The benefit of outsourcing part or all of your IT infrastructure’s needs is to remove those tasks and worries so that your organization can focus on your clients. The cornerstone of maximizing the business benefit of your Managed Service Provider (MSP) is to ensure that the relationship between your organization and your service provider is consciously designed, proactively supported, and jointly managed.
Here are a few pointers for building and maintaining a great relationship with your current or prospective MSP partner:
Organizations should spend time with their MSP. Organizations must involve their MSP in discussions and give them access to as much information as possible, without violating any commercial, data, or security issues. It is important to designate a person (or two) to be the key point-of-contact for a variety of reasons: open/create tickets, make phone calls/communicate needs or requests to your MSP, and oversee the relationship in general.
Having regularly scheduled meetings with key people from your MSP is always a good idea. During these meetings, it is important to involve your MSP in your organization’s business plans and to get their input on strategic decisions related to IT. With this level of insight, all parties can better understand the bigger picture and contribute to shared, long-term goals of your organization. A discussion of your organization’s business and technology needs can establish a roadmap for future projects. The creation of that roadmap can, in turn, flow into a conversation around budget planning.
An effective MSP will understand the demands, business cycles, and priorities of your organization. Essentially, MSPs want to do a good job but they aren’t always engaged by their client in a way that allows for that. Only when an MSP has that level of information, and is engaged in that way, can everyone work together effectively, and the MSP can meet your goals and timetables.
Create a robust, quality communication system that clearly defines decision rights and proactively address issues, challenges and concerns. To be successful, the environment should enable collaborative working and open communication. By appointing the key client and service provider leaders that drive the relationship process and communicate to stakeholders, the relationship will be in support of your long-term business mission and objectives.
In an effective relationship the key is to manage by FACT rather than perception, as the latter leads to mistrust and ongoing conflict. Service reporting should be considered an ongoing process focusing on the ability to “slice and dice” information for decision making purposes. Your reporting should also be linked to the management information system that supports the relationship and should take a “balanced scorecard” approach.
Relationships inevitably encounter issues, obstacles and challenges as well as opportunities. Establish robust governance processes and forums early on to increase and maintain the level of trust between organizations.
Trust is vital. Treat your MSP like you would your IT manager. ”Many times the value of the MSP service can be hindered by technology that doesn’t work the way it is meant to, or a technology provider that is unable to customize for your organizations’ needs. That is why it’s important to trust in your MSP and consult them with any goals or concerns you may have. Your MSP has a wealth of experience in dealing with a range of vendors and products, so they are in the best position to provide you with an integrated solution, tailored to your needs.”1 Give them general direction, and then let them do what they do best – manage IT.
Entrusting your IT to an MSP can be a difficult decision, but as long as your MSP is reliable and secure, it may very well be one of the best business decisions you’ve ever made.
By considering these elements, organizations have the foundation for a genuine partnership that, with the right access, ongoing conversations, and collaboration, can make a positive difference to the success of their organization. Agreeing together on the definition of ‘a successful partnership’ must be one of the first steps for a long-term, genuine partnership.