As we bid farewell to another year, it's the perfect time to reflect on the past and set our sights on the future. For IT departments, embracing the new year often involves reevaluating strategies, streamlining processes, and leveraging innovative solutions.

As a passionate team of IT experts that champion all the ways in which bolstering IT can benefit businesses everywhere, we're so excited to guide you through some New Year resolutions that can revitalize your IT approach and bring success in 2024.


AI Integration for IT Advancement

Resolution: Embrace the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in our IT operations to enhance efficiency and decision-making processes.

Why: AI technologies, such as machine learning and predictive analytics, can revolutionize how we manage and optimize IT resources. By leveraging AI, we can automate routine tasks, gain insights from data, and make proactive decisions that contribute to the overall success of our IT initiatives.


Automation for Streamlined Operations

Resolution: Embrace automation to streamline repetitive tasks and enhance operational efficiency.

Why: Automation can significantly reduce manual efforts, minimize errors, and accelerate processes. By identifying opportunities for automation in routine tasks, we can free up valuable time for our IT teams to focus on more strategic initiatives, leading to a more agile and responsive IT environment.


Embrace Cloud Optimization

Resolution: In 2024, commit to optimizing our cloud infrastructure for efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Why: Cloud technology is dynamic and ever evolving. Ensuring that our cloud services are optimized will enhance performance, reduce costs, and allow us to take full advantage of the latest features.


Enhance Cybersecurity Measures

Resolution: Strengthen our cybersecurity posture to safeguard against evolving threats.

Why: As cyber threats become more sophisticated, prioritizing cybersecurity is crucial. Implementing robust measures, such as regular security audits and employee training, will fortify our defenses.


Implement Proactive Monitoring

Resolution: Transition to proactive monitoring for early issue detection and swift resolution.

Why: Reactive approaches can lead to downtime and disruptions. Proactive monitoring ensures that potential issues are identified and addressed before they impact operations.


Upgrade Legacy Systems

Resolution: Develop a plan to systematically upgrade legacy systems to modern, efficient solutions.

Why: Outdated systems pose security risks and hinder performance. Upgrading to the latest technologies ensures we stay competitive, secure, and aligned with industry standards.


Optimize IT Budgets

Resolution: Conduct a thorough review of IT budgets to identify cost-saving opportunities without compromising performance.

Why: Efficient budget allocation is essential for achieving business objectives. Identifying and eliminating unnecessary expenses will optimize our IT spend.

Interested in learning more? Check out our blog on Software Sprawl.


Promote Collaboration Tools

Resolution: Implement or enhance collaboration tools to boost team productivity.

Why: Effective communication and collaboration are cornerstones of success. Integrating advanced collaboration tools will empower our teams to work seamlessly, irrespective of location.

You can learn more by reading our blog on Microsoft viva or click here to see all of the powerful collaboration tools and services we offer to amplify your team’s engagement and productivity.


Invest in Employee Training

Resolution: Prioritize ongoing training to keep our IT teams well-versed in the latest technologies.

Why: The tech landscape evolves rapidly. Investing in continuous training ensures that our teams are equipped with the skills needed to navigate emerging trends.

Here are some resources for internal training:

You can also access our past webinars for expert walkthrough on various tools and technologies that all IT teams should know.


Explore New Microsoft Solutions

Resolution: Stay abreast of the latest Microsoft solutions and integrate them into our IT ecosystem.

Why: Microsoft offers a suite of powerful solutions. Regularly exploring and adopting new tools can enhance productivity and keep us at the forefront of technological innovation.

Learn more about Microsoft tools and services that you can access through our trusted team.

As we step into 2024, let's embark on a journey of IT excellence. These resolutions serve as a roadmap for a successful and technologically advanced year. If you're ready to turn these resolutions into reality, our team at Managed Solution is here to support you every step of the way. Here's to a year of innovation, efficiency, and IT success!


More Resources

As technology continues to expand and become more complex (and the more it begins to connect all our critical data) the need for compliance and regulation will continue to expand right along with It — and as it should!  Compliance is meant to be an ally… but without proper management it can quickly become the enemy. While many see compliance as more red tape, the truth is failure to comply with regulations can lead to expensive fees and fines. Managed Solution can help boost your compliance and help your business get closer to you compliance goal.

What is Compliance & Security Management?

In the IT world, compliance management around governance, risk and compliance is the process of ensuring a company or organization consistently complies with federal and state laws, industry requirements, vendor best practices, cyber insurance policies as well as post-breach protocol when it comes to their technology and data management.

