7 considerations in choosing a Managed Service Provider
9 March 2017 | 0
The breadth of skills and expertise needed to manage and optimise technology infrastructure has grown significantly. As a result, organisations are finding it increasingly difficult to retain the necessary resources to monitor and optimise their ICT infrastructures and systems. Many are turning to Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to help them to take full advantage of their technology investments while simultaneously making more effective use of their in-house resources.
Before aligning with an MSP, however, there are a number of important considerations that any business should take. Bearing the following points in mind will ensure that your organisation extracts the maximum value from its engagement and potential relationship with its managed service partner.
- Customer references
Firstly, it is essential to assess the organisation’s reputation prior to aligning with them. Customer references provide the most accurate real-world evaluation of an MSP’s ongoing performance. Reach out to the MSP and ask them to provide one or more customer references, so that you can make a more informed decision about what it’s like to work with them as a service provider. If they’re unwilling to do this, it should immediately raise a red flag.
- Financial position and stability
If you are going to engage the services of an MSP, you need to be confident they will be around for the long haul. Take the time to look into their financial position and the stability of the company. Financial records are relatively easily available, through resources like the Company Registration Office. The length of time they have been in business is another effective barometer of their ability to serve customers over the long term.
- Service Level Agreements
When aligning with a managed service provider it’s essential to implement performance-based SLAs with regular and transparent reporting to benchmark how well they are performing against agreed targets. Make sure that the agreements are easy to understand and seek an MSP whose SLAs are managed and responsive, ensuring continuous improvement of their services.
Organisations’ needs change over time so businesses require flexibility. The services and solutions that you avail of today are unlikely to be the same as those you will require in five years’ time. Select an MSP that can provide the flexibility for service to scale up and down according to the evolving needs of your company. This will allow your organisation to choose from the services that add most value at any given time. It is also important to ensure the contractual flexibility is there so that you do not suffer penalties should you decide to increase or decrease your commitment with the provider. As well as this, you should ensure to align yourself with an organisation with a proven ability to respond to changing market needs, conditions and demands, and one that employs the latest technologies to help you to add value to your business.
- Technical expertise
Your chosen MSP should have the depth and breadth of technical skills to manage your technology investments. Look closely at their core competencies, qualifications and experience managing similar technology environments. Find out what are the provider’s technical strengths (and areas of weakness) so that you can determine whether they are a suitable fit for your business. Leading MSPs will also make it their priority to invest in future talent which displays a strong capability for long-term thinking.
- Partner accreditations
Assessing your prospective provider’s partner accreditations will give you a better understanding of the depth of knowledge and expertise they have in specific areas. Checking the length of time they have been accredited with each vendor and the level of accreditation (e.g. Platinum, Gold or Silver) will also help you to find out if they have the ability to maintain long-term relationships at the highest level.
- Industry qualifications and quality standards
There are some very important quality standards and industry qualifications that you should expect your service provider to hold – these include the relevant ISO accreditations and ITIL service management framework standards. Displaying the relevant up-to-date qualifications, accreditations and standards will give you much more confidence that the MSP is on a journey of continuous improvement, which will in turn be of benefit to your organisation. Finally, when choosing a provider it’s important to align with one with similar values to your organisation. Ask prospective partners about their CSR initiatives and environmental policies. Cultural compatibility will go a long way towards sustaining a mutually beneficial relationship for years to come.
Choosing a managed service provider is a significant step for any business, so it’s essential to carry out your research and due-diligence before making any decisions. If you are satisfied that the MSP that you have shortlisted meets the above criteria, then you stand a much improved chance of a long and beneficial relationship, and you will very quickly see the value that managed services can add to your business.
Karen O’Connor is general manager for service delivery with Datapac.