As more and more companies look for better ways to manage their IT systems, MSPs are becoming all the rage. An MSP, or Managed Service Provider, is a company that remotely manages a client’s IT infrastructure on a proactive basis, usually through a subscription model. Any entity which provides shared access to IT resources can be considered a managed service provider.
Companies in all industries and verticals need the help of MSPs to ensure that their IT infrastructure and systems remain stable and are protected at all times. However, as more and more MSP players enter the market, it is getting even more difficult to identify quality managed IT services partners to help you with your IT systems.
There are a number of primary and secondary factors that you ought to consider before settling for a particular managed services provider. These include factors ranging from domain expertise and global capabilities to partner-neutral MSPs. Let’s explore both these factors in more detail to understand where your priorities should lie when choosing the right managed IT services partner.
Primary Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Managed IT Services Partner for Your Business
- Domain Expertise & Specialized Skillsets
It is imperative that the managed IT services partner have more than 5 years of experience in the field so that that they have gained enough expertise over the years to effectively resolve IT challenges. It is also critical that your managed IT services provider have skills related to operating system maintenance, change management, virtualization, network management, mobility, cross-platform integration, and security at the very least. You should go beyond the basic questions about the number of resources they have and the types of certifications they hold.
You should ask about the diversity of their skills and technologies so that you have an accurate idea of their capabilities and the types of problems they have great experience dealing with. The number of years of expertise they have in the business will also tell you which industries they have catered to in the past if they have diversified their portfolio of services over the years to compete more effectively. Be sure that you ask them about which skillsets they have found themselves using the most so that you get a sense of their strengths.
- Knowledge of Sophisticated Technologies, Platforms, and Processes
It is also imperative that you inquire into the types of technologies they have invested in and have at their disposal. This should give you insight into how cutting-edge their services are and whether they are keeping up with the times and technology trends that matter. You should also ask about whether the services they provide are based off a ‘break/fix approach’ to solving problems. If they are more proactive in their approach, they will prioritize prevention and continuous improvement over fixing something when it breaks, and only then.
IT managed services companies that are best-in-class will go above and beyond merely monitoring and managing your devices. They will even employ sophisticated technologies like advanced analytics to analyze failure patterns across processes to get real solid numbers to base decisions off of. They will also be the greatest proponents of automation and use it across all the managed IT services they offer.
It is your job to look for technologies that provide capabilities as advanced as alert mechanisms, incident remediation, automated categorization and prioritization, etc, across their services. You should also go as far as to enquire to what extent the managed IT support services provider employs automation to cut down human intervention. Moreover, if you can get them to tell you about how they use automation to improve productivity and quality across functions, you are on the right track.
- Employ ITIL Standards and Industry Best Practices
It is important to understand that they key to achieving more reliable IT infrastructure lies in optimizing your IT management. A managed IT support services provider will employ industry best practices in managing their IT resources. Aligning their IT service management with the ITIL approach is best because it is comprehensive in scope. ITIL, or Information Technology Infrastructure Library, is a set of best practices for the management of IT services that aligns IT services with the requirements of the business. ITIL best practices cover the incident, problem, event, configuration, capacity, inventory, performance management, and reporting.
It describes the processes, procedures, checklists, and tasks that are not specific to an organization but can be applied by any organization to deliver value and maintain a minimum level of competency. It enables organizations to setup a baseline from which they can strategize, implement, and quantify compliance and improvements. If the partner you are looking into employs ITIL standards, you can rest assured that they are competent in their field and take great measures to follow industry best practices at all times.
You should also ask about the best practices they have put in place to transition from your in-house managed IT solutions to their management system. This way you have a clearer idea of how long the process will take and what resources will be required along the way.
- Offer a Broad Array of Managed IT Services
It is no surprise that IT needs are constantly changing with the rate at which technologies are continuously being developed and others being made obsolete. Because your IT requirements are constantly evolving, you need the flexibility to add and remove managed IT services without adding to your costs or the complexity of your sourcing strategy.
Most organizations find that services fragmentation, or using multiple managed IT services partners, is highly complex and very costly to maintain. Sourcing by process is what some organizations have deemed the way to go, however, this only seems optimal. Even though you are hiring the best talent available exclusively for one particular activity, you are perpetuating silos and making change more difficult because many partners need to be controlled.
The fact that those services are not integrated and fall under one partner’s domain of expertise means that your IT systems will be all the more complex and hard to navigate in a timely manner. When shopping for the right partner, ensure that they offer a thorough suite of managed IT services ranging from managed security and infrastructure management to managed hosting and cloud deployment.
