Your guide to choosing a managed IT service provider: Key tips for making the right choice

Selecting a managed IT service provider is not like buying a product. 

You are not looking for a one size fits all solution for your business. Instead, you are looking for a partner, someone who can move your organization in the right direction.

This is why the process can be so overwhelming. To make your search easier, we’ve prepared these key tips for making the right choice when selecting an IT MSP. 

Here are the following categories that you’ll need to cover when making your choice:

Covered Sections:

  • What questions should you ask your potential new IT partner?
  • Does your new potential partner have relevant experience in your industry?
  • Should you look for an immediate fix to your IT challenges or a longer, more strategic approach?
  • Does your potential MSP partner have proper communication processes?
  • Can you see the MSP fitting within your current workflow?
  • Does the MSP you’re researching have a solid track record?

Asking the right questions: Where to start

First things first, when selecting a managed IT service provider, the process is no different than interviewing a new candidate. You have a role that needs filling, you have a candidate who says they can fill that role – in short, you need to assess which candidate is the best fit for your needs.

What does that practically mean?

Don’t be overawed by gimmicks and flashy sales approaches. Instead, stick to your principles, keep your objective in mind, and, above all, ask the right questions.

These questions range from the general to the highly specific, but might include some of the following:

  • What security features do you offer? 
    • Security is not something to be played with, particularly when it comes to IT. You need to be safe in the knowledge that your chosen IT MSP can deliver the goods.
  • How will you streamline to reduce costs? 
    • The right IT provider will be a partner. They will work with you to streamline your processes and reduce operating costs for your business. These are just two of the areas in which the MSP should provide value directly to your business.
  • How much uptime can you guarantee? 

Every minute counts in a data recovery scenario – to the tune of $137 to $427 per minute for small businesses.

Ensuring the provider knows your industry

Although it is often discussed as if it’s a homogeneous whole, IT is something of a nuanced discipline. 

For example, if you work in aged care provision, and need managed IT services to support this, the specific services you benefit from are going to be somewhat different to those of a catering firm or software company.

To put it simply, you need to make sure that your chosen candidate has the chops not only to deliver excellent IT services but to deliver these managed services within your specific industry. 

Once you have established this, you can drill down into the specifics of what they were able to achieve and how. 

Relevant: Tomorrow’s IT: Why Managed Services are Crucial in 2019

Be sure to ask for client testimonials or referrals. Ask specific questions that speak to your individual pain points to see if they’ve actually helped solve the problems in the past.

Focus on long term growth and scalability

It’s tempting to examine your business, assess its short term or immediate needs, and then find an MSP that can tick those pain points off. However, it is worth remembering that your business is not a static one and is, in fact, dynamic and evolving. 

As it grows, its needs and requirements will grow and evolve alongside it.

For you, that means working with an MSP who not only recognizes this but who is ideally positioned to meet these needs. Question candidates about this – tell them your business goals and your targets and ask them how they envision your IT needs will change in response to this. 

Another tip – don’t limit your line of questioning. 

Ask them about industry trends, if applicable. What changes do your MSP candidates see in your industry in the next five or ten years? How will their services reflect these changes and support growth? 

A forward-thinking approach is critical here, and you need to make sure that your chosen provider can accommodate this.

Make sure proper channels of communication are in place

Communication is critical in business, with the cost of poor communication hitting $37 billion in 2018 for large-scale companies. Writing for Inc.com, Michael Schneider demonstrated how vital communication really is.

“400 surveyed corporations (with 100,000 plus employees in the U.S. and U.K.),” Schneider wrote, “estimated that communication barriers cost the average organization $62.4 million per year in lost productivity.”

However, the news was not all bad. There are positive benefits to be gained from effective communication;

“Leaders who possess effective communication skills produced a 47% higher return to shareholders over a five-year period,” Schneider continued.

While there are many factors that make high quality communication so important to the corporate world, one of the most critical is the foundation of a good relationship between strategic partners.

Consider this in relation to your managed IT service provider. IT is so crucial to your organization that you cannot afford any delay, any misunderstanding, or any miscommunication in relation to these managed services. 

This means crystal clear communication, every step of the way – without fail.

How will this be supported? What channels of communication are open to you? Is there live text support, reinforced with an emergency hotline, a library of static user resources, and a dedicated account manager? Or is support provided in another way? 

Learn all about these channels and decide how this will integrate with your current infrastructure.

Consider the provider’s position within your set-up

On the subject of integration, it’s vital to remember how the client-to-MSP relationship works. 

Of course, you are outsourcing to this provider, but they should not be viewed as an ad-hoc third party operating completely outside of your business. The moment you sign up for their services, there is a shift in the relationship. They become a part of your business and a part of your organizational workflow.

You need to know how this integration will take place and if their aims, objectives, and identity align well with your own. The best MSP candidates will have corporate values that fit in with your own and will be able to provide seamless integration with your current processes and protocols.

And, if they don’t, they will either work to adjust theirs to meet yours OR to bring yours to a more scalable level. 

Work only with trusted partners in the industry

Sometimes, you need to do a little external digging and research to find the best fit. 

The best managed IT service providers will already be known in the industry and will have a strong track record of achieving solid results for organizations just like yours.

In the digital age, this is very easy to assess. 

Simply go online and look for social media accounts (LinkedIn in particular) or consumer review aggregator pages. From here, you will be able to see what other figures in your industry are saying about your prospective candidate. 

Ask around, get in touch with former or current clients, and find out who is recommended. Word of mouth is perhaps the most reliable resource when it comes to choosing an MSP partner.

See how Michell Consulting Group can help you

At Michell Consulting Group, we pride ourselves in our ability to offer best-in-class services and solutions for IT and ERP customers. Our vast experience in helping Florida businesses succeed has earned our reputation as one of the top MSPs in the state. We can provide you with a more detailed plan and IT guidance that will help you build a better, more scalable business with a better bottom line. To learn more, contact us or call us today at 305-592-5620.