How to Tell Whether an IT MSP Is a True Partner or Merely a Provider

Many companies are coming to terms with the fact that trying to meet all their technology needs in house doesn’t serve their business strategy. Some still struggle to get by with piecemeal solutions; others have fully embraced the concept of outsourced IT, with varying degrees of success. No matter where on that line you stand today, here are some points to consider when either seeking or evaluating an IT managed services partner (IT MSP) for your business.

Why IT MSP partnership matters.

Here’s the problem with à la carte technology solutions: a lack of partnership means nobody has a wide-eyed view of your overall technology strategy and how it converges with your business goals. Patchwork solutions are largely transactional, leaving little opportunity for the provider to assist with alignment and strategic direction—and that matters. When technology doesn’t just align but converges with your business strategy, you get sustainable, scalable support for success.

So how do you evaluate your current or potential technology partner? The number one concern to address through the following questions is this: Do they have your best interests as their prime directive?

1. Can they help optimize existing technology and leverage resources you already have?

Good IT managed services partners recommend your best solutions, not the ones that will benefit them the most. That means assessing what you already own to see how it might fit into your overall business strategy, then either showing you how to make the most of it or suggesting better fitting solutions.

Some IT MSPs are incentivized to provide services that may not be the best fit for your company. For instance, if they recommend adding several on-prem servers with required maintenance contracts when you were interested in a cloud migration, that demands further investigation. As the client, be empowered to take a “prove it to me” approach to any proposed solution and expect an IT MSP to do exactly that. And if they can’t? Move along.

2. Do they expand your technology outlook and understanding?

Look, if you knew all there was to know about technology today, you’d be running a tech company, not outsourcing to an IT MSP.  The fact is that nobody today knows all there is to know about technology because it’s complex and constantly evolving. What you’re looking for in an IT MSP team are well-versed people with broad perspectives, lifelong learners who aren’t married to one particular way of doing things or a single platform.

When your IT MSP can connect you with a just-right solution that you didn’t even know existed? That’s exactly the type of on-top-of-it team you’re looking for.

3. Are they proactive, or reactive?

The whole point of an IT managed services partner is to get you out of constant reaction mode. To eliminate the need to constantly put out fires and enable you once again to wholly focus on your business strategy. You can’t do that with the old standard break-fix model where you have contact with your provider only when something’s broken. Break-fix is the opposite of holistic IT.

Downtime is more costly than anything else with the speed of today’s economy—not to mention the cost that constant reaction mode has on employee morale. A proactive IT MSP puts processes in place to address potential concerns—cybersecurity, interoperability, accessibility, scalability, disaster recovery—before they become actual problems. Their proactive approach is the foundation of everything they do, influencing the very solutions they recommend and provide to you.

4. Do they have a people-first approach?

Here’s a somewhat unpopular opinion among IT MSPs: the technology is secondary to the people. Technology for the sake of technology is irrelevant; if your teams won’t embrace a technology change, it doesn’t matter how slick it is. That’s why the best solutions begin and end with the people who’ll be using them. A true partner will take the time to meet your teams, see how they work, talk to them about what they think is working well and what they’re working around, and get a feel for how they’ll adapt to change.

Then they’ll select solutions that fit your teams while meeting your technology needs and help you navigate change management, moving toward full adoption of all changes. Because a solution that isn’t used is no solution at all.

5. Do they strengthen your technology strategy for sustained success?

Addressing one specific operational system may not leave room for expansion, and you can find yourself having to do it all over again when you need that operational system to communicate seamlessly with another. Which, let’s be honest, is going to happen if you’re growing.

A valuable IT MSP partner will not just meet you where you are but have an eye on where you want to grow and implement solutions that will grow along with you. For any proposed solution, ask them how it will meet your needs now and what must happen for it to continue meeting them in the future.

6. Do they know when an MSI approach might serve you, and can they effectively manage one?

Back to the point of how no one entity can know all there is to know about technology today, likewise no one provider is best at everything. Good IT MSPs can identify when your organization’s needs demand additional expertise and may be better met through a multisource service integration (MSI) model. An IT MSP with a broad reach will have its own connections with best-in-class specialty providers, and when an MSI model is appropriate serve as the manager for multiple vendors, ensuring they work seamlessly together to deliver tailored services for your organization.

Technology today moves too quickly to stay in a service relationship that isn’t doing all it can for you. Fearlessly raise these concerns with your current or potential IT MSP. Your organization’s success depends on it.

Looking for even more guidance on your IT MSP search? We wrote an eBook to help you with that.

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