In many ways when someone says “compliance,” what they really mean is documentation… and lots of it. Compliance is a big, complex collection of paperwork and data of all kinds, and compliance management is making sure all of that is organized, and more importantly, up to industry standard.

 Why Automate Compliance Management?

Because the world of compliance is so complex (and continues to evolve) it’s critical to make sure your organization has its T’s crossed and I’s dotted.  Like it or not, there’s a cost to compliance. BUT, research has shown it’s much more expensive not to follow the mandated industry regulations… in fact, up to 2.71 times more costly. The bottom line: compliance can be a headache, but implementing a consistent, effective solution saves money.

The good news is you don’t have to try to tackle compliance alone. That’s where Compliance Manager and Managed Solution comes into play. Compliance Manager is a cloud-based solution that automates the data gathering and reporting required to order to meet the necessary internal and external auditor expectations.

It’s a one-stop shop for:

  • In-product compliance guidance
  • Automated data collection
  • Brandable report, worksheet, and auditor checklist generation
  • Automatic archiving
  • Centralized workflow management and task notification
  • Tracking compliance activity

Key Compliance Manager Features

Compliance Manager is a robust tool that reduces risk by simplifying and streamlining your IT security documentation. And more than that, it makes sure everyone on your team is onboard and has one, easy-to-use platform to store, access and manage their part of the process.

Here are some of the key features: 

  1. Customizable Documentation & Processes. Compliance Manager is a role-based solution, meaning you can tailor it to meet your specific IT compliance needs and workflows. So, whether you’ve created your own company-specific standards or need help complying with industry regulations, each report and process can be adjusted accordingly, giving you the flexibility to simultaneously manage multiple compliance standards and information security protocols from one centralized location.
  2. Centralized Management. Because compliance involves many different data points and stakeholders, centralizing the information and access is key to successful management. An automated solution provides self-serve portals for both employees and vendors, allowing you to automate a variety of tasks and collect necessary data and documentation for compliance verification.
  3. Employee-Focused Tracking. Organize employee-specific training courses, assignments, and policy acknowledgements, upload policy documents and track employee compliance and reporting. All of this is accessible from an easy-to-use IT admin access dashboards which allows you to access and manage your employee’s compliance requirements and activity quickly and easily.
  4. Vendor Risk Assessment & Tracking. House and manage both permanent employee and vendor details all within a single solution and with the option to provide a unique vendor login, vendor assessments, status tracking, surveys, and more.
  5. Compliance Manager can integrate with IT Glue, VulScan, VSA, and Bullphish among other separate technologies to leverage an even more distinct degree of control and customization.
  6. Automated Reporting. Compliance Manager automatically generates custom plans, procedures, risk analyses, milestone reports, auditor checklists, supporting documents and more which update based on data and information supplied to the program.
  7. Compliance Templates. As compliance grows, so does Compliance Manager’s compliance template database, meaning you don’t have to start from scratch. Some of the most popular templates to-date include:
    • HIPAA (all 3 rules)
    • Cyber Insurance
    • NIST (CSF & 800-171)
    • CMMC (Levels 1 &2)
    • GDPR (UK & EU)

Leveraging a Managed Solution

 A tool alone is not enough to reach compliance. Let Managed Solution’s compliance team help your business through the lengthy process. Our compliance team will ensure progress and work hand in hand with you to integrate Compliance Manager into your existing ecosystem.

Interested in learning more? Schedule a call today and learn how Managed Solution can help boost your compliance and help your business get closer to you compliance goal. Not ready for a direct call? We are hosting a webinar on July 28th, click here to register. Attendees will receive a FREE 30 minute consultation with our vCIO to see if our Compliance as a Service tool can work for you!

By Bryan Timm

What are Microsoft virtual agents? Virtual agents are chatbots that can live on your website and interact with your visitors.

Chatbots – also known as “conversational agents” – are applications that mimic written or spoken human speech for the purposes of simulating a conversation or interaction with a real person. There are two primary ways chatbots are offered to visitors: via web-based applications or standalone apps.

Chatbots have been around forever, dating back to the 1960s, and are not a new concept to most. As end users and consumers, we have been seeing them implemented more and more – on websites and social media. It is estimated by Gartner that by 2022 70% of white-collar workers with interact with a chatbot on a daily basis.

Chatbots are AI-powered applications that help companies power conversations. Did you know these chatbots can do more than just chat? Recently, my colleague, Michael Orellana, walked through the Power Platform offerings from Microsoft. One of these, Power Virtual Agents, can be used to empower your employees and automate a variety of tasks.

