All Things Managed Services with Andela's Sung Ahn

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Sung Ahn knows a thing or two about tech. He's worked in and around the industry for a quarter of a century. Most recently, Sung held senior roles at notable VC firms with prototypical portfolios: Google, Facebook, SpaceX, and Tesla

Before his Silicon Valley stint, Sung was a love-struck management consultant. The object of his adoration? Managed services. It was just taking off in the early 2000s with the digital and cloud transformation sweeping the industry. Sung loved the combination of people interaction and engineering and he's never looked back. 

"Managed services is like an internal IT position in dog years or light years. The instant feedback across verticals and business sizes is electric."

Sung's current stop: Director of Managed Services at Andela, the world's most trusted talent marketplace. We spent time with Sung to learn more about managed services. With definitions differing among industries, what is managed services in his words? What does it mean at Andela? What are its top use cases, best practices, trends, and predictions? 

On a high level, what is managed services? 

It's when companies hire outside firms to execute projects or ongoing functions instead of undertaking them internally. The goal of managed services is always to create better ROI. Managed service teams may have more distributed experience and apt skills than internal workforces. As a result, they can operate more efficiently, saving companies risk, time, and money. 

When I managed an IT department back in the day, I hired managed services because I wanted my actual staff to concentrate on what they were really good at, not waste time learning new skills. The consultants I brought on had so much more migration and uplift knowledge than my employees; they just knew what to do and what not to do. They even negotiated better pricing on cloud licensing for me through their partner-driven buying power. 

Can you get more succinct? What's managed services in one sentence

Thanks for keeping me on point. I hope that doesn't count as my one sentence! Here it goes: 

Managed services: when companies leverage digital workforces to achieve desired states or goals with technology. 

Through the lens of Managed Services at Andela, what does your role entail? 

Let's see. My role lies somewhere between an air traffic controller and a commercial chef; it's fast-paced, complex, and exhilarating. 

We have thousands of professionals across practice areas (Data, Salesforce, Product, and Design) that embed into our clients's  organizations; they've tackled over 1200 unique projects. 

With a birds-eye view of these discrete engagements, I mix and match practices to meet client needs. I try to package these cumulative offerings in compelling and repeatable ways that are easy to understand and consume. 

What types of industries and companies might need managed services? 

Believe it or not, every industry and company needs managed services since they're all digital now. Even slow adopters (i.e. the legal industry) use managed services to adapt to an increasingly young and tech-expectant workforce. 

Having said that, managed services most frequently pops up across: 

  • Manufacturing (e.g. IoT
  • Financial services (e.g. niche fintechs and neobanks
  • Healthcare (e.g. telecare) 

Regardless of industry, different-sized companies use managed services for different reasons. SMBs employ it because they lack the budget to hire fully-stacked tech teams. Enterprises, on the other hand, have complete teams and large budgets but limited capacity. They leverage managed services to stay on-point and innovative. Even with the current economic slowdown, the last time I checked, Lyft still has customers to pick up and competitors to beat like Uber and Grab. 

To accommodate varying industries and company sizes, Andela has different engagement models:

Andela's managed services

How do managed services differ at Andela specifically? 

While I'm a bit biased, Andela's managed services transcends other providers' including the Big 4. To back up my point, we're:   

Andela's managed services

And how do managed services compare to Andela's practice areas? Is it a separate or overlying offering? 

The latter; managed services is the umbrella or engine upon which practices build and scale. 

While practices tackle straightforward requests alone, they rely on managed services for expertise across domains. That's where the magic happens, when we're able to collaborate and innovate.

While it might seem like managed services is the overseeing function, we're symbiotic with all the practices. I work closely with Kaley Boggs in Data, Drew North in Commercial Products, and Chris Onobon in Cloud Engineering, relying on our practice leads expertise every day. 

What prompted Andela to launch a managed services arm? 

Being really good at our mission! 

