An IT director and an MSP walk into a bar…

Well, it wasn’t actually a bar, it was a panel session on the second day of the Protect & Streamline Summit for IT Leaders. And they didn’t so much walk in as hit join meeting from their respective home offices. Nevertheless, the discussion between Bryan Schultz and Bob Coppedge, moderated by Datto’s Rob Rae, felt a lot like a candid conversation between friends.

Bob is the CEO and founder of Simplex-IT. Bryan is VP and CIO of Christian Health Ministries. They’ve been working together in a successful co-managed IT partnership for over 10 years. Each brought their unique perspectives from both sides of the co-managed IT coin to shed light on how the channel can work better with in-house IT teams, and vice versa.

Read on for some of the highlights from their top-rated session—or watch the full conversation here.

Don’t settle for what’s been done before

Many internal IT teams already contract out some work, and likewise, many MSPs already have some co-managed IT business—but the majority of these arrangements are ad-hoc or came up by happenstance.

If you’re an MSP looking to intentionally build your co-managed offering, you shouldn’t necessarily use these existing relationships as a blueprint. Chances are, the unique circumstances that caused them to come about aren’t easily repeatable. But you also don’t want to build a whole new business offering from scratch.

Instead, your co-managed IT offering should parallel your existing traditional MSP service. As much as possible, systematize and standardize your tools, methodologies, and procedures so that you have a consistent and repeatable service to take to potential clients.

For in-house teams, think beyond the one-and-done project work.

For Christian Healthcare Ministries, their long-term relationship with Simplex-IT has been an integral part of allowing them to grow. Bryan refers to the Simplex team as his “rubber band,” providing him with flexibility in how work gets done.

“Everyone in my vertical is essential to executing our business plan, and Bob is there to handle the piece I don’t want to have to staff.”

On top of their ongoing MSP work, he can then tap them for additional projects without having to add resources (such as spinning up another RDP server when their staff suddenly transitioned to remote work earlier this year).

Like any relationship, co-managed IT doesn’t work without trust

There’s a lingering perception in the industry that MSPs are out to get internal IT teams’ jobs. In fact, this belief is so common, it inspired the title of Bob’s co-managed IT manual, I Don’t Want Your Job: Is Co-Managed IT Serves the Right Fit For You?.

Nothing can sink a potential co-managed IT partnership faster than an IT team who doesn’t want to work with you (even if the management is on board). It’s so central that if you can’t get past the resistance, it may be better to walk away. After all, Bob says, “The only thing worse than a good CoMITs opportunity getting away is a bad CoMITs opportunity getting signed.”

When it comes to establishing trust, Bob provides this useful perspective: for internal IT teams, their clients are the end users. But the MSP’s client is the IT team. So, your focus as an MSP should be on making the IT team successful and making their lives easier.

He tells potential clients from the outset: “If we work with you, you tell us how involved you want to be. You tell us how much you want to learn by looking over our shoulder. I want you to be as smart and as informed and as productive as you can possibly be.”

That advisory/educational piece is a big value-add, in Bryan’s experience. He has benefited from having the Simplex-IT team as a peer review on major decisions, tapping into ongoing learning through events and seminars organized by Simplex-IT, and gaining access to a network of other IT directors.

He advises in-house teams to see a co-managed partnership as an asset: “This is going to increase your skill set, be a shoulder to cry on and lean on.”

“Done right, the MSP is an extension of the IT department and vice versa,” explains Bob. “If both parties are willing to take advantage of it, it works great.”


To hear the whole conversation (including answers to questions like “how should I price?” and “who should manage the ticketing system?”), watch the Protect & Streamline Summit on demand.