It is also essential that you look for a service provider that offers a range of payment options from monthly subscriptions to pay-per-use models. This will help you scale the services you decide to use up or down according to your business requirements. Multiple payment models will also help you stick with one managed IT solutions provider, rather than outsourcing to a few.
- Provide Complete Process Transparency
When choosing a managed IT services provider, it is critical that you have complete visibility into the IT systems and have sufficient access to them as well. With complete transparency, your administrative staff and C-suite executives will have full visibility into your IT systems. That way you will be able to tell whether they are fulfilling your company’s unique needs to the fullest or not.
Make sure that you ask how they communicate with their clients and whether they use help desks or communicate directly. You should also look into their SLA policies to see how transparent they are in their communications regarding issues or any crises that might arise. They should also be able to give you access to project documentation so that all system performance issues are made known to you as soon as they occur. It would also pay to enquire into their documentation process to see how information is shared with their clients.
Be sure to ask about the monitoring and reporting tools they currently have in place. Understanding how accessible these reports are when you request them will tell you a lot about the level of transparency they provide their clients. Ensure that they give you direct access to the consultants working on your systems as this will help you engage with issues as soon as they arise.
Some leading service providers even have message boards with a live chat feature integrated into their client portal. This type of technology allows you to ask questions of the dedicated consultants in real-time so you know what steps are being taken to prevent crisis and mitigate losses.
- Ability to Deliver Global Services
Now, more than ever, has it become a dire need to choose a managed IT services provider with global capabilities. This is of critical importance because having access to global capabilities can position any company for growth and expansion, which is what you should be looking to do.
Having access to global delivery capabilities can help you effectively manage customer projects that require operating in different countries. These capabilities can also help you rapidly implement new technology solutions in new locations and provide local-language support for subsidiaries or branches that are far from home.
Having a provider that has global capabilities is also useful for when you need access to local resources and data to address legal and regulatory requirements, that they would be well-versed in. Global capabilities also means that they have access to global delivery centers, which means that they are always available to provide assistance, regardless of the time zone you find yourself in.
Secondary Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Managed IT Services Partner for Your Business
- Partner-Neutral Service Provider
IT infrastructure today is typically made up of hybrid environments consisting of heterogeneous software, hardware, and network products that are integrated with private and public clouds from a host of partners. At the very least, a managed IT solutions provider should have demonstrated experience working with multipartner hybrid environments as that is the need of the hour. More importantly, they should have relationships with leading partners to ensure that they have complete access to those services when required.
They should also maintain those relationships to gain total visibility into the product’s evolution pathway so that they always have the latest emerging technologies at their disposal. It is important that you find out what kinds of partners they typically deal with to ensure that they have a mix of them so that they are partner-neutral. Being partner-neutral will ensure that they plan, purchase, manage, and operate only the best technologies across multiple providers and models so that your business is always a step ahead.
- Performance-Based SLAs
One of the advantages of managed IT services is that the responsibility to deliver results rests with the service provider alone. However, you need to ensure that your partner is focusing on what they deliver rather than on how the service is performed. By focusing on the results, managed IT service providers can better innovate, reduce costs, and improve service delivery to benefit both themselves and their clients. This is because they can use the KPIs to measure their performance and then find ways to improve those numbers.
You need your partner to commit contractually to meeting your performance-based service-level requirements so that performance remains a priority in their eyes. They also need to back up those commitments with consequences like financial penalties or the cancellation of their services if the SLAs they have signed are not being met. Your job is to ensure that you bring up performance-based SLAs as a means to quantify their results so that they are always striving to give you the best performance possible.
The best managed IT services partner will allow you to focus on the core needs of your business. With enterprise-grade IT services you can rest assured that your IT infrastructure will remain stable and secure at all times. However, to find the best MSP, there are a host of factors that you need to look into to establish that they are the best in the business for your requirements.
From deep domain expertise to global capabilities, a number of criteria need to be met in order to remain competitive in this day and age. If these factors are not looked into, it is easy to see why many organizations suffer from IT process inefficiencies and easily run into the ground.
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Companies in all industries and verticals need the help of MSPs to ensure that their IT infrastructure and systems remain stable and are protected at all times. However, as more and more MSP players enter the market, it is getting even more difficult to identify quality managed IT services partners to help you with your IT systems. There are a number of primary and secondary factors that you ought to consider before settling for a particular managed services provider.
These include factors ranging from domain expertise and global capabilities to partner-neutral MSPs. Let’s explore both these factors in more detail to understand where your priorities should lie when choosing the right managed IT services partner.