In some respects, the relationship between a company and their Managed Service Provider (MSP) is the most important strategic partnership a business can make. More and more our business technology is essential to daily operations and should it ever fail, the entire business could be disabled until systems are restored. Any business offering managed services to your company must be properly vetted in order to ensure that they can provide the level of support you need to protect your interests.
The hard part is the vetting itself. Every Managed Service Provider under the sun is going to tout their experience and achievements, but the true distinguishing characteristic of a quality Managed Service Provider has to do with their personal philosophy. It’s about how they think about managed services more than how they actually conduct themselves. In a word, they must be customer-centric.
Spotting a Customer-Centric Managed Service Provider
There are three main prongs of a customer-centric approach to managed services. If you are in the market for a managed services agreement for your environment, keep an eye out for these characteristics.
A Focus on Business Outcomes:
Managed services should not be a simple transactional agreement. It’s not like selling hours of technical support. Managed services is a partnership and the MSP’s approach to the agreement should reflect that. Is the provider focusing on specific solutions to specific problems or are they approaching the issue holistically?
Every aspect of a business is connected in some form - technology more so than anything else and the Managed Service Provider must factor this into their conversation. They should be discussing long term and short term business goals with you and learning how your technology solutions fit into that strategy. From there the MSP must have the business acumen and technical expertise to translate those goals into technical solutions and effective strategies.
It may sound like a semantic difference, but the end result is real. The way in which a Managed Service Provider conceptualizes their role affects how they interact with their customer. You’re forging a partnership, not hiring a service.
They say that baking is more art than science. A little dash of salt may not be specifically in the recipe, but the instincts of the baker can lead to a better finished product. The same is not true for technology. The consequences of downtime, system failure, or misconfigured tech can greatly disrupt your business plans. In technology, you want clear, proven processes from start to finish. There should be no guesswork and there should be no mistakes. This is especially true for businesses that must adhere to compliance regulations.
A customer-centric Managed Service Provider will have documented methodologies and processes when addressing issues in your environment. When vetting your MSP, discuss these processes in the interview to ensure that your environment will always remain in compliance.
Technology Alignment and Flexibility:
Some MSPs are more flexible than others, and in managed services, flexibility is important. It should be like Tetris. Whichever block best fits the need, the MSP should be able to provide a catered solution. That doesn’t mean that every MSP needs to be everything to everyone, but they should at least be willing to meet you halfway when necessary.
The other component to this is technology alignment. There are some Managed Service Providers whose technology will not be easily compatible with your environment. In these instances, you want to avoid extensive configurations and modifications to make these two systems compatible. Instead, search for a managed service provider can align their technology with yours.
Look Out for Traditional Red Flags as Well
Aside from the customer-centric approach, be on the lookout for any of the usual red flags as well. If a business is not listing any awards or certifications on their website, it’s possible that they don’t have any. If the company dodges questions or cannot confidently speak about their technology solutions, it may show a lack of competency.
The main objective is to find a company willing to go the extra mile to help you. With the amount of responsibility leveled on a Managed Service Provider, there’s no room for half measures and poor customer service.