Businesses are relying on technology more today, than ever before. New products and services are dependent on it, and new business models are being created to keep up with advances and new customer demands. With all of the change, it is no wonder that companies are spending more time architecting advanced technology strategies. And a big part of any well-crafted strategy is IT management.
With IT playing such an important role in implementing and executing a large portion of your tech strategy, picking a vendor to partner with is of critical importance. Before you jump away from your current solution, and into a new managed service provider, make sure you ask the tough questions up front. Here are the ten most important questions you need to ask before you make the switch.
How they plan to progress you through the different stages of IT?
Not all providers speak in “stages” of IT, but the one you chose to help you, should understand there are different levels of maturity in an IT environment. The goal is to progress from the first (reactive, ad-hoc support), to the later stages (consistent delivery, proactive services, ROI-based activities) — ultimately, leading to more conversations about the business, and less about hardware and infrastructure concerns.
Are they technology/vendor agnostic, or are they trying to fit your business into the solutions they use for everyone?
Your business objectives should drive all technical conversations in the majority of companies (stage 4 companies are a unique story). Your new technology partner should not be selling you a product that will “change” your business. They should be learning everything they can about your business and recommending the products that help you achieve your goals.
Can they help you reduce the costs associated with IT management, and refocus those budgets on strategic IT initiatives?
(This is where I create MSP enemies.) The percentage of your budget allocated to managing your technology and infrastructure should go down over time — not up! You need a partner that will help you shift IT-related budgets into strategic initiatives, and out of management related tasks — while at the same time keeping quality of service consistent.
How do they integrate with your business process?
When vetting providers, you may hear a lot about process management frameworks like ITIL and others. These are extremely powerful methodologies for providing consistent deliverables, but they are not related to your business performance. You need a company that can bridge that gap to connect support processes to business processes. Look for a partner that knows how to deliver this integration, and takes the necessary time to learn about the unique processes that drive your business results.
Can they explain how specifically they get their results?
Frankly, talk is cheap. Even this post scrapes at the surface of some very deep concepts. The fact is, you need a partner that goes well beyond “telling” you what they “can” do. You need a partner that can show you how they do it. Specifically, the items and processes needed to drive the results they talk about. Achieving results is not magic, it takes a lot of experience and hard work. A partner that knows their stuff will be able to give you the candid information you need.
Do they speak in business terms, or technical terms?
Nothing is more frustrating than having an issue that prevents you from getting your job done, then reaching out for help only to get a bunch of techno babble that makes no sense and doesn’t help. You need a partner that, at a minimum, has some sense of empathy, but one that can also can translate technical mumbo-jumbo into tangible, business-related conversations. Demand more! Demand conversations to be universally understood and solutions to be based on real, tangible needs.
What is really included in “managed services?
Or more importantly, what is not included. Sometimes the “guise” of managed services is that “everything” is included. Although in some cases this may be true, in most MSP’s there is a long list of items that are excluded. Make sure you know where the edges are so you are not left with an unexpected bill a couple months down the road.
How do they make more money?
This is big, or do I dare to say Huuuuuugggggge. If you are working with a partner that makes more money when you have an issue, you are not working with a vendor that will help you progress through the stages of IT. Business models cannot be adversarial; they need to be aligned. When you win, they should win; when you lose, they should lose. It is as simple as that.
How do they stay aligned with your business goals?
Business goals change. What was right for you on day one, may not be right on day 400. Take the time, and find out how your partner is going to understand, not only what is right for you today, but also what is right to help support you tomorrow.
How do they stay up-to-date with new technologies?
Technology changes quickly, and even MSP’s can struggle with keeping up. Working “in” the business, and not “on” the business is a real struggle for everyone. When evaluating a new partner, ask them what specifically they do to stay ahead. And not just what they do to stay aware of the pulse of technology changes, but specifically, what they do to make sure they know about new solutions that could help you achieve your goals.
Changing providers is a big move, with big implications. But moving to the right provider can be well worth it. The trick is to go through the necessary steps to pick the right provider the first move, and not the fifth! Digging in deeply with the questions above will help you find the path to success! Happy hunting!