The difference between managed services and professional services - and why you need both

The difference between managed services and professional services - and why you need both

Every company is an IT company. Software is eating the world. Disrupt or be disrupted. You’ve probably heard these sayings and many like them - because they are true.

In a world of hyper-connectivity, information abundance and availability of the most advanced technologies for any person or business, your business can often only differentiate by being the first, the fastest or the best in your sector.

A bank is an IT company that sells savings accounts. A car manufacturer is an IT company that designs and builds cars. A hospital is an IT company that provides healthcare. Uber is an IT company that connects drivers to passengers. Airbnb is an IT company that helps people rent out their apartments. All of these companies are either successful because of a good IT and software development strategy, or they are unsuccessful and will eventually disappear because they don’t have one.

This means that every successful company considers IT as an important revenue generator, and often software development is their core business.

But software development is not a walled garden. Software needs to be deployed, distributed, monitored, audited, patched and scaled. This costs time, effort and money. You will need to hire and maintain a operations team. All of this reduces your focus on your core business - building your applications.

In this post we will look at how managed services and professional services help you focus on building your applications, while maintaining an edge over your competitors.

Public cloud

Public cloud providers like AWS, Azure and GCP play an important role for modern software oriented companies. To maintain your lead, you will need to be able to minimize your time to market, secure your data, use the latest technologies, and scale with customer demand - both regionally and globally. And you need to be able to do this at manageable costs.

Public cloud unlocks all these capabilities and many more, but it requires additional skillsets in designing, building, testing and maintaining applications and environments.

By partnering with providers of managed services and professional services, these skills will become available to you without the need to build or maintain your own team.

Managed services

Managed service providers (MSPs) provide hosting, maintaining, monitoring, patching and other operational services for your environment. This often includes 24/7 monitoring, responding to security incidents, providing access management, managing backups, and building and maintaining deployment pipelines.

Through these services, MSPs are responsible for the daily operations of your applications, so you don’t need to maintain on-call rotations or a team of hosting specialists.

Managed services are a great way to remove the burden of hosting your application and keeping it available at all times.

Professional services

The world of public cloud is hardly static. Every day, new services, features, best practices and cost savings opportunities are released. Keeping up with this whirlwind of news is very hard, and distilling it to useful, actionable items for your applications is harder still.

Professional service providers are the kind of companies that breathe, eat and sleep with these news cycles - they know what’s been released, what will be released, and how today’s release differs from the thousands of earlier releases.

A professional services partner knows your application and its pain points, as well as your business goals. They can advise what to change, to improve, to rewrite, or to replace with a new service. They know what your competitors are doing in terms of big data, machine learning, continuous deployment and other cutting edge technologies, and will help you implement the same or even better solutions in your applications.

You need both

From the paragraphs above it will be obvious that for many companies both managed and professional services are indispensable.

Managed services reduce or remove operational burdens, allowing you to focus on your unique product. Professional services help you make sense of the public cloud and all its possibilities and complexities, allowing you to maintain the lead on your competitors.

There is a cycle between managed services and professional services. A professional services provider can help you build your application or migrate your app from private hosting to public cloud. But when the migration is complete, a managed service provider takes over the environment’s daily operations. During these daily operations, new bottlenecks or feature requirements may come to light, which might be delegated to the professional services team again. When these features have been developed, the managed services team will need to take them into operation. And so the cycle continues.

When you don’t need managed or professional services

Of course there are cases where you don’t need one or both of these services. If you have attracted so much talent that you can design cloud native environments from scratch, or when you have an operations team that has mastered public cloud environments, it makes more sense to keep these skills in-house and close to the development teams. However, for all but the largest and most successful companies, these public cloud developers and architects are hard to attract, train and retain, and before you know it nurturing the public cloud team becomes the next non-core business challenge your company faces.

Conclusion

Managed service and professional service providers can help you focus on what matters to your company the most. To maintain your environment, these teams will need to know your application, business and market inside-out - so choose a partner you trust and which maintains a hands-on approach.

Because of the change-design-develop-maintain cycle between managed services and professional services, you will need these teams to work together and understand you and each other without any barriers or impediments. As such, look for a partner that can provide both services. This will greatly improve results compared to a three-way relationship with multiple partners.

If you have any question or remarks, or would like to get in touch you can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Luc van Donkersgoed
Luc van Donkersgoed