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Maximizing the Benefits of Your Managed Service Provider With 8 Proven Strategies

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Companies of all sizes, spanning the globe, are increasingly relying on Managed Service Providers to navigate the ever-changing digital landscapes. In today’s era of technological disruptions and evolving business models, businesses are increasingly opting to transfer their IT operations to Managed Service Providers (MSPs). This strategic move holds the potential to ensure long-term IT and enterprise success through insights and expertise offered by MSPs. 

To fully capitalize on the advantages of an MSP partnership, it is crucial to approach the strategy with the right mindset from the very beginning. Bob Lamendola, the Vice President of Infrastructure and Engineering Services at Ricoh USA, emphasizes the importance of establishing a solid foundation to navigate any rough patches that may arise along the way. Before committing to an IT outsourcing strategy, let’s explore eight essential strategies to extract maximum value from your MSP partnership.

  1. Foster Transparent Communication and Shared Goals

Building a successful alliance with your Managed Service Provider (MSP)d relies on the foundation of transparent communication. It is crucial to openly express your goals and needs while ensuring that the MSP understands and aligns their approach accordingly. This collaborative effort not only creates a positive experience but also establishes a mutually beneficial partnership.

It is just as essential to align your objectives with their approach. Clearly articulating your goals allows the MSP to comprehend and support them effectively. By investing time and effort into developing a shared vision, you lay a solid foundation for collaboration, ensuring both organizations are working towards the same desired outcomes.

Transparency should be the backbone of your MSP relationship. Encourage open and honest dialogue, creating an environment where both parties can freely share information, concerns, and ideas. This transparent communication enables effective problem-solving and ensures prompt resolution of any challenges or issues that may arise.

Successful MSP partnerships are rooted in principles of organizational effectiveness. By embracing methodologies like communication, collaboration, shared goals, measurement, analysis, and continuous improvement, you foster an environment of growth and innovation. When your MSP relationship extends as an integral part of your organization’s structure and culture, it strengthens the partnership, paving the way for long-term success.

  1. Adapt a Proactive Strategy

Perform thorough research to ensure you make informed decisions. Dedicate time to studying successful Managed Service Provider (MSP) initiatives implemented by organizations similar to your own.

Brigadier General (retired) Gregory J. Touhill, the first federal Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and current adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy, advises benchmarking within your industry sector. Survey the market to identify the most effective MSPs that cater to your specific sector. Seek advice from your peers and organizations that have already outsourced to MSPs to understand the associated risks and best practices. It’s important to meticulously document your requirements and consider bringing in an external consultant to ensure nothing is overlooked.

Ensure that your Request for Proposal clearly outlines how performance requirements will be measured and includes all non-negotiable prerequisites. Maintain the right to conduct independent third-party audits. Touhill points out that some contenders may back away from bidding when faced with such scrutiny, indicating their marketing may surpass their ability to effectively serve you.

While many MSPs provide standardized service templates, they may hesitate to accommodate requirements that deviate from their pre-established norms. Touhill warns against compromising your requirements and introducing unacceptable risks to your organization. If an MSP cannot meet your needs, it is advisable to seek an alternative provider.

3.  Scenario Analyses:

The primary reason IT leaders opt for an MSP is to allow their teams to focus on strategic activities, making it essential to have a comprehensive understanding of your needs from the outset, according to Krishna Kutty, managing partner and co-founder of Kuroshio Consulting, a management consulting firm.

When embarking on an MSP search, it is crucial to identify and document both your current and anticipated requirements and expectations. For instance, if you presently require standard services but anticipate the need for advanced MSP services like mobile management and application monitoring in the future, ensure that both types of services are included in your list of requirements. By considering both standard and advanced services, you can select an MSP that allows you to seamlessly transition and leverage these services as your needs evolve.