From a deployment perspective, the biggest problem with chatbots was the long build process and extensive development knowledge required to build these. Microsoft Virtual Agents introduce a new way to deploy chatbots.

Power Virtual Agents allow you to use low or no-code solutions to produce stunning results. A Virtual Agent can be built to allow full phrase user input or present the user with choices to guide them to the end of a process, such as onboarding a new user. The customizable topics, Virtual Agent’s version of workflows, can be driven by a variety of Power applications all at once, including Virtual Agent, Power Apps, Power BI, and Power Automate. It allows you to connect to over 350 existing connectors and let your chatbot talk to their back-end systems in a few clicks – everything from MailChimp to Salesforce to Zendesk.

How can a Power Virtual Agent help your business?

There are many ways to use a Virtual Agent. The possibilities are nearly limitless with what you can build, including tools to assist with onboarding, knowledgebase articles, service guides, and reporting. Let's look at these use cases.

Automate your Onboarding

Leveraging Power Automate with a connection to Azure Active Directory, a user would be able to initiate a chat with the Virtual Agent and create a new user – all from inside Microsoft Teams.

With this Virtual Agent, you can accomplish a variety of the tasks that come with onboarding a new user such as: creating the new user account, assigning them a 365 license, or updating their contact information. These automations can be built with approvals as well that automatically reach out to identified stakeholders. There are limitless possibilities to how you could expand upon this, such as connecting to a SharePoint library and being able to have one-click access to send out new hire documentation.


Have you ever visited a knowledge-base site for a product and been overwhelmed by the amount of information? You're not alone. Imagine having a guided chat with a Virtual Agent who would be able to get you information about a limitless number of topics. This information would be mobile, too, through the Microsoft Teams app available on iOS and Android.

You can also enable your chatbot to field your typical customer service questions, such as business hours, product information, pricing, or collecting information for a quote.

Field Service Guide

An employee in the field would be empowered to be an instant expert with all the information they need at their fingertips. This includes providing them with images, links, or even just step-by-step instructions. Armed with the tools available through a Virtual Agent, a new employee will not feel as new when he goes on-site to a new client for the first time.

Service teams could leverage a Virtual Agent for other uses as well, such as letting the team know where they are at while on-the-go. A service technician could check in with the Virtual Agent, and the team manager could use this information to keep track of the team's activities.

Reporting and Data

Virtual Agents can be linked to several data sources, including Microsoft’s Power BI. This allows the agent to take advantage of pre-built reports and would allow the chatbot to query the user for which type of report they want to run and then send it to the user via email.

Conversely, you could use a Virtual Agent to input data as well. This data can then be automated to route to a data source, a SharePoint list, or even just output to an email. Recently, a request came in to query a third-party data source, by leveraging their public API. The user can now enter the service tag from the manufacturer into Teams, and have it return the warranty status and information.

Information from client sites can be captured on the go by enabling a Virtual Agent to route information inputted through the Teams mobile app to the appropriate fields in another database, such as Power BI. Imagine simplifying the inventory process by utilizing a Virtual Agent to collect and update information as you move throughout your warehouse, store, or even just your garage workspace.

The Human Touch

What happens when the Virtual Agent is not able to assist? Build your virtual agent to hand off escalations to live agents through Dynamics 365 Omnichannel for Customer Service. Alternatively, you can connect it to a variety of chat providers. It can even feed information already given to the chatbot and route it to the agent.

Built-in analytics allow management to view how their chatbot is performing. You can monitor trends across where the bot is deployed, identify any areas for improvement, and increase the Virtual Agent’s productivity by measuring how well it is doing with survey information.

The San Diego Workforce Partnership utilized Virtual Agents to take their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With everything and everyone moving remote, Workforce Partnership employees were able to increase collaboration and engage with more people in need of support. By leveraging a Power Virtual Agent, they were able to make sure people get help from the right person right away.

How to Create a Power Virtual Agent (Web App)

Creating your first bot requires you to have a license (or trial) to Power Virtual Agents.

  1. Go to Power Virtual Agents marketing page and select Start free. Sign in using your work account.
    1. If you don't have a license, you can sign up for one by following the prompts.
  2. In the Create a new bot dialog box, enter a name for your bot. This can be something generic to your company or specific to the scenario you are tailoring your bot to.
  3. Your bot is created in the default Power Apps environment for your organization or tenant. Usually this is sufficient, but if necessary you can choose a different environment by selecting More options to see a list of available environments.
  4. Select Create to begin the bot-building process, which can take up to 15 minutes for the first bot you create in an environment. Subsequent bots take less than a few minutes to create.
  5. During the building process, you'll see a notification at the top of the Power Virtual Agents portal indicating that the bot is still being built.
  6. You can navigate to some tabs during this period, after which the banner will change and you'll have full access to the Power Virtual Agents portal.

