Co-management is a key part of many arrangements between enterprise IT teams and their managed service providers (MSP), but it\u2019s not always clear where the management boundaries and overlaps exist and how they should be handled.\nOftentimes, enterprises land on a co-management approach because they don\u2019t want to give up total control, and the MSP may be promising productive cooperation with prospective customers to provide reassurance and close the deal. In practice, co-managed technology services can vary widely depending on the type of services being offered and the parties involved.\nFor the sake of this article, let\u2019s assume that enterprises are already committed to outsourcing some elements of their IT and communications services to an MSP partner. The benefits of outsourcing \u2013 such as expense or headcount reduction, increased expertise, improved productivity, core business focus and enhanced capability \u2013 are well established, and the potential risks and concerns \u2013 including loss of control, reduced flexibility, dwindling internal expertise and fears about data protection and ownership \u2013 are also well known.\nWhat\u2019s relevant is that these benefits and concerns often influence the level co-management that might be the best fit for a particular enterprise and MSP partnership.\nFor starters, there must always some level of co-management in the relationship to successfully deliver the applicable services. As a minimum, the client needs an effective contractual framework (and some assigned people) to allow monitoring, feedback, and control levers to keep the service provision commercially and operationally on track. Without these, the enterprise will be left exposed to the potential degradation of MSP service provision over time, and vulnerable to cost increases or scope gaps.\nBut this isn\u2019t what many people think of when co-management is raised. So, what are the factors that an enterprise should consider in trying to strike the right balance in terms of more hands-on co-management with its MSP partners?\nTransformation requires hands-on involvement\nFirst, you cannot expect an MSP partner to drive the transformation of your IT and communications services on its own; they rarely have the awareness and or quite the same focus on the customer business objectives and target outcomes for the transformation. It is essential that an enterprise keeps enough expert resources in the mix to maximize the chances of the right outcomes. That is not just technical specialists but at least one or two technology-aware individuals with a more strategic perspective.\nTransformation is hard to outsource. Enterprises should expect to provide the strategic vision, additional energy and drive, and regular checking of alignment with business needs to a transformation. To do this, an enterprise team must be engaged with the MSP\u2019s activities, and have the right skills to help validate decisions, review progress, engage in problem solving and ensure that actions are properly aligned with the businesses\u2019 imperatives.\nHands-off transformation leads to frustration and under achievement. Moreover, transformation isn\u2019t a one-and-done activity. Think of it as a journey where you have a capable MSP crew, but you need some of the officers, some key roles, and the captain (or at least a first officer) to be from the enterprise team to help keep the ship sailing in the right direction and at the right speed. It\u2019s the same principle for smaller programs and projects within a more established technology environment and outsourced service delivery arrangement.\nCooperative vs. transactional approach to co-management\nIronically, enterprises can often suppress innovation by using MSPs transactionally. If the enterprise team has active roles in the delivery of services, it can help mitigate against thinking transactionally and foster a more cooperative style from both parties.\nIf the enterprise team behaves transactionally, because they don\u2019t work alongside the MSP but focus only on inputs and outputs or reported results, then, eventually, the MSP team can also tend to behave more transactionally. This places an unwanted governor on good ideas and flexibility from within the established collective resources. This doesn\u2019t mean that there isn\u2019t the need to have a robust management framework, including a statement of work (SOW) where commitments are clearly articulated. However, even if obligations are ultimately with the MSP, co-management of some of the task inputs or signoffs under a SOW can sometimes lead to more pragmatic, dispute-avoiding working practices.\nPlan for enterprise roles to be involved in service delivery\nFor bigger outsource deals, some of the enterprise resources may transfer to the MSP team. At least for a time, in some instances a very long time, this can reduce the need for co-management as some of the MSP retains a strong affiliation with its former employer. That said, this is not always the case.\nHowever, it\u2019s shortsighted to hope that this will appropriately protect the enterprise\u2019s interests. A better approach is to keep some of those internal resources and build them into co-managed service delivery from the outset. Trying to do this later, when you have given up key roles and responsibilities and\/or would need to renegotiate a lengthy contract SOW, is much harder to do.\nSome enterprises have experienced disputes or poor performance with MSPs that has led them to reestablish internal resources, or, because the relationship hasn\u2019t worked, seek a new MSP partner. Either route can be more painful, and costly, than planning for enterprise roles in the service delivery from the outset.\nConsider MSP hiring and retention challenges\nMSP employee recruitment and retention can also be a material consideration. How much of a consideration can depend on the level of on-shore versus off-shore resourcing in the support model and the labor-market forces at play in the regions where the support and services teams (including lower-level first line resources and more skilled and experienced individuals) are based.\nCo-management decisions can be influenced by these factors. For example, retaining a few internal experienced enterprise network managers or IT experts can pay huge dividends for the formulation and oversight of projects. They\u2019re also critical in terms of having a knowledgeable eye on the effectiveness of operations and, ultimately, the impact on service delivery from an end-user perspective.\nEqually, undertaking volume or low-level tasks doesn\u2019t bring such benefits and should be left the provider. Additionally, it might be sensible to seek at least some level of time-zone or skill-set matchups between some internal roles and the MSP. When respect and rapport is established between competent MSP and customer team members, it can be a force for good.\nPlan for changes, refinements and reviews\nSo, how best to solve the co-management conundrum?\nFirst, note that the performance pendulum swings over the life of a service delivery contract. Build in some flexibility to deal with change, both on the MSP\u2019s funding side and also for potential staff augmentation arrangements to address gaps and temporary shortfalls in staffing resources either on the MSP or enterprise side.\nPlan to have a progressive implementation over an extended period to refine the co-management boundaries and processes, so even if your end-state desire is a very skinny internal organization, the enterprise can incrementally validate the MSP\u2019s performance against your expectations before losing your internal resource, and the MSP has an opportunity the adapt to resolve any deficiencies.\nEngage in dialogue on the operational processes prior to contract finalization (and even during MSP selection) on where enterprise resource can most effectively team with the MSP resource. Typically, this means identifying the enterprise\u2019s most valued and competent staff assets and mapping those against what the MSP will and won\u2019t be doing. Sometimes, there is a blurring between knowing the history and being the most competent resource going forward, so the identification and review of internal resource should still be with a critical eye.\nTo establish rapport, the best way is to ensure everyone has roles and that the customer is not just undertaking a checking and oversight role. Certainly, that\u2019s part of the job but, in the end, co-management also means having collective skin in the game in some of the decisions and solution development for projects and the day-to-day service delivery.