To define your specific requirements, Kutty recommends conducting scenario analyses before engaging with MSPs. These scenarios should encompass various aspects such as system upgrades, introduction of new software, workforce expansion, disaster recovery, and more. By analyzing these scenarios, you can determine your risk thresholds and acceptable timelines, which will then serve as valuable insights during your contract negotiations with potential MSPs.

  1. Prioritize the Needs of Your Business

When selecting an MSP, prioritize those that prioritize your business needs over cost considerations. Dan Kelly, founder and senior partner at The Negotiator Guru, a specialized firm in contract and supplier negotiations, advises against the temptation to choose a cheap MSP that merely meets your basic requirements. 

According to Kelly, businesses are constantly evolving and nothing remains stagnant for long. As your business changes, your IT needs will also evolve, requiring additional resources from an MSP that may initially seem unnecessary. To prevent disruptions in critical operational workflows during periods of growth, it is advantageous to partner with an MSP that offers a wide range of easily deployable and competitively priced IT services.

  1. Collaborate Instead of Hiring an MSP

Choose a provider that goes beyond being a mere service provider and instead acts as a valuable partner. Look for an experienced advisor who can effectively guide your modernization and optimization efforts.

 According to Ray McKenzie, founder and managing director of Red Beach Advisors, a technology management consulting group, it is crucial to select an MSP that goes beyond the traditional break/fix approach and offers strategic planning to ensure your business remains competitive. It is important to find an MSP that demonstrates a commitment to prioritizing your technology, security, and cost interests, rather than simply focusing on billing for services or offering outdated technology.

In summary, seek an MSP that not only provides services but also actively collaborates with your organization as a trusted partner, dedicated to your success and future growth.

  1. Compatibility is Key

 Prioritize compatibility when selecting an MSP, especially in the midst of rapid technological advancements. Many enterprises, particularly those with substantial in-house IT teams, recognize the need for an MSP to explore and implement innovative approaches.

According to Greg Bentham, Vice President of Cloud Infrastructure Services at Capgemini North America, partnering with an MSP allows you to concentrate on your core competencies as the specialist in your industry, whether it’s manufacturing, retail, utilities, or any other sector.

Bentham emphasizes that the success of an MSP engagement lies in the people involved and the shared values, beliefs, and cultural goals between the two parties, enabling them to overcome challenges together.

  1. Settle for Nothing but the Best

To make the most of an MSP partnership, Bentham advises CIOs to inquire how the prospective MSP intends to support the in-house IT team in focusing on their core competencies. Additionally, he recommends evaluating how the MSP cares for its own employees, as this approach is pragmatic, rooted in shared values, and emphasizes the impact of individuals.

When selecting an MSP, prioritize their commitment to excellence as it indicates a reliable and fruitful relationship. Anil Kumar Krishnananda, an advanced solutions consultant at technology advisory firm Guidehouse, emphasizes that the most important attribute of an MSP is their dedication to service excellence. 

To assess an MSP’s performance, Krishnananda’s organization examines real-world examples of superior service and enduring relationships. They also conduct scenario gaming and reference checks to ensure the provider’s capability to address any gaps in services.

In addition to service excellence, an MSP’s innovation capability is crucial, particularly in areas such as digital transformation and operational efficiency. Krishnananda highlights the importance of looking for how MSPs embrace intelligent automation, encompassing artificial intelligence, analytics, and robotics.

  1. Strategize

To avoid unpleasant surprises and potential vendor lock-in, it is crucial to think strategically when engaging with an MSP. Many customers encounter unforeseen challenges because they did not plan tactically during the initial stages. When negotiating with an MSP, it is essential to address key aspects such as the transition to another vendor at the end of the contract, the incorporation of technological advancements into the services, and the management of security.

Brigadier General (retired) Gregory J. Touhill emphasizes the importance of including clear guidelines in the negotiations to address these critical areas. By thinking strategically and proactively addressing these concerns, you can minimize surprises and ensure a smoother and more successful engagement with the MSP.