How to Create a Power Virtual Agents in Microsoft Teams

Agents can be built right into Microsoft Teams. To get started, you’ll need to walk through a few steps in Teams.

  1. Select Apps at the bottom of the navigation pane in Microsoft Teams
  2. In the search box, type power virtual agents and then select the tile that appears. Select Add for me in the description window that pops up. This adds the app to the navigation panel.
  3. To make it easier to get back to, select and hold (or right-click) the Power Virtual Agents icon and select Pin.
  4. Select the Power Virtual Agents icon to open the app.
  1. You can create a new bot two ways:
    1. Select Start now and then choose the team you want to use.
    2. Go to the Chatbots tab, select the team you want to use, and then New chatbot.

If this is the first time a bot is being created in your team, you'll see a notice explaining that it will take some time (this could take from 1 to 10 minutes):

Virtual Agent Topics

Agents are powered by Topics, or pre-built conversations that you can have with the Virtual Agent. You will see below some of the default topics included with every bot, including a path for escalation to a real agent.

You can configure the agent to be response based and look for trigger phrases, keyboards, or questions that a user is likely to use or you can configure it to present preset answers as needed throughout the interaction.

For example, if a user asked “What are your hours?” to a chatbot for a retail organization, and you had a topic configured to respond to the trigger hours, then it could respond with your hours, as well as asking if they would like a store representative to call them to assist with any questions.


Interested in learning how virtual agents can improve your business operations? Contact us today to learn more.


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Updated December 2018

Outsourcing integration challenges have increased, production workloads, applications, and enterprise systems are moving to the cloud, and security is a top concern for everyone, no matter your industry.

What's next?

Nothing is certain, however, industry watchers expect a number of shifts in IT as it relates to overall business objectives and strategies.

We also expect to see maturation in cloud computing, robotic process automation (RPA), and cognitive capabilities while entities like the call center and business models based solely on labor arbitrage fade into history.


1. Industry insecurity reigns

“It will be one of a handful of times that outsourcing will be affected by the political climate, says Rebecca Eisner, a partner in Mayer Brown's Technology Transactions practice. The new U.S. administration has already had an impact on trade agreements, regulations, tax policies, visas, and immigration--which big or small have had an impact on the outsourcing industry, which continues to rely on the benefits of global labor arbitrage. And Brexit only adds to industry anxiety in the U.K. and Europe.

Companies have begun assessing and auditing their contracts to determine the impact, says Christopher A Seidl, partner and chair of the global business and technology sourcing group at Robins Kaplan. “This will lead to deeper discussions between parties, and more renegotiations, over terms relating to currency, changes in the law, and the overall costs of the deal,” Seidl predicts. “They will also seek to add flexibility into their outsourcing arrangements through, for example, new termination rights, rights to move locations, rights to insource, and other similar protections,” Eisner says.


2. Security stays top of mind

Information and data security will continue to be a major concern for the foreseeable future. “Traction for advanced security automation, threat intelligence, and security analytics solutions will continue to be robust as enterprises look to build a holistic approach to enterprise security and fend off business risks,” says Jimit Arora, a partner in the Everest Group’s IT services division. “As-a-service models to scale security capabilities and dynamically support cloud-based workloads will also gather steam.”

Vendors will take more of a lead role in protecting the enterprise through security offerings, adds Seidl. “Vendors won't simply be thought of as an entry point for hackers, but rather as an ally for regulators, politicians, and businesses who continue to be challenged in looking for solutions.”

We are already seeing many Managed Services and IT Providers become Managed Security Service Providers which can be attributed to the importance of security in today's business environment.


3. Intelligent automation drives down costs

"Intelligent automation and robotic process automation will take a step function forward for certain providers, disrupting existing commercial outsourcing structures and driving down costs and, to a lesser degree, prices in the market,” predicts David Rutchik, executive managing director with outsourcing consultancy Pace Harmon. “This will result in supplier margin expansion, greater savings opportunities for enterprise buyers, the need for enterprises to renegotiate existing outsourcing deals, and the bifurcation of the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in the marketplace."


