Insight by GDIT

How and why to sign up for contemporary managed services

Managed services have come a long way in the 30 years since federal agencies first sought to escape the cycle of buying, maintaining and replacing PCs and the software they ran. Today vendors offer a range of up-to-date programs that lower the capital expenditure, or CapEx, obligations and move them to a recurring fee operational expense, or OpEx model.

Why does that matter?

Managed services “really enables that organization to achieve cost efficiencies, improve operations, realize value, and also free themselves up to focus on their mission,” said A. J. McNamara, the director of managed services at GDIT.

For several administrations, policy has emphasized the OpEx model because of several benefits. Among them – and one McNamara underscored – is having predictable costs, and thereby freeing capital for investment in infrastructure modernization or development of new applications and services.

But managed services are about more than simply costs. McNamara said that properly structured, managed services can lead to better performance, whether some crucial function like security operations or printing, or of the mission itself.

“They’re really about outcomes,” he said.

When thinking about managed services therefore, the process must start with thinking not so much about specific requirements or service level agreement details, but rather about the outcomes the agency wants.

Managed services and what they produce cover a wide range, from enterprise network or security operations outsourcing, to specific productivity support functions like printing, scanning, even contact tracing.

“We partner closely with the agencies and really focus on what is the outcome that they need to achieve,” he said, adding that without that initial understanding it’s difficult to proceed to requirements and SLAs that will support what the agency really wants.

Another way to think about managed services is whether they are what GTID terms transformational and transitional.

Transformational “is like it sounds,” McNamara said. “You take a service and you adopt it very quickly. You’re transforming into this managed service delivery model.” He cited the Veterans Affairs Department, in which GDIT consolidated 12 help desk centers, assuming operation of them and delivering help desk as a service department-wide.

The transitional approach move the agency more incrementally, examining each type of services “in a more methodical and thought out way.” GDIT is conducting that approach with NASA, where 60 separate services are in the queue.

When contemplating managed services, it’s important to understand some of the challenges and even misperceptions about managed services that may exist in the agency. For example, McNamara said, moving to managed services – and to the OpEx model itself – requires something of a cultural change in organization oriented toward capital spending and equipment capacity planning.

“Misperceptions that people have with adopting managed services primarily concern loss of control, lack of flexibility, in general fear of change,” McNamara said. “One of the big things we really focus on is developing clear outcomes-based service level agreements and clear transparency,” he added. “And it’s important that these goals are shared across the whole organization, not something that only the CIO believes.”

As for SLAs, McNamara reiterated the need for an outcome orientation. He cited the example of financial reporting, where the requirement is for delivery of a financial report on the first day of every quarter.

“Traditionally, the SLA is simply based on, what is the availability of the system. But not actually on whether the system is available on that day.” That is, an SLA that specifies a certain uptime percentage, but under which the system might fail on the first of the month – that’s not an outcomes based SLA.


Benefits of Managed Services

A managed service is really all about outcomes. What you're paying for is that outcome. This really enables that organization to achieve cost efficiencies, improve operations, realize value, and free themselves up to focus on their mission.


Journey to Managed Services

Often a driving force to adopting managed services is innovation. Organizations, and particularly government agencies, are struggling with this investment. We really think that this is a great opportunity for these government agencies to take a closer look at what their needs really are.

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Featured speakers

  • AJ McNamara

    Director, Managed Services, GDIT

  • Tom Temin

    Host, The Federal Drive, Federal News Network