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Professional Services vs. Managed 

What Each Can Do for Your Agency

Author: Nyla Beth Gawel, Director Of Public Sector Strategy, Verizon Business

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Professional services and managed services are two powerful approaches for meeting  government agencies’ most pressing mission needs. However, a lack of clarity around these two terms doesn't just prevent agencies from selecting the right solution; it can also hamper innovation, risk mitigation and efforts to apply technology to enhance citizen experiences. 

On the most basic level, professional services provide project-based, detail-oriented, episodic services for  business and technology needs. The goal is to help agencies address a specific challenge, such as enabling adoption of new technologies, or provide a solution, such as augmenting staff expertise in emerging technologies, within a defined timeline. While professional services are commonly procured for a dedicated project or output, their scope may range from initial planning and strategy design to deployment and continuous support. 

Managed services, on the other hand, are defined by ongoing, long-term engagements that often provide a complete solution for delivering outcomes such as driving value, optimization or speed in automating components of an agency’s operations. Managed services could provide agencies with a more comprehensive way to tap into industry innovation while helping mitigate risk. In turn, citizens could benefit from advanced, more consumer-like services, and government agencies could benefit from increased security and resource optimization.  

Along with innovative tools and time-tested processes, another key benefit of the managed services approach is providing capacity. When an agency purchases managed services, they are also buying infrastructure capacity and security solutions owned and operated by the managed services provider.

Additionally, managed services are an excellent way to pilot, test, trial and adopt new technologies more quickly as agencies don’t have to set up a full, in-house infrastructure.

The Value Equation

The reliance on professional services to define requirements and manage development is a long-seated approach government agencies take to defining how technology will enable their missions. The reliance on managed services is less entrenched and often only used for legacy IT needs. With increasing focus on agile development and increasing citizen (customer) value, agencies must consider how to engage the best the industry can offer across an array of traditional professional services and emerging managed service delivery models.

A perfect example is how managed services can drive innovation. Today’s agencies are under unparalleled pressure to keep networks up and running — enabling an increasingly high degree of remote work. Advances in networking technology can enable these emerging needs with the ability to scale on-demand when needed. A software-defined network, or SDN, can help by intelligently routing network traffic and increasing bandwidth for improved performance. However, deploying this powerful alternative to a traditional network can be a complex and time-consuming endeavor. 

Enter managed services. By relying on a provider to plan, configure, implement, manage, monitor and secure an SDN, an agency could reap the benefits of reduced network costs, automatic provisioning and integrated security features, adding value to the organization without draining critical IT team members’ resources.

Speed of Response

Managed services could also help agencies become more agile and able to scale rapidly to increasing pressures, often in the face of decreasing budgets. Now more than ever, agencies must pivot quickly to accommodate evolving constituent demands and respond to crises. Use cases range from setting up a virtual call center to help address surges in benefits administration to quickly provisioning cloud resources for mission-critical information sharing among multiple agencies.       

Whatever the circumstances, managed services could increase the scalability and agility of technology systems so agencies could quickly stand up new services and ramp up computing resources, when it matters most. And as remote workforces grow exponentially, professional services ranging from technology planning to program management can augment these managed services by ensuring  strategic alignment to organizational objectives.   

Constituent Satisfaction

Beyond enabling technology modernization, managed and professional services could also enhance customer experiences. That’s good news as today’s citizens expect consumer-grade interactions with government platforms and applications, including 24/7 access to information, critical services and support when, where and how they choose. 

Consider, for example, a citizen applying for unemployment insurance for the very first time. Allowing this individual to connect with the agency via various modalities — from phone and email to artificial intelligence-powered chatbots and SMS — is critical to an agency meeting rising expectations of timely, efficient and digitally enhanced service delivery. Better yet, managed services provide these channels without IT teams incurring the risks associated with deploying new solutions. 

A Trusted Partner

Certainly, a managed or professional services provider can help agencies select technology solutions that cater to their unique needs. But how do agencies choose the right provider? 

Reaping value from a vendor partnership requires a trusted adviser with proven methodologies, in-depth industry knowledge and extensive experience. A provider should also offer a wide variety of cost and payment structures, including fee-per-transaction and monthly subscription options. These models allow agencies to shift from capital expenditures — costly, one-time investments amortized over years — to operational expenditures with operating funds that renew annually. This can free up agencies to alter budgets based on yearly allocations.

And finally, successful partnerships hinge on the roadmap agencies and their providers design collaboratively — blueprints for the future that identify disruptors and establish desired outcomes. Professional services teams are particularly adept at helping agency IT teams focus on how innovative technologies could integrate with legacy systems and prepare for future performance requirements.

It’s clear there’s an excellent case for combining professional services and managed services to drive optimal results. Understanding the value of these distinct yet complementary services could be your quickest route to greater innovation and better citizen services.