- August 1, 2016
- Catagory Managed IT Services
Choosing the right Managed Service Provider 101
Lately, it feels like everyone wants to be a Managed Service Provider – or just as commonly referenced as MSPs – but more importantly than simply asking what they do, we should be asking what the good ones do. And why should we, the average SMB, care?
The short answer is to say that the good ones deliver managed IT solutions that streamline your business, raise productivity and profits levels, and boost the value of your company to your customers. They key word there - ‘deliver’ - means not just talking the talk, but walking it too.
The ones to avoid have a habit of slowing down your organisation, reducing what should be raised and adding increases where you should see cuts. The problem with such sage advice is that it’s easy to apply in hindsight, and more difficult when you’re searching for a managed services provider.
When choosing an MSP for your company, it’s worthwhile looking out for these key features and qualities.
1. On-hand and upfront
This is a point about service standards and relationships. Most businesses can’t afford downtime, and so when a potential issue with your systems arises, you need it to be addressed before it makes an impact. You need to know that your MSP has all angles covered and, if yours is a 24/7 operation, then backup processes in place to ensure that everything’s working 24/7. You also need to know that you’re working with a managed service provider that genuinely cares about your business. Often, this criteria will favour the small and medium-sezed companies over the large multinationals. To ensure you get the service you need, you need people in your local area, on-hand and accountable to the terms set out in clear Service Level Agreements (SLAs).
2. Technology is still a people business
The most robust IT systems paired with the most sophisticated software packages in the world aren’t going to improve your business processes, practices and profits on their own. It takes people – namely experienced managed IT services professionals – to engage with your key personnel and thoroughly understand your business operation, goals, capabilities and limitations before the right solution can be designed and deployed. Effective two-way communication is what makes this happen, so it’s important that the personalities and corporate cultures click and the communication channels work. The best managed services relationships are long term because they continue to provide long term value after the initial requirement has been delivered.
3. One size fits one
The third and final point relates to #2 above, yet teaches a different lesson. Successful solutions, eventually called best practices, worked for specific companies because they followed guiding principles and practices, but would be customized to the individual needs of the company. When a managed services provider promises to increase productivity by 20% and reduce IT costs by 12% because they did X for company Y, you need to ask what they’re going to change and how they’ll adapt the solution to work for your company – not their portfolio piece. This will reveal whether they’re just cold-selling without research, or whether they’ve shown enough respect for your business to do some research and ask meaningful questions. The IT solution proposed by your managed services partner and the Service Level Agreements outlined in the contract should reflect these differences and associated deliverables.
The bottom line comes down to clarity and understanding. You want to know what kind of managed service provider your business is engaging and what they’re capable of delivering. You need to know that they’re capable of understanding your business, differentiating it from their previous and other clients and create a tailored IT solution that makes adds speed, efficiency and greater overall performance.