Jeff O’Donnell: Managed IT Services Work Best by Developing Strong Relationships

Recently I sat down with Jeff O’Donnell, CEO of IMPACT Group, to talk about technology, IT and what motivates him to lead one of the premier Managed Service Provider (MSP) IT companies in the Twin Cities.*

Jeff, let’s start from the beginning – what made you even want to launch IMPACT Group Technology Services?

IMPACT Group Technology Services complements our suite of strategic solutions. It allows us to offer our clients a full service where we can not only put a strategy together of where they should be headed from an IT perspective, but we can now also help them run their day-to-day operations. It gives us a full spectrum of service delivery where we can help an organization to plan, deliver, and manage their IT.

Through our program and project management, we execute large projects and programs but now through Technology Services, we can provide our clients with the operational level day-to-day support that impacts them every day.

How did this approach resonate with organizations in the past? Is it still relevant today?

I have seen over and over again this One Stop Shop approach benefiting our customers in the past and I believe it has become even more relevant in today’s increasingly complex IT environment. It allows an organization to pull us in initially into a specific area where there is a need. As we prove ourselves and build a relationship they trust, they see how it would benefit them to stay with us and how they can draw upon any of the services we offer.

Did you see something broken with the way IT companies were offering managed solutions – here in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities, or in the industry as a whole? What did you come up with to offer a better way for organizations to benefit from an IT service provider like IMPACT Group Technology Services?

Yes, I can point out three areas specifically when it comes to how the managed IT services space needed a better way of doing things – before and now. One is in the area of offering customized solutions, the other one is the area of developing strong client relationships, and lastly the ability to deliver quality services without long-term contracts.

When I speak of offering customized solutions, it’s all about rejecting the outdated one-size-fits-all approach in IT. We go out of our way to make our solutions fit the individual needs of every specific client at the best price point possible instead of expecting them to fit some fixed model of ours.

As far as developing strong client relationships – I can’t stress enough how important this is to our company culture and way of offering managed IT services. We have seen tremendous benefits in building relationships with our clients that look and feel more like a partnership. And those benefits go both ways as our teams get to a place of literally working as one team. This allows us to stay very close to the client making sure that they are getting the services they need, and that they are being delivered professionally. Being a managed service provider to us is much more than just offering technology – we become very closely engaged with the client, providing the level of service and escalation needed to build strong relationships.

And finally, I believe our no-long-term-contracts policy is yet another way to offer better managed IT solutions to organizations today – not just in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities, or Minnesota, but in the industry as a whole. This approach is part of the relationship aspect I mentioned before but it adds a different dynamic – it puts pressure on us to earn our client’s business every single day or they have the full right to move away from us with just 30-day notice.

Can you share more about some of the best-case scenarios that come to mind when you think about this better way of doing managed IT services?

I would say the best-case scenarios I have seen develop in our almost 30 years of operations here in the Twin Cities, are those where the relationship between IMPACT Group and our clients evolves into a vendor-partner type relationship. Some clients choose to view us as vendors, but the ones that I have seen work the best are those where we become a vendor-partner to the client. A great example of such a scenario is the API Group. They have related to us and our team truly as being part of the “family”, keeping us informed and up to date on the most recent organizational developments, they see the value and they communicate value to our team, which allows for the building of very close relationships between members of our teams. All this allows us to perform at our best and to constantly improve the quality of the services we offer.

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Do you think most organizations understand the value of such vendor-partner relationships and are they already looking for such partners as an IT services provider, or do they discover this dynamic only after getting to know you as a company?

I would say for the most part decision-makers or decision-making teams who are looking for the right company to entrust with their IT, already know what they are looking for. However, often I have seen them not realizing that we offer a full suite of IT services. They tend to initially relate to us solely as a Service Desk or a Managed Services Provider. However, when we sit down and are given the chance to introduce them to our full suite of services, this becomes an “Aha” for them. Often, they comment on how they had no idea we offer cybersecurity assessments, IT programs, and project management, IT strategy work, or CIO-as-a-Service capabilities.

We still must focus on the specific need, for example setting them up with a Service Desk, rolling out Multi-Factor Authentication for their organization, transitioning them to the cloud, or employee awareness training, amongst others. But once they know we offer a full suite of services, it allows them to see us as a partner for the long run, not having to wonder who to go to next for the other IT services they might need.

At what point does it make sense for an organization to start thinking about finding a trusted vendor-partner in the managed IT Services space?

I think mergers and acquisitions are one example of when it isn’t a good time for an organization to make decisions like this because it’s better to settle down first and then to start looking at how you can outsource. But for small and medium-sized businesses when they lose key people it might be a great time to consider a new way of handling their IT. This is where it might make a lot more sense to partially or fully outsource the internal IT department instead of hiring new people. Outages and security breaches are other categories of events that often create the opportunity to rethink IT whether it’s a small business dealing with a lack of resources, or a medium-size organization looking for a way to optimize. Large businesses can also benefit from outsourcing their IT operations to vendor-partners like the IMPACT Group.

What questions should business owners and specifically IT leaders ask themselves if they were looking for a way to improve their operations when it comes to technology?

I think one good question is whether they are able to focus on their strategic level initiatives and make progress on that level, or are they too bogged down with day-to-day issues that devour the time they need on a strategic level.

You mentioned cybersecurity. Not a day goes by without another report of a breach at small and large organizations. What should be the number one question a business owner or an IT Director responsible for security, be able to answer when it comes to security?

The question everyone who has the responsibility when it comes to the organization’s own data or the data of the customers they handle, should be “Do I know where I sit from a security perspective?” Do they really feel they have a handle around the security of their environment? For example, many people think of technology itself as being the greatest element of risk when it comes to security. But security experts tell us that the problem with security is first and foremost with the “people” part of security. This is what we recently had a webinar on which might be very helpful to people looking to better understand their risk. The lack of clarity in how organizations should start their journey to better security is why we offer cybersecurity assessments, vendor security assessments, and even an assessment for personal devices. These tools allow anyone serious about security to find out where they currently are from a policy and process standpoint, develop a plan to improve their security, and begin a process of remediation almost immediately.

Thank you, Jeff, I hope this helps our existing and future clients to get to know you and IMPACT Group better as we continue to grow together in the ever-evolving technology space which is impacting our lives every day!

We are grateful for the opportunity to serve an amazing range of companies – from small and medium-sized businesses to non-profits and even large publicly traded corporations operating on different continents. Still, we remain very much a Minneapolis, Twin Cities organization drawing upon close to 30 years of experience in IT. I’m looking forward to continuing to grow together as we provide high-quality managed IT services to our clients locally, nationally, and from around the world.

Interview by George Bakalov, Director of Operations IMPACT Group Technology Services


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