Launching managed services was the natural extension of placing engineers at F100 companies for many years. Eventually, we had hundreds of Andela engineers embedded throughout entire organizations. While our expansion was more than welcome, it became tricky for our clients to project-manage all of the varying teams. 

That's when managed services came into the picture; clients asked us to not just place talent but track their performance and oversee their deliverables. And that's why I'm on board now, to continue to build upon what we have and help commercialize Andela in this capacity on a large scale with our leadership team.

Even though managed services is new at Andela, has the company ever conducted an informal deployment? 

Yes of course!  To clarify, Andela has been managing technical delivery teams for a long time. In the current business climate of budget cuts and limited resources, though, demand for managed services has risen.

Just recently, we conducted a managed services engagement with a large bank holding company in the US.* We were working on a web-based application to allow their product experience team to manage deals and customer preferences in real-time. The project quickly evolved into a full-stack development effort with our cloud infrastructure folks and QA team. Before we knew it, we were moving fast and launching skilled pods in just days!

*For privacy reasons, I can't disclose our client's name. You can check out our logos here or ask our sales team for specific case studies, though!

Moving forward, what are the top three use cases you envision for managed services at Andela?

Andela's managed services

Zooming back out, what are the top three qualities that make a successful managed services deployment? 

  1. Maintaining high-quality work while delivering maximum ROI 
  2. Adding as much value as possible with available resources 
  3. Using standardization and repeatable frameworks 

On the flip side, what are the top three issues that can hurt a managed services deployment?

  1. Trying to be everything to everybody without defining your MVP or tech stack 
  2. Not measuring your services or having clear KPIs and boundaries
  3. Failing to evolve 

Let's talk trends. How has managed services evolved across industries in the last decade? 

Everything moves faster: With the explosion of cloud and SaaS markets, the barrier to entry for tech has drastically dropped. Companies can now outsource cloud stack management and infrastructure projects to software or consultants. 

Whereas cloud migration used to be a complex, year-long project, it now occurs in days. And while manual testing used to take months, DevOps can now respond in seconds and remediate in minutes. 

Through open source companies like Github, developers contribute to git repos that allow startups to launch products insanely quickly. As a result, everything, including managed services, moves faster. 

Security is no longer an afterthought: Following many breaches (e.g. Equifax, Yahoo, Wikileaks, Ransomware, and Facebook), security is more significant and scrutinized. In fact, companies can't even get insurance if they don't have the right governance policies and tools in place. As a result, managed services has been focused on security and helping companies stay resilient even in these turbulent times. 

Last but not least: predictions. How do you see managed services further innovating over the next decade? 

AI and Machine Learning will continue to rule: If ChatGPT hasn't made this abundantly clear, enterprises will continue to invest in AI and machine learning. In the meantime, SMB and midmarket companies will need to modernize to catch up over the next two years. This is an exciting field where we have many managed teams already exploring all the possibilities for our clients. 

Some fields will adapt to smaller markets: While more invested in the enterprise space, IoT, blockchain, and Web 3.0 will commoditize for the SMB and midmarket. 

Security will mature: Traditional endpoint and employee security will become more comprehensive and dynamic. Policies will allow bring-your-own-device (BYOD), for instance. SCA and SAST code protection tools will also improve through AI and machine learning. 

We'll hear the voice of the customer: Tech innovation's a pendulum that swings back to people. AI and machine learning will ultimately focus on servicing customers. As a result, managed services engagements will research, test, and choose the prime product combinations. 

Gen Z will change the game: 2.5 billion strong Gen Z will soon make up 35% of the world population and continue to enter the workforce. They're tech-savvy (50-80% use mobile banking) but skeptical; a majority prefer traditional banks over neo ones, for example. With their penchant for advocacy, they'll make managed services deploy more personalized, authentic, and transparent technology. 

Lots of trends to anticipate! If you want to learn more about these predictions or managed services, reach out to our team. We'd love to chat.

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