Yes, there’s no one-size-fits-all as far as expectations for a managed services provider are concerned. Every organisation is different, every scenario is different, and every managed services provider fills a niche.
But all managed services outfits must meet certain standards and expectations. Just like choosing a new car is a matter of preference, you need reliable brakes. We’ve found most managed services providers worth their salt offer five key competencies. Be sure you ask these questions of any potential managed services provider.
1. How can you help our organisation as the time comes to scale and implement customised solutions? Unfortunately, as you already know, no process is permanent. Providing you with a solution that addresses your problems is, in reality, only a portion of the managed services provider’s role. You need a managed services partner that can work with your business as it evolves and stay at the vanguard of technological progress.
Of course, many managed services providers will claim to do so and provide some examples of evolving with other clients. One of the most important methods to staying agile is a flexible service level agreement (SLA). Here’s where the rubber meets the road. If a managed services provider won’t offer a customised SLA, your scalability is limited. And if you see problems in the early stages of your managed services contract, a 90-day opt out clause will help you escape a bad business relationship.
2. How can you keep costs reasonable? When you shell out money for a managed services provider, you should expect human and technical capital that equates to a lower total cost of ownership than going it yourself. Ask about the technical expertise you’ll receive from your managed services provider. The managed services provider should offer qualified technicians to fill the gaps in your employees’ technical skills. Besides keeping headcounts lower, you can, in turn, dedicate your employees to higher-impact projects.
3. Who is my dedicated, local representative for certain issues? You may make a strong connection with a managed services provider’s rep, but what if that point of contact isn’t local — or even living on the same continent? For such a critical business relationship, you’ll want periodic face time. Beyond your main contact, ask about the teams that will provide on-site support. Are they within an hour’s drive? Or in the event of a technical emergency, will you face a significant wait for them to arrive?
4. How can you help me integrate IT solutions? Don’t assume your existing infrastructure and processes should be scrapped. A competent managed services provider will assess your technology, your business and your ambitions to determine what services should be integrated. Be sure any managed services provider you’re considering will provide such an assessment and work to integrate improvements that will provide the best-cost solution and quick user adoption.
5. Do you offer a guaranteed response time? A flexible SLA is a must for scalability, and it must include a guaranteed response time in the event of an incident or emergency. If a managed services provider gives you a line about “You can count on us to be there when it counts” but won’t put that commitment on paper, walk away. Your organisation can’t count on a verbal agreement when it comes to your operations or customer-facing technology going down.
Managed services providers that can fully answer these five questions will leave your organisation better-placed to take advantage of the cost efficiencies, scalability and IT streamlining that can come from managed services.