Much has been said and written about the break/fix or reactive IT management business models. Most of the last twenty years at MSPAlliance has been spent trying to educate and help VARs and reactive IT shops transition into managed services (i.e., proactive IT management service providers).

One of the more dangerous (and difficult to identify) characteristics of reactive IT management business models is the amount of harm it causes to any attempts and proactive IT service delivery models. The following are a quick list (not exhaustive) of some of the more commonly identified problem areas associated with reactive IT service delivery co-existing with proactive IT service delivery.

Resource Allocation – at some point during the transition period, reactive IT will need to yield its resources (chiefly human capital) to the proactive.

Sales Confusion – trying to train salespeople on managed services is challenging enough without confusing the matter by adding break/fix models into the mix. Simultaneously selling reactive and proactive solutions is not ideal for any sales professional.

Service Inefficiency – in smaller companies where the service delivery is provided by a single team, having both reactive and proactive solutions can cause significant harm to the service efficiency of the group. Specifically, it is like having a conveyor belt and manually trying to intervene. At some point, the conveyor belt will break.

Enhanced risk – especially in smaller groups, having two opposing service delivery models at the same time enhances the risk exposure to the company. Just by having contradictory service models will increase the chances of people abandoning protocol and doing something which could result in data loss or exposure.

Bad Habits – there are quite a few break/fix characteristics which are disruptive to a proactive managed services model. The shared human resources who work on both service delivery desks pose the most considerable risk as they will be most likely to carry over bad habits from the reactive side to the proactive team. Technicians working closely together will pick up the bad habits of those who are not following a documented and process driven service delivery methodology.

Financial Favoritism – it has been a common practice to set two disparate IT service models against one another to see which one wins. This practice was frequently used in the early 2000s when managed services was still in its infancy, and business owners wanted managed services to prove out as a business model. Especially in larger organizations, managed services departments will often have to fight for legitimacy and resources, especially when there is a larger and more entrenched reactive service group already in place.


All of these issues may lead you to think that starting a managed services practice should be done as far away from a break/fix department as possible. I would agree with this belief. However, it is not always possible to accomplish this, and, for a variety of legitimate reasons.

The main point is that you recognized how the proximity of reactive and proactive IT management departments could be harmful to one another. Once you understand that, you can then implement a strategy best suited for your organization’s needs.

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