So, you’re frustrated with your IT support (or lack there-of) and have concluded you need to either hire or change managed services providers. There tend to be numerous professional IT management providers in and around most sizable cities, but how do you narrow those down to an MSP with which you can have a positive and productive partnership – one that can really help make your business more successful?
I’ve been working in the IT service industry for almost a decade, while MyITpros has been in business for more than 24 years. In that time, we’ve learned a lot about what makes a successful IT partner relationship – some of which you may find surprising.
Here are our top five items to consider before you sign on an MSP’s dotted line:
Mission, values and culture
Most people believe evaluating MSPs on their technical acumen, experience and know-how is the most critical part of choosing a new MSP. While it is certainly important to gauge potential IT partners’ technical chops, finding a company with a clear mission, compatible values and a strong cultural fit is equally important. However, mission, values and culture are almost always neglected in the selection process. So, what makes these elements so important?
- Reason No. 1: At MyITpros, we understand that your MSP isn’t supposed to be a separate, outsourced IT provider. Rather, we aim to become a partner and an extension of your business. With this in mind, you need to find an MSP that prioritizes the same values and fosters a similar workplace culture.
- Reason No. 2: All companies experience IT issues or outages at some point, meaning your employees are bound to run into frustrating, productivity-hampering situations from time to time. When that happens, you’ll want to your IT partner to have a people-focused service culture that extends beyond solving the technical problem with urgency to calming your employees in an empathetic way.
- Reason No. 3: When evaluating the top few IT providers in your area, you’ll generally find that they have similar technical capabilities. To choose the cream of the crop, focus on mission and core values to get a better sense of what each contender will be like to work with.
Agreement or contract terms
I can’t even count how many times I’ve spoken with business owners who’d decided to switch their IT provider, only to find they had signed a binding one- to three-year contract that was prohibitively expensive to break. The best MSPs do not need long-term contracts to retain their clients – the stellar service they provide does that for them.
If you’re considering an MSP with a long-term contract, it’s important to clearly understand the time commitment and how to get out of the partnership if the need arises. If the agreement is month to month, find out the MSP’s client retention rate to get a sense of client satisfaction.
Also, look for service guarantees that have teeth to them and offer some sort of money-back assurances.
Many business owners are unaware that roughly 60% to 80% of IT management costs typically involve user support, while monitoring and updating servers, computers and antivirus programs only comprises about 10% to 20%. At MyITpros, we see about 15 to 20 companies a year that don’t realize their providers have no incentive to preempt or resolve issues quickly and efficiently because they are getting paid hourly. Needless to say, these plans rarely result in happy clients.
Service model and methodology
Look for an easy-to-understand explanation of the provider’s service model and management methodology, and make sure it addresses the following questions:
- Will you be consistently served by technicians who know your business and IT setup before you ask for support?
- How will the MSP make sure you won’t have to explain your issue to multiple people before someone can help you?
- Will someone be responsible for proactively evaluating your IT tactically and strategically on a prescribed, regular basis?
- Will regular service reviews take place to ensure your needs are met?
Because most small or medium-sized businesses do not have the technological knowledge or understanding to properly evaluate the technical capabilities of an IT management provider, evaluating client satisfaction levels is key. If an MSP is able to make clients happy, the company almost assuredly has the technical chops. Use the following factors in your evaluation of this important metric:
- Client references: Try to get references from businesses of a comparable size to yours that operate in a similar industry, and be sure to ask if the provider has been able to proactively, quickly and efficiently reduce and resolve issues
- Online reviews: Good providers will typically have a number of positive online reviews on Yelp or Google+
- Client testimonials: Usually found on a provider’s website, testimonials can provide a deeper level of insight into the provider’s practices
You’ll also want to consider the length of time that the company has been in business, the number of clients under management and, as noted above, the client retention rate.
I hope these tips can guide you in your selection of an IT management firm that will serve as a successful and enduring business partner!