Whether you’re selecting your first managed IT services provider or evaluating your options, finding the best provider for your needs is easiest if you ask the right questions. As you meet with vendors and weigh your options, answers to the following questions may help you determine the best partner to suit your business needs.
1. How do they define “Managed IT Services?”
While the term itself is becoming more familiar, the fact is that different companies manage IT differently. Ideally, a Managed IT Services Provider (MSP) operates proactively, not just reactively. While many MSPs patch, monitor, support, and provide consulting all for a fixed monthly price, this falls short of the expectations that you would have for a full IT department. Just as you wouldn’t buy a car without a steering wheel, you shouldn’t chose an MSP without direction: the delivery of an entire IT department, which sets your business on a course to meet objectives, and scales with growth.
2. How do they provide Managed IT Services?
Ask to see their plan – which is not the document outlining monthly/quarterly deliverables. While you should review and understand that document, the best MSPs will be able to show you their proven process, and how it helps each client meet their unique business goals and requirements. You can get an idea of a provider’s process by the topics they discuss.
If they have a weak process (or none at all), the discussion might center on the tools they use, for example particular backup services or antivirus software. A company with a strong process will talk to you about your objectives, soft costs, and the ROI that can come from your IT investment. Conversation with this partner will focus on you, what you want to achieve, and how you’ll drive there together – not on them and what their tools can do.
3. Will they regularly visit your location?
If so, what does their agenda look like? What kinds of checks do they do? What kinds of questions will they ask, and what are their typical action items? If the MSP only addresses installations and repairs, they probably won’t be doing all of the activities needed to optimize your network and prevent problems from happening in the first place. Onsite visits should routinely include things that impact your business positively, not just fix things that are broken.
4. How do they backup their promises?
Engaging with a fully Managed IT Services Provider should result in less downtime, more confidence, improved performance, better security and increased ROI. What if this doesn’t happen? The kind of guarantee that you should look for indicates that you are in control of the continuation of the business relationship. Beware of contracts that lock you in for long amounts of time and give the provider the control. You can and should maintain control of how you might exit the agreement if the relationship is not working out.
5. Does the provider have experience with businesses like yours?
While it might not be necessary for the provider to specialize in your industry, you want to know if they have experience with the kinds of applications, regulations and processes you use to meet your customer needs. Ask about the size of businesses that they work with. Use these answers to determine if you are going to be their largest or smallest fully managed customer, or if you fit in their sweet spot. Follow up by asking if the same-size companies supplement their services with internal IT staff. This will help you ascertain whether or not you will quickly outgrow them, or if they can truly operate as a completely outsourced IT department.
6. How will they ensure that your IT costs are predictable above and beyond the fixed monthly fee?
Be sure that you receive the information you need to understand what is and is not included in the fixed monthly fee. For example, does “unlimited support” include both remote and onsite work? Is there a limit to the amount of monthly calls or hours you can get assistance? While improvements to your hardware and software are not addressed within the scope of monthly services, planning and budgeting around those items should also take place. The information that builds the budget should come from both the status of your Information Technology environment and your business objectives. This implies that the Managed IT Services provider should be involved in planning sessions with you and your management team. A secondary question would be how often will you revisit the budget and the plan to see if modifications or tweaks are needed. Rarely will a once-a-year meeting be enough to keep your budget on track.
7. How many of your total technical needs can this company truly help with?
Help desk services are invaluable for the majority of users, and a well-informed business strategy for any company looking to compete, but your full technology needs may go far beyond this. You’ll want to consider things like how your computer and technical supply needs are impacted by employment changes, how you replace equipment as it ages or expires, and how you embrace new technologies. An MSP with their finger on the pulse of new technology, as well as relationships with technical manufacturers and distributors, may be a strong asset to keep your business outfitted with the optimal hardware.
8. Are their services validated by a 3rd party?
Before you engage in a business relationship with a new company, you want to have confidence in their abilities. While testimonials and case studies are a great way to learn about how a managed IT services provider has helped other businesses, they don’t speak to their processes and business operations. An MSP which seeks verification by a third party is committed to industry best practices, sound business procedures and a high standard of service delivery. If you don’t see a mention of 3rd party validation, ask if the company can provide verification their offering meets industry standards.
9. Does the IT Managed Services Provider offer its employees a great place to work?
Studies have proven that people who are engaged at work want to be where they are, and are going to better serve their clients. Engaged employees are empowered to take care of customer needs, and take ownership of the results of their work, for clients and for their employer. Employee retention is a great indication of satisfaction so ask about the average length of employment, and how many employees have voluntarily left the company in the past year. What you don’t want to find is a revolving door where people come and go quickly.
10. Will collaboration with the IT provider move your business forward?
The most important question to ask in evaluating Managed IT Services Providers is one that you ask yourself — which one is going to best help our company achieve our objectives? Rank the managed service providers you are considering by how likely they are to have a positive impact on your business. You should have moved closer to the answer to this question if you have answered the preceding questions.
Partnering with a Managed IT Service Provider is a Big Decision.
Choosing the right one will have a positive impact on how your move your business forward. AKUITY provides outsourced IT department service with C-level IT guidance for a fixed monthly fee. Our proprietary approach offers companies a proven path to business success through technology. Contact us to explore how we can provide you with better IT results, and help you get from where you are now to where you want to go.