5 Tips That’ll Transform Your IT Managed Service Provider Relationship
On the face of it, finding a managed IT services provider is easy. In fact, a quick search for a provider in your city or region is likely to bring back plenty of search results and paid advertisements.
The thing is, not all managed service providers are created equal. That’s not to say that any are inherently bad – simply that they might not be suited to your organisation.
So, how do you find a good managed service provider? And how can you make sure you’ve got a solid relationship going forward? We’ve talked to some of the best MSPs around the world and they’ve shared their tips on getting the most from your working relationship.
Create a service level agreement that suits both parties
At least formally, your relationship with an MSP is going to live and die by the service level agreement (SLA) that you put in place at the beginning of working together. As such, you can see why it’s important to put together an agreement that works for both parties.
From some businesses, an off-the-shelf agreement is a good place to start. From here, you can adjust until you’ve created a document and way of working that suits you.
There’s no real correct way of putting an agreement together – but making sure your needs are met is absolutely vital. Ultimately, this is your contract – so you should both make sure your businesses are going in the right direction based on what’s included.
Find a company who’ll work alongside your IT team
Although IT teams generally aren’t a hotbed of volatile personalities and high-maintenance individuals, you can’t always be certain that teams or individuals will work well together – especially if there’s a cross over of skills or disagreements about the way things should be done.
As such, it’s important to find; A) an MSP that’ll be happy working with an IT support or maintenance provision you currently have in place, and; B) a way of working that clearly defines who is responsible for what.
There are pros and cons to be considered when deciding whether or not a project should be carried managed in-house or through a service provider – but instead of leaving those decisions to chance, it’s a good idea to have a prescribed way of working that makes sure you get the best result for your business.
Make sure your provider has worked with companies like yours
It’s always a good idea to make sure you’re lining up a relationship with a company who has provided IT support for businesses like yours.
Now, that’s not to say that they have to have worked with a company that’s at the same stage or development, in the same industry, and of the same size – but ticking at least one out of those three boxes is virtually essential.
As long as they do, you can be fairly confident that you’re working with a company that’s going to understand where your business is – even if they need to get their head around your specific way of working.
Don’t be afraid to ask to talk to companies an MSP has worked with before. Or, better yet, don’t be afraid to dig into LinkedIn and find people who’ve employed the MSP’s services. There’s no better way of finding out if a company is going to be a good fit than talking to other people who’ve had first-hand experience.
Make sure you’re getting proactive support
Picture the scene. You walk into your office on a Monday morning to find that your systems went down on Saturday night.
Do you want to read an email that tells you how the problem was remedied by Sunday morning? Or do you want to be the person calling your MSP and telling them that you need help?
Based on the fact that downtime’s estimated to cost businesses well in excess of $10,000 for every lost hour, you can be that the first option’s going to be the preferred choice – but it’s not always what you’ll get from an MSP.
Some MSPs have system monitoring applications that’ll alert 24-hour staff to a potential or actual problem – whereas others will rely on you letting them know there’s something amiss. Now, having your systems up 24/7 isn’t always crucial for a company – but if it is for you, make sure you’re working with a provider who can make sure they’re ahead of any problems.
Find a provider that can scale with you
Even if you’re not planning to grow your business imminently, it’s absolutely key that you find a provider who can keep up with your most ambitious plans.
Well, it’s all to do with how tightly entwined an MSP is likely to become with your business. After a couple of years working with a provider, there’s a chance they’ve helped you designed systems and workflows, moved premises – and even potentially been around the table when there’s big decisions being discussed and made. These are not the kind of relationships that can come to an end without some logistically difficultly.
As such, you don’t want to leave an MSP behind when you grow – especially since they’re likely to have had a significant hand in that growth.
Talk to any potentially provider about where they see themselves in 5 years. Then, talk to them about your 5-year plans – and see if they could grow at the same rate. Also – talk about what would happen if you landed astronomical clients, or won large contracts – could they move quickly to make sure you can react?
Ultimately, every billion-dollar business has started somewhere – and IT will unquestionably have been a vital part of why they are where they are today. If they can’t grow with you, then it might be time to look elsewhere. On the other hand, if they’ve got provisions in place for rolling their sleeves up and putting the right kind of support in place for you, then they’re likely to be a powerful ally.