Your business is affected by every decision you make —from which servers to purchase for your data center to which email client to use. But, few decisions are more important than selecting which Managed Services Provider (MSP) to partner with. The increased popularity of MSPs has given rise to a greater pool of providers with a varying range of expertise and experience, and it can be difficult to determine which of these providers are a good fit for your company. Because your MSP will serve as a lasting partner for your business, it is critical that you consider several criteria when making your decision.
Standard Selection Criteria
While we recommend that every company develop specific criteria related to their business goals, there are a few standardized criteria that all businesses should consider before they commit to an MSP.
The MSP you choose should offer a skillset that goes beyond that of your internal IT team. One of the major benefits of working with an MSP is access to specialists and experts, so identify your skills gaps and ensure your MSP can add value to your existing IT team by delivering on the skillsets you need.
With more and more MSPs entering the market, be sure to select an MSP with experience—particularly, look for an MSP with experience across multiple industries. Your MSP is your guide, so it is critical that you work with an MSP who has excelled in a variety of different situations. No matter your industry, do not hesitate to ask potential MSPs for references.
- Proactive Methodology
While part of an MSP’s job is to respond to and resolve issues, quality MSPs focus on proactively preventing problems from occurring through data analytics and root cause analysis. Look for an MSP with a proactive methodology, and stay away from MSPs who follow a strict break-fix philosophy.
- Ability to Answer Specific Questions
Be wary of MSPs who provide generalized answers to your questions. MSPs who do not take the time to provide specific, contextually relevant answers to your questions are likely to show a similar lack of knowledge and attention in their services. Ask difficult questions and challenge potential MSPs early in the vetting process.
- Managed and Responsive Service Level Agreement
Service Level Agreements (SLAs) establish agreed-upon standards for quality, scope, responsibilities, and delivery time. SLAs hold MSPs accountable for their services and create transparency. While most MSPs use SLAs, seek an MSP whose SLAs are managed and responsive—meaning that the SLAs evolve with the service to ensure continual improvement.
- Accessible IT Services
Working with an MSP that offers onsite services allows your MSP to monitor their services closely and integrate seamlessly into your company. Having an MSP that is easily accessible leads to faster response times, more predictable costs, and greater flexibility in the MSP’s service delivery model.
- Holistic Approach
Try to find an MSP that cares about your people in addition to your infrastructure. Strong MSPs value customer service and consider the way that people, technology, and processes work together. As a result, holistic MSPs focus on process improvements that allow your people to work more efficiently toward organizational goals.
- Alignment with Industry Best Practices
Select an MSP that operates according to industry standards, such as ITIL. This will allow you to feel confident that you are receiving high-quality service that includes strategy, design, transition, operation, and continual service improvement.
If you are working with an MSP to help your company grow, make sure that your MSP is capable of helping you scale. Many smaller MSPs are not equipped to grow alongside your company, so look for an MSP who can continue to provide services and recommendations about people and processes as your company expands and your goals change.
- Service Governance
Look for an MSP that will give you an indication of the framework they will provide around their services. Service Governance will assure consistency and visibility in the quality level and reliability of services delivered, as well as ongoing process improvement via committee meetings and service Reviews.
What Else to Look For?
In addition to the criteria above, many businesses develop specific benchmarks to measure the ways in which an MSP can meet their business-specific needs. Other companies seek MSPs that go above and beyond in their service delivery. Think about whether you are in the market for a hands-on or hands-off approach, and determine the values that are important to you and your company. If accessibility, innovation, and adherence to corporate culture are important to you, be sure to keep these factors in mind when selecting your MSP partner. Ultimately, your relationship with your MSP will be stronger if the MSP demonstrates their capacity to align with your company’s vision.