Managed Services Pods are a Slam Dunk

It’s day one of basketball tryouts, and you're the new head coach. Eagerly perched on the sidelines, clipboard in hand, you observe the players’ strides up and down the court. For point guard, you’re looking for someone quick on their feet. Your center has to be someone great at clutching rebounds. And your shooting guard must be a pro at scoring three-point shots.

If an undefeated season is your vision, you’ll need the right team with the right skills. The same can be said in the world of business. No matter a company’s goal in leveraging a Managed Service—to build a digital tool, reduce costs, or stand-up a program management office (PMO)—success depends on the right expertise. Two-thirds of business leaders tell us that workforce skills and capabilities are the most significant factors helping (or hindering) their readiness to tackle top priorities.

So, what’s getting in the way? For starters, transformation has moved from periodic to perpetual. This reality calls for next-level agility, powered by the workforce and capabilities that can keep pace with change. Indeed, 92 percent of business leaders agree that they need contractors that can adapt more quickly to their changing needs. Further, 91 percent agree that they need contractors with a broader range of expertise to address those needs.[1]

When a business leader sets out to deploy a new program or initiative, they may spend over a month recruiting, assembling, and onboarding a team. With the team onboarded, it can take another eight weeks (or more) for team members to learn how to collaborate effectively. During this time, the business loses out on essential productivity and output. Not to mention, the company may have failed to account for other expertise needed to achieve sustainable, long-term results. For example, in a cost-reduction program, the team may lack the change management skills required to foster employee adoption.

There’s a better way to build teams, embed expertise, and unlock value rapidly. Enter the Pod.

Think of a Pod as the Managed Services all-star team that possesses unstoppable speed, makes every rebound, and boasts a stellar three-point shot record. Pods are reimagined Managed Services teams —pre-built and carefully constructed—with the know-how and capability to drive value from day one. Unlike traditional Scrum teams, Pods go beyond technology and apply agile ways of working across a more diverse range of business needs. Each Pod contains a combination of crucial roles including Scrum Masters, Solution Architects, Project Managers, Business Analysts, Change Managers, and other domain experts. And just like a basketball coach, there are times when you need to bring that “special something” off the bench. Pods in Managed Services offer functional expertise to execute that special play, whether it’s supply chain, marketing, HR, or technology—to name a few.

When it comes to value, this approach wins on its cost-effectiveness. High costs are the top-cited challenge organizations aim to address with Managed Services.[2] Pod members collaborate seamlessly from minute one, ensuring they are driving results from the start. Along the way, they’ll develop an intimate knowledge of your business, helping to bridge silos and connect dots. What you’ll get: Ever improving quality, economies of scale, and ROI with a team that’s pre-wired to hit the ground running.

Business leaders tell us that fixed and predictable costs are the most attractive aspect of a Managed Services arrangement.[3] Pods make it easy to secure teams that offer predictability and scalability. You can predict how much you’ll spend and know precisely when to expect value. And as your Pod team members get to know your business, scaling Pods up and down becomes increasingly seamless. Akin to the turn of a dial, you can flex the appropriate volume and mix of capability needed for the job at hand.

Pods in Practice: Achieving Your Undefeated Season

How can you wield Pods to maximize agility, embed capability, and drive outcomes with an all-star team? Consider the following steps:

  1. Prepare for the “outcome of your outcomes.” Your Pod will own the end-to-end problem-solving process and provide strategic direction along the way. Ultimately, it will be accountable for outcomes. While undoubtedly positive, these outcomes can also cause an unforeseen shake-up in your business. Identify potential results and reorganize so you can maximize their value and impact. For example, suppose you're the Chief Digital Officer, and Pods help accelerate product development velocity. Consider asking: How many new products will the business be able to consume? How can I upskill teams to accelerate product roll-out and adoption?
  2. Focus on mindsets and ways of working. Pods are most conducive to a more agile way of working, requiring change and buy-in across the business. Acknowledge that this transformation will be a journey. It requires a close evaluation across your operating model to ensure you enable and empower employees with a new set of tools and techniques to lean into reimagined ways of working. Focus on the elements of behavior, mindset, and culture that tie directly to your operating model. For example, is there perceived safety for people to drive the transformation by testing, failing, and improving along the way?
  3. Identify the skills and work you need to fill the Pod. In addition to your Scrum Master and Solution Architect, identify the mix of product and domain expertise you’ll need to achieve your aspirations. Also develop a clear view of the work these experts will deliver from day one. For a CRM implementation, you may need both Salesforce experts and Change Managers, because realizing the benefits of the new system will require people to shift their behaviors. Or, for delivering change within a finance transformation, you’ll need accounting expertise. Without a clear view of required expertise and planned work from the start, your team is likely to churn, causing you to miss critical cost savings and efficiencies. With the right Managed Services provider, you'll also have a partner to transfer knowledge and embed capability within your in-house workforce.

Pods are a slam dunk for predictability in outcomes, embedded expertise, and control over costs. Rather than wasting time, money, and efficiencies with traditional team structures, consider how Pods can set your Managed Service up for success from the moment your team steps onto the court.  


[1] November 2020 North Highland-sponsored survey of > 200 business leaders at organizations with annual revenue > $1B and that are headquartered in the U.S. or U.K.

[2] November 2020 North Highland-sponsored survey of > 200 business leaders at organizations with annual revenue > $1B and that are headquartered in the U.S. or U.K.

[3] November 2020 North Highland-sponsored survey of > 200 business leaders at organizations with annual revenue > $1B and that are headquartered in the U.S. or U.K.

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