Options for SharePoint Intranet, Azure, & Office 365 Support
“IT people are expensive!” said the client sitting across the desk from me. He continued “We are not an IT company and I don’t have the experience to hire an intranet specialist and even if I did I am not sure that we could find one with all of the skills we need.” It was not the first time I had heard this statement. The client was the CEO of a healthcare organization with about 70 employees, but I had heard the same statement from CEO’s and CTO’s of much larger organizations. I was there to explain the communication and collaboration options that he had with his subscription to Microsoft’s Office 365, but his frustration with managing his IT was coming to the surface. I thought about it for a second and replied “What would you say if there is a solution that can get you the variety of technical skills and support you are looking for within your budget…”
Modern organizations rely heavily on web based systems and applications to run their business effectively and efficiently. There are countless SharePoint and Office 365 (O365) applications, both purchased and developed internally, to support your company’s internal departments (Human Resources, Accounting & Finance, Facilities, Security, etc., not to mention the collaboration (internal & external) capabilities of SharePoint & O365. This web based (whether internal or cloud) method of conducting business has become critical for ensuring maximum productivity for people that are not in the same room. While these are a boon to doing business, they have brought their own set of problems to the table. These problems mostly are around the people needed to maintain these systems and ensure that the business is getting maximum value. There is no standardized size to an intranet team, so let’s look at the common roles for a SharePoint or O365 environment:
|Intranet Manager||Manages the strategy and budget for the platform. Understands the technology used and how it can be for the needs of the specific business.|
|Support: Tier 1||Provides basic support for end-users around the core systems of the platform. (Password Reset, URL Support, General Questions, etc.)|
|Support: Tier 2||Provides support for end-users around the advanced issues and solutions. (How to use specific application, Troubleshooting, etc.)|
|Support: Tier 3||Provides advanced support for end-users for issues and solutions that require modification and investigation on the platform.|
|System / Technical Architect||Designs the information architecture andoversees the construction of the entire intranet system|
|Security||Designs, maintains, and monitors the security of the intranet solution|
|Trainer||Teaches Administrators, power users, and end-users how to use and get the most out of the system|
|User Experience Designer (U/X, U/I)||Designs and constructs the interface that allows user interaction with the system|
|Governance & Change Manager||Maintains the process that allows for controlled changes to the system. Is also often responsible for monitoring and working to advance adoption of the system|
|Developers||If the system requires custom solutions, there may be a need for a developer to write the code to connect to external systems or develop a custom interface|
Any individual employee can have multiple roles, but as the system expands, they will generally become more specialized. Larger more disparate organizations may even have locality teams. The more roles that one person fills, the more likely there will be a problem when they are out or transition to a new role. Maximizing the potential of the organizations intranet can be an expensive proposition and many organizations want the benefits without hiring 5+ people. In addition, paying for the training required to keep up with ever changing technologies and to manage it, can be expensive as well.
The CEO looked back at me from across his desk, grinned, and said “I would say that you are a miracle worker, a liar, or you are actually a millionaire who is going to fund this out of your pocket.” I smiled back at him and simply said “Managed Office 365 Services”
The concept behind Managed Services for Office 365, Azure, and SharePoint is simple: You don’t need to pay a full staff to get the best service and results. Let’s look at a few of the benefits:
- You can have specialists for each of the roles above with reach back to a large pool of experts
- No worries about vacations
- No worries about training
- No worries about sick days
- No worries about hiring IT people that may or may not be a good fit
- The cost is structured so that you get the services you need at a price that is constant and predictable (no overtime for your server administrator that has to work several weekends).
As I finished laying out the concept there was a knock at the CEO’s door, “Your next appointment is here” said the administrative assistance through the crack in the door. “Have them wait 10 more minutes” and then turned back to me “I had been told that Managed Services was expensive, but based on this, I will save money, get the expertise, and not have to hire at all. You may have just saved me hundreds of thousands in the next few years”. I smiled back, knowing it may actually have saved him much more.
When you explore the concept of managed services it is very important to ask the right questions of potential providers:
- What is covered and what are the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) under your plan?
- Would you be willing to tailor a plan to meet my organization’s needs?
- Are there any hidden costs (extra for nights, weekends, too many calls in a month, etc.?
- Are you willing to meet regularly to discuss how my system is working and how we can make it better?
- Where your resources are located? (onshore, offshore, local, etc.)
- Can you provide additional services outside of the service plan if I have specific projects that we need to work on?
- Will you provide someone I can contact directly or are all transactions handled anonymously online?
- What is your methodology to ensure proactive management of my platform?
- How will you measure and report on our success?
- Who else is using the service?
Also, when interviewing managed services providers, remember that you are looking for not just a provider, but a partner. Beware that there are managed services providers who are glad to take the money and wait for problems. On the other hand, there are managed services providers who will take on your business as their business and look for ways to assist you in getting the most from your systems and investment. That extra drive is what makes the difference between just another service and a true partnership.
Are you looking for help evaluating the best approach for your SharePoint, Office 365 project or any other SharePoint Consulting services? If so, please contact us.
Author: Neal Cooper
Editors: Kurt Greening and Alex Finkel