BT should not focus on technology, but rather on how it aids businesses in completing their goals, or how it enables streamlined business processes and improved efficiencies.

Where we're going
Looking ahead, the measuring-stick for incumbent providers will shift to measuring a defined, expected experience overall -- inclusive of applications, processes and the network foundation. And, the head of BT (a next-generation CIO) aligned with executives who are running the operation and is focused on improving process and finding new sources of revenue, and/or strategic competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Business Technology as a service
Business Technology is a new way of thinking about the business experience and IT, certainly. However, its delivery and ongoing management involves two options:
  • in-house management
  • and/or selectively out-tasked functions to a managed service provider
How do you decide which BT services to keep in-house, and which ones to outsource to MSPs? We'll explore those considerations in the weeks ahead.

You know the line between business and technology is fading away (in fact, I think it's gone). Now, it's time for executives to focus on the strategy of technology -- rather than the ongoing management of it.

Selectively out-tasking the day-to-day management to a so-called "Business Technology as a Service Provider" may prove to be the flexible, scalable and reliable choice.

Simplicity of a Managed Service Solution

By out-tasking business technology responsibilities, you can avoid the need to manage equipment and add operations staff, freeing your in-house talent to focus on strategic projects.

How would that work in practice? Here's a case in point.

A residential Real Estate brokerage, located in Chicago, came to Geckotech as a new business looking to differentiate them in a highly competitive market. The owner was looking for something unique, a communication solution to launch his new business -- without worrying about how a phone system worked. And, he needed a system that would easily scale, as they added agents.

The owner didn't want the distraction of managing hardware, but needed a high-tech solution for his mobile workforce and wanted to use technology as a competitive advantage -- as well as a way to recruit quality agents to the team.

Geckotech proposed and implemented a best-fit out-tasked solution at their new office, which included a private T1 connection, Cisco IP phones and network equipment.

"We coordinated the entire process through a dedicated project manager who made sure that our customer was informed throughout the implementation," says Josh Robbins, managing partner of Geckotech. "The new IP phone system allows his agents to print only one number on their marketing materials and be accessible via their cell phones using the Find-Me/Follow-Me function of the system which intelligently forwards callers based on their caller ID and the time of day."

The business owner was able to open his new firm quickly and without worrying about the technical infrastructure. By outsourcing their phone and data networks, they're able to focus on real estate transactions and growing the business.

Because Geckotech uses industry leading technology and a Cisco Powered network, the brokerage operations staff doesn't worry about outages or equipment failures that normally plague small businesses.

In summary, agents are completely mobile and free to communicate at will with their customers. They can log into the phone system from any computer connected to the Internet and receive their voice-mails or forward their calls. This solution created the ultimate win-win scenario – overall simplicity, plus inherent flexibility, by design.

Business Technology and the Changing Role of IT

Businesses of all sizes are facing unprecedented competitive and economic challenges as they attempt to satisfy their customers’ rapidly changing needs and support their employees’ rapidly changing work requirements.

Globalization and eCommerce have dramatically changed the competitive landscape for companies of all sizes, including small- and mid-size businesses (SMBs). Escalating fuel costs and tightening credit markets have also severely impacted the business operations of companies.

Companies must achieve greater customer intimacy in order to win and retain customer satisfaction and loyalty. Companies must also support increasingly dispersed and mobile workers in order to ensure employee productivity. These challenges demand new forms of communications and collaboration, along with greater reliability and reporting to meet rising regulatory and compliance requirements.

These trends are also forcing companies to adopt new technologies and new methods of managing these technologies in order to maximize their business value.

The good news is that there is a myriad of new networking and collaboration technologies to respond to these demands. The problem is that many companies lack the inhouse skills to capitalize on these technologies and effectively manage them to achieve their business objectives.

Fortunately, companies no longer have to do it all by themselves or hand over their entire IT/network operation to an outsourcer. There are a growing number of managed service and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) ‘out-tasking’ alternatives that can help companies leverage today’s new technologies.

I am pleased to be a contributor to this blog and provide THINKstrategies' perspective regarding ways companies of all sizes, but especially SMBs, can address these challenges, capitalize on new technologies and focus their limited inhouse resources on key corporate objectives and initiatives rather than mundane or frustrating technology management issues.

Unlike other blogs that offer the vendor point-of-view about technology trends, we hope this blog will be a forum for IT and business decision-makers to provide their perspectives and best practices regarding today's business technology management challenges and opportunities. We believe this peer-to-peer dialogue will make this blog unique and valuable.

Please let us know if you’d like to contribute your views, and give us your feedback so we can be sure we are meeting your needs.

BTR Idea Exchange - View, Post, Vote

The Business Technology Roundtable (BTR) provides information and guidance to help you understand the available options, proceed through the buying cycle, and select a best-fit provider of managed services, hosting services and evolving cloud services.

We also provide links to tools, such as a procurement checklist or buyer’s guide, and a build vs. buy calculator that can be used to help you build a business case for service deployment and adoption within your organization.

We also seek to gauge which problems you encounter or solutions you seek -- ideas for new services and new online tools that are most important and most relevant. Visit the BTR Idea Exchange to participate in our open collaboration effort.

This is your opportunity, by contributing your ideas, to tell service providers what you require from them. This is an open public list, and all service providers can view it.

You can either submit an idea or vote on an idea that's already been submitted -- all you need is a Google Account to sign in. We thank you in advance for your participation. The BTR moderator may post a response to submitted ideas.

Note, submissions to the idea exchange are moderated, to avoid webspam or other off-topic or inappropriate content. Also, anonymous submissions are not supported.

Share your ideas, NOW.
(BTR Idea Exchange is hosted on Google Moderator)

We also welcome your comments, here, regarding the idea exchange.

Intro to the Business Technology Roundtable

Today, the application of technology is an integral part of most businesses – in some shape or form. However, while many decision makers are now primarily concerned with using technology to pursue new business opportunities, and gaining business-related capabilities is their main objective, the vendors and suppliers that they encounter sometimes don't speak the same language.

Matching buyer's business needs with technology vendor's offerings is sometimes referred to as the business/technology alignment chasm. Filling that void with substantive information, meaningful guidance, and compelling "how-to" storylines is the charter of the Business Technology Roundtable (BTR). We seek to shed light where there has been an apparent absence of editorial illumination.

A business technologist -- perhaps a new term to some -- should be focused on driving business technology adoption, rather than purely the acquisition of new systems.

They should also value delivering business results promptly, instead of merely applying inventive product features and functions. Once informed, they'll likely crave low-cost integration into existing business processes, pay-as-you-go pricing, and efficient knowledge transfer.

Given this backdrop, new business technology adoption is often more dependent upon changing behavior than the common prior scenario -- changing underlying technology.

Within this new scenario, the insights and recommendations of trusted peers and independent subject-matter experts supersede all others in the process of choosing a justifiable approach, and supporting key business decisions.

As the co-authors of BTR, we will be on the lookout for resources -- plus proven and repeatable processes -- to speed-up the shift to subscription-based business technology offerings. We'll also highlight the competencies required to enable the facilitation of adoption education and acceleration.

A Call to Action
We invite you to join us in an exploratory dialogue about managed Business Technology services, and welcome contributions of your ideas and associated expertise, as we embark upon this journey together.