Innovation or System Maintenance? If You Have to Ask, Consider a New Approach to Managed Services

9.28.17 By Chris Desautelle



It’s a classic dichotomy: innovate, or stay the course.


IT departments see it as a conflict of resources. Either we place IT staff on innovation projects, leaving system operations without a maintenance crew - or - we service IT systems and delay innovation. 

It's not an easy decision when over half of all IT projects are 189% over budget.


“Just tell us what we need to work on,” has become a go-to attitude of IT folks as they take on larger, more complicated workloads. Boardrooms shudder when they hear, "delay." It means competitors are faster, and which is why they lean on innovation.


An article by Enterprise Innovation says there is conflict between business and technical interests; “the management team will pressure [IT] to produce as much software within the shortest time possible. However, effective delivery of software is not possible without addressing some level of technical needs such as technical debt, deployment pipelines or automated test suites which require devoting resources and expertise over a longer period of time.”


New software adds complexities, and without a process and resources to maintain the desired competitive advantages of innovation, the outcomes won’t match the intent. 


What you get is a vicious cycle of trying to keep up with innovation while managing service disruptions.


Nobody wants to get caught in the middle - like Kodak – who nearly innovated themselves out of business by developing digital image technology to replace film, and then not capitalizing ensuing market opportunities. 



Someone Call the Fire Department


System issues lead to a buildup of IT tickets. As tickets accrue, they begin to disrupt daily operations.


IT folks become fire fighters, but, as they often do not have enough resources to combat the sheer number of incidents, companies seek external help. Enter the managed service provider (MSP). Traditionally, an MSP would support your business applications and network infrastructure.


Not every fire department is equally equipped. 


Today, MSPs also need to understand your business objectives, help you plan and adapt your strategy for continuous digital transformation (because that train isn’t stopping any time soon).


According to, “having an MSP as part of your IT mix can free up internal IT staff for more strategic projects. But establishing a strong, strategic partnership with your MSP is essential.”


That strategic relationship means:

  • Resisting the urge to bargain shop – you get what you pay for
  • Finding a partner who speaks in terms of your business outcomes over general technology
  • Finding a partner with a proven track record


Unfortunately, most picture-perfect vendors do not come at a picture-perfect price.  Adversely, there’s often a catch with hiring low-cost offshore vendors. How can you be sure that you get quality, cost-effective, and flexible managed services work?


Seek out a strategic partner who has:

  1. Demonstrable ability to learn your business
  2. A track record of managed services success
  3. A cultural fit (if you’re not on the same page – forget about the above two)



So, Our Choice Is to Split Resources, or Risk Hiring a Subpar MSP?

Not When There's a Third Option


Businesses are looking for balance.  Systems need to do the jobs they were designed for while IT can build on them and continue to innovate. A well-planned managed services approach, when tied to business objectives, opens the door for further innovation. If managed services and innovation are closely tied to outcomes, growth, and resources - what if we link them?


4th Source does that with the Persistent Team™ model. Part MSP and part business strategist, this model ensures that managed services are always tied to business objectives with a flexible resource bench.


The following are two examples of how companies continue to innovate when tying managed services to business objectives:


Example 1: ServiceNow CMBD Aligns IT with the Business

Let's borrow an example written by our resident ServiceNow CMDB expert, John Duchock, from his blog series, ServiceNow Implementations Done Right. 


In 2014, at Knowledge14, Sony Pictures Entertainment presented two ServiceNow implementations. The first failed because the CMDB was “fast-tracked without proper stakeholder engagement, project planning, design and data cleanup.” Sony learned from the experience to deliver a successful implementation the second time around; the lesson being to plan ahead to align the instance with their business needs.


When defined, Sony’s critical success factors had nothing to do with technology. They had everything to do with timing, adoption, and planning, which included:  

  • Stakeholder engagement and Change Management
  • Securing adequate funding
  • Structured processes
  • Defining the long-term support model


How did Sony eventually drive a successful implementation? When implementing ServiceNow, you deal with mothballing legacy systems, change management, data management, and cultural buy-in. By deploying a feedback cycle, and establishing a proven implementation process, you will have ServiceNow implemented faster, and working on your terms.


But you still need to make a business case for ServiceNow, which is why it's important to ask: How can I detect which change caused a spike in incidents?


Two ITSM principles, incident management and change management, are the back bone of any successful IT organization. Incidents and changes are linked, but determining causality is difficult.


People often find themselves having to implement changes to resolve multiple incidents, and scramble to figure out the connection. The answer is an often-overlooked ITSM practice; configuration management, and setting up a configuration management database (CMDB). CMDB shows the relationship between changes and incidents. It enables you to start quantifying services and (let’s not forget about the CFO) attach dollars to them.


This is where you can start relating how incidents and service activities affect your business line, which, as we'll see in the next example, is best not left unchecked.



Example 2: A Fortune 25 Pharmacy Benefits Management (PBM) Organization Reduces Ticket Volumes by 42% in One Year

Like many large organizations tipping their scale towards innovation, this healthcare juggernaut was experiencing ever-growing mission-critical outages. The open rate was higher than the close rate every month, adding to a ticket volume of over 19,000 per year.


The PBM called 4th Source to figure a way to slow the ticket open rate and close incident gaps. 4th Source developed the following approach:

  1. Examine the root cause of high ticket volumes
  2. Develop system enhancements to fix root issues
  3. Resolve open tickets
  4. Active prevention


Examining the Root Cause & Developing System Enhancements

Of the tickets opened, the 4th Source managed services team developed production code fixes based on prioritization and delivered on all contractual SLAs. They fixed root issues by diving into system codes and processes, developing application enhancements using GAPs.



  • 100% of GAPs delivery in year one of the contract
  • Paving the way to closing more tickets than were opened: 101.33% close rate


Resolving Open Tickets

Some MSPs work to contain, others stomp out the fire entirely. The 4th Source team reduced the ticket volumes so much that they eventually worked themselves out of the project – and now fill a general maintenance role.


  • Ticket reduction of 42% in one year (the original requirement was 15%)
  • 85% of all inbound tickets are now closed in 3 days or less


Active Prevention

In addition to ticket reduction, a strong managed services program includes maintenance to prevent future system issues. 4th Source built custom monitoring and update tools including real time queue processing and database automation.

4th Source’s 24/7 system monitoring is conducted by a 9-person dedicated support team and includes:

  • Hourly system health checks with reporting
  • Daily morning SMS to leadership
  • 17 services monitored hourly
  • 18 FTP processes monitored daily
  • 35 batch jobs monitored daily


High ticket volumes cause unnecessary friction. There’s no need to hire both a consulting firm and a technology company to resolve process improvement issues. Find a strategic MSP partner who offers consultative services to root out underlying IT support issues, and then dives under the hood with technical, cost-effective resources to develop lasting solutions.


Learn how 4th Source managed services and the Persistent Team™ model can help your organization move forward, faster.