Does shopping for managed services feel like online dating?


Shopping for managed services can feel like online dating, doesn’t it? How do you know which company is the best fit for you? The promotional materials are snazzy, the website hits the right keywords and the reps know just what to say, but will it be a good match?

The number of companies claiming to offer managed IT services is increasing rapidly, and in all likelihood, this decision is one you will have to live with for years to come. Many providers make promises based on what the customer wants to hear rather than on what they can deliver. Does this sound familiar?

How can you separate flashy style from substance? Here are 10 points to help you get started.

1. Choose a partner, not just a supplier

A true partnership focuses on a shared goal of operational excellence and revolves around an open exchange of information and services. A traditional buyer-supplier relationship may not provide the collaborative environment necessary to deal with the challenges you will inevitably face.

2. Look for proactive monitoring, not just reactive support

The ability to respond to and resolve incidents is a minimum requirement of any support service. A thriving managed service arrangement needs to include systematic and proactive monitoring, where automated tools and seasoned professionals continually watch for signs of trouble. When a problem is detected, they either fix it immediately or alert you before that stuff hits the fan.

3. Insist on round-the-clock domestic help desk

An efficient, experienced, and well-trained help desk usually suggests excellence in the provider’s broader support operation. It will be the user’s first point of contact and its ability to quickly solve problems has a big impact on productivity, efficiency, and user experience. Look for multi-language support and 24/7 availability. (And really, who wouldn’t want a round-the-clock housekeeper? You’ll never unload the dishwasher again.)

4. Find out about their transition team

How is a potential provider going to migrate your existing IT support services to their system? Interview the transition manager and ask questions about their processes, tools and communications plans. The  transition team and methodology are strong indicators of their experience and ability to support your operations. If their model doesn’t foster open communication then cross them off your list.

5. Check their accreditations

Are they legit? When a provider holds accreditations from an organization like CompTIA or MSPAlliance, it shows they have demonstrated operational performance of a minimum quality and a predictable level. Providers who offer a service without accreditation could be risky business.

6. Ask about on-site services

If you have many offices across the province or country, you will need a managed services provider who can send a technician to you, wherever you are. Ask about the logistics infrastructure to support field technicians, response time and how you can escalate an issue if the technician can’t fix it. Also find out if the technicians are the provider’s employees or if they are sub-contractors.

7. Review the professional governance framework

A strong governance framework is one of the principal differentiators between an IT consulting provider and a managed service provider. What you’re looking for is a well-practiced framework that formalizes continual oversight and performance improvement, and the discipline to stick to it for the full duration of the contract. This includes all the tools and resources you need to monitor your network’s performance, including dashboards, regular monthly reports, regular and thorough reviews of SLAs, Quarterly Business Reviews, strategic partnership reviews, and much more.

8. Ask about broader technical capacity

If you’re going to outsource your IT, you want them to have more expertise than you could get by building your own team. Insist on expert assistance in all the technical areas that are important to you, and a mechanism to easily access this expertise. If the provider has limited technical capacity, you will have to compromise on your needs or find different providers for different services – which defeats the purpose of managed services.

9. Meet the people who will handle your account

People (and their expertise) are the most important resource. Evaluate the people who will have the biggest impact on whether the arrangement becomes a partnership. Speak to the transition manager, service delivery manager, help desk manager, director of managed service operations, and one or more of the provider’s executives.

10. Familiarize yourself with their toolset

You want flexible, easy-to-use tools that will give you a clear view of your environment. Ask for a demo and take time to evaluate their functionality, because once you decide on a provider then you’re chained to their toolset. Make sure it works for you.

Managed services is a relationship like any other — make sure it’s built on the right foundation. Words of wisdom, in business and in life.

One thought on “Does shopping for managed services feel like online dating?

  1. A managed services provider (MSP) is typically an information technology (IT) services provider that manages and assumes responsibility for providing a defined set of services to their clients either proactively or as they (not the client) determine that the services are needed. Most MSPs bill an upfront setup or Transition and an ongoing flat or near-fixed monthly fee, which benefits their clients by providing them with predictable IT support costs. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) sometimes are contracted to manage multiple staffing vendors and to measure their effectiveness in filling positions according to a customer’s standards and requirements. In effect, the MSP serves as a “neutral” party that offers the customer a complete workforce solution while ensuring efficient operation and leveraging multiple staffing companies to obtain competitive rates. MSPs typically use a Vendor Management System (VMS) as a software tool to provide transparency and efficiency — along with detailed metrics to the user — related to every aspect of the contingent and contract workforce. The model has proven its usefulness in the private sector, notably among Fortune 500 companies, and is poised to become more common in the government arena.

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