By Ntiva Editorial Team on Oct 22, 2018

Working With an MSP: How to Maximize Your Investment

For most businesses, outsourcing part of their IT needs to a managed service provider (MSP) can help reduce cost, increase efficiency, improve security, minimize compliant risks, and ensure access to the right skills and technologies.

However, in order to maximize your ROI, you can't simply hire any MSP and hope for the best.

Just like collaborating with any contractor or third-party service provider, you need to build trust and relationships with your MSP while establishing clear metrics to hold them accountable for the results you want to achieve.

Here's a two-prong approach to get the most out of working with your MSP:

Build Trust and Foster a Collaborative Relationship

Set the foundation of a mutually beneficial relationship with your MSP by cultivating a constructive collaborative relationship. Here's how:

Select an MSP That Meets Your Needs

Every MSP has its unique strength, approach, and philosophy. In order to get the most out of a working relationship, select an MSP that's in alignment with the values, objectives, and needs of your organization.

Doing so will ensure that the MSP can properly support your business growth by providing the technologies and services that are the best fit for your company.

Share Your Business Objectives and Internal Processes

Your MSP should be an extension of your IT department. The more they understand your internal processes and business objectives, the more effective they can be in implementing the right IT strategies for your organization.

Spend some time to clarify your business goals (in relation to IT) and document your processes. Doing so will help your MSP identify the most impactful improvements and provide suggestions for achieving the desired outcomes most efficiently.

Clarify Responsibilities

While your IT department and MSP should work closely together and share the same goals, there should also be a clear boundary so you can maximize productivity and avoid miscommunications or finger-pointing.

Delineate the responsibilities of each party so your internal IT team can focus on their core competencies (e.g., one-off projects that support strategic initiatives) while your MSP fills in the gap (e.g., day-to-day operations.) Establish clear processes and make sure there's close communication between the internal IT team and your MSP.

Assimilate Your MSP Into the Corporate Culture

A reputable MSP should select the most appropriate personnel and resources that meet your needs. The team should fit into your office environment and develop a seamless collaborative relationship with your IT department.

Your MSP should be introduced to your internal IT team and other critical stakeholders early on in the onboarding process so they can establish a constructive working relationship from the get-go. Leadership should be actively involved in this process to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Encourage an Internal Culture That Embraces Change

The introduction of an outside party, such as an MSP, often means a shake-up for your internal teams. Pave the way to a successful collaboration by building a corporate culture that's open and receptive to changes.

Trust that your MSP will recommend improvements that are beneficial to your organization and give your employees ample lead time to understand the positive impacts so you can get their buy-in and cooperation.

Define a Communication Plan

To effectively manage IT initiatives that involve your MSP, there should be a single point of contact between the MSP team and the internal team for each project. Having a clear communication plan will help reduce errors, avoid misunderstanding, and improve efficiencies.

In addition, define acceptable turnaround time based on the urgency of the issue and the communication channel to set the right expectations for internal stakeholders.

Hold Your MSP Accountable to a High Performance Standard

To make sure that your MSP is meeting your expectations, you need to communicate your business objectives and define a set of KPIs to measure the value they bring to the table. Here's what you can do:

Establish Clear Goals

You can't measure the impact of an initiative without clear goals that define what success looks like.

Communicate your business objectives and challenges with your MSP early on in the engagement so they can help you identify the best solutions, set realistic goals, and establish the appropriate metrics to measure the effectiveness of the efforts.

Set a Realistic Timeframe

After you have established your objectives, you'll need to set a timeframe for achieving the goals so your MSP can help you prioritize the initiatives and implement their services in a sequence that's most beneficial for your organization.

In addition, setting a timeline will help your MSP properly manage its resources to deliver the right kind of services at the appropriate time.

Set Expectations With an SLA

A Service Level Agreement (SLA) help you get on the same page with your MSP in terms of the kind of service expected, the service quality, ownership over certain functions, expectations for resolution times, and escalation procedures.

SLAs tend to be most effective when they're defined mutually through an honest and transparent process and re-evaluated on a yearly basis based on the MSP's performance.

Measure Performance with KPIs

"What gets measured get done" -- to make sure your MSP is delivering high-quality services, you need to establish a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) based on your business objectives and services outlined in the SLA.

Some of these KPIs include downtime prevention, mean time to repair, client satisfaction, call to response time, etc.

Unlike SLA, you should be reviewing these KPIs on a regular basis (e.g., monthly) to evaluate trends and make adjustments to the scope of work if necessary. Keeping a close eye on the KPIs will help you understand which initiatives are working well and what needs improvement.

Conclusion

Working with an MSP has many advantages, for example, you'll be able to leverage more business opportunities presented by new technologies and proactively manage your IT projects while increasing operational efficiencies and reducing cost.

Get in touch today to see how we can support your business-critical IT initiatives.

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