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How to Find and Select Your Managed Services Provider

From a desire to eliminate an unnecessary burden on internal IT staff, to outsourcing the management and maintenance of IT infrastructure, more and more businesses are turning to managed services.

With numerous options available, finding and selecting a managed service provider (MSP) that is right for your organization can seem overwhelming. To help, we’ve compiled a list of evaluation criteria to get your search started. (We’ve also developed a guide to help you develop a successful MSP relationship. You can download it here.)

Strategy and Thought Leadership
Technology has become an integral part of our daily lives, both personally and professionally. As such, your MSP should have a deep understanding of the breadth of your technology. This means providing more than helpdesk support and having a basic understanding of your servers and network. Your MSP should be in the know about the latest trends in technology including business intelligence and the cloud, as well as knowledgeable about the business applications your business uses daily. This understanding provides your MSP with the foundation needed to ensure your infrastructure is not only set up, but running optimally for your business, and – as a bonus – keeping employees happy.

Ask your MSP: What differentiates a business that leverages technology for its own success versus one that sees it as a cost center?

Finding a Partner, Not a Vendor
Pause a minute to think of your closest friend and what makes him/her so special. Most likely, you thought of someone who you believe always has your best interest at heart. This is the exact same feeling you should have toward your MSP.

Just like a close friend, your MSP should always have the best interest of your business at the forefront of any technology decisions. Acting as your partner, your MSP should not simply react to requests made by your team or to challenges as they arise, but should proactively look for ways to add value and improve your business.

It’s important to find a partner, not just another vendor. After all, once you find a good match, you’ll likely be with them for the long haul.

Ask your MSP: What does it mean to you to be our partner?

Value over Cost
The age-old phrase, “you get what you pay for” is applicable to many MSP relationships, often due to misalignment between business strategy and the technology on hand.

Frequently, people select a low-cost provider and are surprised to receive service of equivalent value. Instead of looking for the MSP who will provide the services you need for the lowest cost, look for one who will provide you with the highest return on your investment. Not all MSPs are created equal. Be sure to find one you can count on – one who will work with you to ensure that your IT services are a strategic asset, instead of a cost center.

Ask your MSP: How do you keep costs down? (Listen for the places where they won’t compromise on investing in themselves.)

One-Stop Shop
Contracts are inevitable. But, before you sign your name on the dotted line, review the contract to understand the kind of flexibility you will have with your MSP. Are services so tightly defined that there is no flexibility? Conversely, do they tightly define the level of responsiveness and prioritization to categories of service that the contract includes? Are you satisfied with what will be included in the service provided to you? Is there flexibility to expand or contract the contract as your company needs change? Ensure you can rely on your MSP when you need a strategic partner for big and small changes in the business.

Look for a one-stop shop where the partner holds the responsibility to take care of you during the good times and the bad.

Ask your MSP: What do you do when someone calls with an issue that is not specifically defined within the scope of your contract?

Staying on the Cutting Edge
You should always strive to have the best and brightest helping to move your business forward. Just like internal IT can stagnate, so too can your MSP if there isn’t a development plan in place that keeps the team up-to-date with the latest technology trends.

The rapid pace technology changes isn’t slowing down. You need an MSP who is committed to staying on top of the latest developments and who will invest in learning the ins and outs of industry changes. In today’s technology environment, you can’t risk being made obsolete because you failed to invest in the right technology.

Ask your MSP: How do you keep up with the pace of changing technology? What do you feel like you are better at than any other MSP?

Metrics that Mean Something
Within the world of technology, industry standards have been established to define good client service, such as SLAs, uptime, and ticket resolution times. Check to ensure your future MSP meets, if not exceeds, the industry standards. While these metrics are important, it is also a good exercise to determine what is important to your business, such as responsiveness outside of business hours, ticket resolution time, or something else entirely. Your MSP should meet those. SLAs are important, but they aren’t the whole story. A great MSP will be able to adapt to your unique needs.

Ask your MSP: What are the metrics you review to make sure you are doing a great job for my business? How are those shared with me?

Crazy (Good) Client Service
At the end of the day, your MSP is not just in the technology business, but in the client service business. First and foremost, its mission should be to focus on doing what is best for you and your organization every single day.

Ask your MSP: What do you mean when you say you provide great client service? How do you define great client service?

The upfront effort required to find and select a managed service provider that is right for your business is essential in establishing a relationship that will provide long-term value.

If you’d like to learn more about KSMC managed services, contact our team. We’d love to chat.

About the Author

Mark Caswell is the Director of Technology for KSM Consulting. Mark leads the team in developing innovative solutions to today’s complex technology challenges. Connect with him on LinkedIn.