4. Customers demand more from the cloud

The cloud is no longer new and adoption continues to increase.  “Clients will force cloud providers to mature,” says Adam Strichman, founder of boutique outsourcing consultancy Sanda Partners. “Clients will become savvier about what a cloud service really means, and these ‘me too’ cloud services are going to have to grow up or be kicked to the curb.” Customers will be looking to leverage the cloud as the core platform for new internal and external initiatives, adds Arora. “Enterprises will demand significantly more value from cloud service providers to drive transformation in their business.”


With technology always evolving and businesses constantly innovating, it will be interesting to see what's next in the world of outsourced IT.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row font_color="#ffffff" css=".vc_custom_1471641930410{background-color: #6994bf !important;}"][vc_column][vc_column_text css_animation="appear"]

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why automation - managed solution

Why automation doubles IT outsourcing cost savings

By Stephanie Overby as written on

New research analyzes automation’s impact on the IT outsourcing market, revealing double-digit productivity improvements and specific cost reductions between 14 percent and 28 percent.

Outsourcing consultancy and research firm Information Services Group (ISG) this week unveiled a new research report to quantify the cost savings and productivity gains from automating IT services.
The inaugural Automation Index shows improvements in productivity fueled by automation can more than double the cost savings typically derived from outsourcing IT. Total cost reduction ranged from 26 percent to 66 percent, depending on the service tower, with 14 to 28 percentage points of these savings directly attributable to automation, according to ISG. (The typical cost savings from labor arbitrage and process improvements alone range from 20 percent to 30 percent).
The report is based on cost and labor data from ISG’s database covering outsourcing agreements with an annual contract value of $10 million or more in which service automation is a core component. The index is one of the first to quantify the impact of automation on IT services. Automation-related technologies and platforms improve the productivity of employees by enabling them to do more with less and prevent problems before they arise, translating into lower costs for buyers by not only reducing the number of provider employees needed to perform the work but also by reducing the amount of work that needs to be performed.
The result, says Steve Hall, partner with ISG Digital Services, is a buyer’s market that’s putting tremendous pressure on services providers to deliver more and more savings to stay competitive. “As automation moves up the IT process value chain and into business processes, it will eliminate a significant amount of workthrough problem avoidance and self-healing, and with it, a significant amount of the headcount needed to deliver large-scale ITO services,” Hall said in a statement accompanying the report.

Where automation has the biggest impact

Automation is having the biggest impact on areas in which employees manage physical devices, such as network services. Most IT towers see an average 25 percent decrease in the number of resources required as a result of automation, but certain IT services experience a 50 percent headcount reduction, according to ISG. ISG found that network and voice costs are declining by 66 percent mostly due to the convergence of voice, video and data solutions built on highly standardized and virtualized capabilities, an environment ripe for leveraging automation. Service desk and end user support costs declined by 26 percent due to increased adoption of self help and remote support, the introduction of self-healing functionality, and significant automation of level one and two incidents.

Higher-order automation

Most of today’s automation is focused on computerizing repetitive tasks based on standard operating procedures but more complex automation is beginning to emerge that takes advantage of more advanced data mining and machine learning capabilities, says Stanton Jones, ISG director of research. That higher-order automation can make operational decisions with no human involvement.
In order to seize the benefits of increased automation and plummeting IT services costs, however, buyers will have to transform to more standardized technology stacks across the IT organization. “The more clients standardize things like operating system instances, application interfaces, ITIL processes, and network infrastructure, the easier it is to automate operations,” says Jones. “Standardization means less interfaces, less complexity and fewer decisions that need to be made, therefore, it becomes easier to automate.”
Buyers should also approach process automation tools with standardization in mind. “Service providers are driving increased productivity into their services by using data mining and machine learning to aggregate and correlate data and then improve the quality and timeliness of decision making for routine and repetitive tasks,” Jones says. “Clients can enable and execute these transformations by accepting standard processes and technologies providers bring to the table.”

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Looking for a partner in your business' managed services needs? Call us at 800-790-1524 to learn about all that we offer!


Hybrid Infrastructure Automation with #Azure Resource Manager Templates

If you've ever had to set up a test or production environment for something like SharePoint, you know there are several pieces to set up - like Active Directory, SQL for your backend data, and then your SharePoint servers. While it's possible to automate this with advanced scripting or level 400 task sequencer skills, imagine just choosing a template or manifest file and clicking go to spin up a dozen or so VMs all wired together and talking to each other. That is effectively what Azure Resource Manager templates do and what Corey Sanders lead engineer for Azure compute, demonstrates on the show. He also steps back to illustrate how they work as a unified resource automation model for both Microsoft Azure Cloud resources and on premises with the upcoming Azure Stack.

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