Most enterprises choose a managed services provider (MSP) to ensure smoother operations, improve productivity, outsource risk, and let in-house IT work on growth and core business needs. A good MSP offers excellent value by proactively addressing gaps in your IT infrastructure, monitoring, software, and strategy before they become business-impacting, whereas merely outsourcing your application support in approximately the same cost bracket can quickly become a serious liability.
Assessing your MSP requires sound judgement and clear criteria. Here are four questions you should ask to quickly determine whether it’s time to find a new MSP.
Does your application stack frequently break down or require intensive manual upkeep?
The most fundamental component of managed services is the enforcement of a service level agreement (SLA) that defines acceptable levels of system uptime, response times for incidents of different severity levels, and other service guarantees. Some businesses might be okay with up to a few hours of downtime, but the larger your user base and the more diverse your business needs, the more critical it is to keep your systems accessible around the clock and limit downtime to a scheduled maintenance cycle.
If your MSP’s issue response time or quality of service varies significantly from case to case, or if their failure to innovate while solving system problems leads to a recurrence of the same challenges, then their approach to support is probably a hurdle for the growth of your business.
Is your relationship a one-way stream?
This is a pretty easy way to spot a limited-ROI support provider. If their team is only busy when something’s gone wrong or when you make a request, or if they provide limited support beyond the issues raised, that’s a sign that you’re in a one-way relationship in which you’re spending your valuable time driving the support team to do their job.
One of the biggest differences between traditional tech support and managed services is proactivity. Instead of taking an exclusively “break-fix” approach to keeping your digital assets in order, any MSP worth its salt will spend most of its time monitoring your environment, performing stress tests, and soliciting feedback from your organization’s managers and business users.
Without waiting for things to go wrong, your MSP should be providing recommendations on:
- potential operational bottlenecks
- expected changes in workload for various business applications
- how you can automate and integrate your digital tools to accomplish more, spend less, or both
- best practices and permanent solutions that reduce intensive manual workloads
Digital systems are complex, so they occasionally malfunction. However, if your MSP’s team spends most of its time putting out fires or applying band-aid solutions to recurring problems, it’s time to look for a different provider that can recommend long-term solutions and new ways to generate revenue from digital technology.
Is your MSP constantly trying to upsell you?
There’s no doubt that there’s value in adopting new technology. As cutting-edge digital solutions enter the mainstream, they become affordable ways to control costs, expand to other markets, or attract more customers. Stubbornly refusing to adopt these tools can put your organization at a serious disadvantage. A good MSP will quickly identify digital tools that will help your business grow in ways you never imagined.
However, a less scrupulous MSP might suggest that you always buy the most expensive version of business applications and continually pour large amounts of money into additional services. Or they might keep suggesting customization projects that will make your business software do things that you’re not sure you need.
Sweeping infrastructure changes are more appropriate when your current application stack has reached its full potential or when your company’s needs have clearly exceeded its capabilities. As long as it serves a wider range of organizational objectives, you should always consider making small, incremental improvements to your current platform.
Are better technical specifications your service provider’s #1 solution to every problem?
It’s easy to get lost in all the jargon that technology experts throw around. You might wonder how more IOPs or extra bandwidth will help your business grow. You aren’t alone. Investing in network bandwidth or more powerful hardware is the easiest (and usually the most expensive) way to enhance performance. However, if your infrastructure sizing is correctly aligned with application usage, there are many services like database optimization, caching, performance tuning, OS optimization, code optimization, and others that evaluate and incrementally tune components in your infrastructure to provide performance gains.
Ultimately, more powerful digital technology is only as useful as the business results it produces. You need positive outcomes like revenue growth, costs savings, improved time to market, higher customer satisfaction, or faster order fulfillment to justify your IT spend.
If your MSP can’t identify ways that their efforts have translated into real business value, they aren’t pulling their weight. You need a provider that clearly aligns your digital strategy with your business objectives.
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you should consider partnering up with another MSP. If you answered “yes” more than once, switching providers represents a great opportunity to add value to your organization. Switching MSPs can be hard at first; an incremental, phased transition is one way to make the switch smoother and achieve a higher degree of operational excellence.
For further information on world-class managed services, please contact Visionet.