How to choose a Managed Service Provider
6 salient points for busy decision-makers
Deciding to use an IT service provider to manage some of or all your business’s IT processes and systems is the easy part of your IT strategy. Choosing the right Managed Service Provider (MSP) – one that aligns with your ambitions and helps you achieve future success – is less straightforward. Picking a partner rather than a supplier is essential. Failure to do so could have serious repercussions – from a reduction in productivity to a significant financial loss.
Instead, approach choosing an MSP like you would choosing a new head of department: it’s a long-term investment that requires careful consideration of the options available before the right decision can be made. This will leave you well-placed to harness the potential of IT to help drive your business forward. So, where do you start?
Our expert insights are designed to help you make an informed decision and ultimately choose the right partner for your business.
Ensure cultural compatibility
- Forget the saying “opposites attract” when choosing an Managed Service Provider. Both parties need to be on the same wavelength culturally or the whole process is doomed to failure.
- Each company’s culture is based on the shared values, beliefs, expectations, and goals that influence behaviour, expectations, and attitudes.
- To ensure the partnership is a success, your leadership styles, willingness to accept change and vision of what success looks like should align.
Define your business’s goals and understand how IT can support them
- An IT service provider is not a panacea; it will only be as effective as the goals your business sets.
- Former US President Benjamin Franklin famously said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” So, prepare your business for future success by aligning your IT strategy to a clearly defined business strategy. For example, is IT simply a tool for conducting daily operations effectively, or do you also view it as a potential business enabler that can disrupt the status quo?
- Not only will this help you choose a partner that can help you achieve your goals; it will provide them with the guidance and direction needed for your partnership to succeed.
Review each Managed Service Provider credentials and track record
- Spending valuable time integrating an MSP into your business, only to find out they don’t have the skills and experience required to deliver, won’t just leave you reaching for that stress ball on your desk; it could have a negative impact operationally and financially.
- To guarantee your MSP is qualified to meet your requirements, try and answer the following questions:
- Do they possess the necessary security and quality certifications? This demonstrates their commitment to protect your information. For example, are their IT engineers’ industry-certified?
- Can they provide relevant case studies and client references?
- How many employees does the company have? Are they expanding or shrinking?
- How good are the service level agreements they offer?
Review each MSPs ability to integrate with your business
- You think you’ve found an MSP that “gets” your business’s philosophy and they’ve got a pretty impressive track record to boot. This could be the start of a beautiful relationship! Before you put pen to paper, however, you must be sure they can integrate with your business to achieve common goals. So, ask yourself:
- Who will be your main point of contact? After all, communication is key to any good relationship. In an ideal world you will be assigned an IT professional with both technical and business skills, whose job it is to help you achieve your goals by establishing and maintaining effective channels of communication.
- Are they the right size to service your requirements?
- Do they fit your business’s culture?
- Are they willing to invest time and resources to understand your business, so they can help you innovate and expand?
Review each Managed Service Provider ability to innovate
- Innovation is about making things better, faster or cheaper than your competition. To say information technology is an innovative resource is an understatement. Take the mobile phone for example, which has gone from resembling an offensive weapon they were so large, to becoming pocket-sized personal computers that enable business innovation such as online banking, hailing a cab and ordering takeaway.
- Choose an MSP that’s able to help you harness the power of IT innovation and effect positive change in your business.
- To achieve this, you should thoroughly research their capability to innovate throughout the course of your partnership. This includes their ability to deliver effective technology consulting and to challenge your current business practices, with a view to making them more innovative.
Assess each MSPs reporting functions
- Management reports are a vital tool for tracking and analysing the performance and success of your partnership with your chosen MSP.
- Consistent monitoring and reporting can both highlight problems and identify opportunities for growth or expansion. While inaccurate or insufficient reporting will hamper your ability to effect necessary change.
- Choose an MSP that is willing to agree and report on specific key performance indicators (KPI)? KPI reports can be used to track progress against targets and goals to improve performance.