By Alexander Meseguer / Managed Services Architect

Organizations increasingly choose to outsource IT support in part or whole. This decision has widespread implications for both users inside the company and third-parties who depend on them. The Managed Services Provider (MSP) market, in particular, continues to see more players enter the field every year. Analysts at Forrester Research report technology outsourcing and hardware services rose from $483 billion in 2018 to $512 billion in 2019.[1] With the abundant choices available to you, what should you look for and judge candidates by?

Beyond time-honored metrics such as competitive price, references, and longevity, the areas below cover what we believe sets a great MSP apart from the rest of the field. After all, whoever you pick will ostensibly be an extension of your own organizations for years to come and prevent potentially catastrophic damage to your bottom line.

ARE MANAGED SERVICES RIGHT FOR YOU?

The most valuable question to answer before starting any search (or considering someone who’s reached out to you) is whether managed services is right for your organization.

Dedicated IT operations personnel offer maximum control but at a potentially high cost if your organization is not of sufficient scale. Most MSPs operate on a shared resource model, where their technicians and engineers may be servicing several clients in a day. This approach allows them to offer broader and deeper support at efficiencies only enterprise organizations may be able to match.

MSPs have their own challenges under this model, and the best ones have policies and processes in place to address them. If your organization is comfortable giving up some control over how IT operations are done, a vastly more efficient and capable IT support experience becomes possible.

EVALUATING MANAGED SERVICES PROVIDERS

EXPERIENCE AND EXPERTISE

A Managed Services Provider should have at least 10 years of experience under their belt so they’ve been exposed to everything that can (and will) happen in support of IT operations. To have a proven track record of longevity is one of the strongest signs of continued performance and stability.

“One of the strengths of MSPs is their ability to bring both breadth and depth of expertise to the table which would take a very large organization to replicate.”

One of the strengths of MSPs is their ability to bring both breadth and depth of expertise to the table which would take a very large organization to replicate.

Questions to consider include:

  • Does your prospective MSP have extensive experience and resources they can bring to bear on your specific technology?
  • Are they hiring for emerging technologies so they’ll be ready when you are?
REPEATABILITY AND PROCESSES

Capable and experienced MSPs have established processes that remove ambiguity and create a consistent support experience. The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a globally accepted framework for IT service management which aligns business needs with IT operations. Subsequently, a provider that bases their processes on ITIL has put thought into the who, what, when, and why of this type of service and knows who is accountable for every part of your IT support experience.

AVAILABILITY

Time and geography are the most important factors when considering a provider’s availability. Your business doesn’t stop dead at the end of the standard business day and your provider shouldn’t either.

“Time and geography are the most important factors when considering a provider’s availability. Your business doesn’t stop dead at the end of the standard business day and your provider shouldn’t either.”

Also, consider your prospective provider’ s footprint. While the vast majority of support can be provided remotely, a physical presence is sometimes a must-have.

Questions to consider include:

  • Will they be able to provide services when and where you need them?
  • Do they have the manpower available for your critical office locations?
  • Would meeting face-to-face take an extended amount of time to arrange or incur additional costs?
FOCUS ON BUSINESS OUTCOMES

Above all, the best MSPs recognize they are a service organization first and a technology organization second. Although this may be unexpected as the industry revolves around technology, experience has taught us that a successful partnership begins with aligning the MSP’s priorities with yours – on a strategic and incident level.

You’re both looking to achieve a specific outcome as you work toward the same goals. This naturally produces shared incentives that create trust and a true partnership over time. Consider how your prospective provider plans to keep your goals aligned in a proactive way.

SHARED VALUES AND EXPECTATIONS

Building off the previous point, shared values and common goals are at the heart of the most successful relationships. Therefore, your outsourced IT provider should believe partnership is a two-way street, corresponding with obligations shared by both sides.

“Both sides you may ask, but I’m the customer. “

Undeniably, this provider will be acting as an extension of your organization and be in a position to impact large portions of it. Shared agreement on items like scheduled maintenance windows, escalation matrices, major incident declarations, and change management processes will ensure expectations on both sides remains steady and produce results.

TAKEAWAYS

Whether you’re a ‘first-generation outsourcer’ or a veteran in the field, choosing a provider can become a lot simpler if you keep these points in mind. At Micro Strategies, we believe partnership and operational excellence go hand in hand.

“Whoever you pick will ostensibly be an extension of your own organizations for years to come and prevent potentially catastrophic damage to your bottom line.”

Keep the following in mind when selecting your outsourced IT vendor:

  • Providers need to have the skills on hand to support the technology you’re using both today and tomorrow.
  • Documented processes help ensure consistent and responsive support.
  • Your provider should have a strategy for providing physical presence when needed, or at a minimum, ways to mitigate the need.
  • Ensure that your provider has a plan to keep your strategic goals aligned and create opportunities for two-way communication.
  • Make sure your provider shares your values and expectations. If you expect a lot from them, they should ask you for some commitments in kind.

[1] Managed Services Market: The Three Key Trends Impacting MSPs. https://www.crn.com/news/managed-services/managed-services-market-the-three-key-trends-impacting-msps

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