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Building a Successful MSP Relationship

Oct 17, 2016 | Rob Pfeifle | Managed Services
Building a Successful MSP Relationship

A managed service engagement is more than a vendor delivering a service to a client; it’s a partnership built on a shared vision of success. Inviting a Managed Services Provider (MSP) into your environment is a significant transition that affects not only your internal IT department, but also your end-users and your organization as a whole—both day-to-day and long term. Building trust in any business relationship can take time, but knowing how to prepare for your engagement can help you maximize your relationship with your MSP from the very beginning.

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There are several best practices that you can observe to facilitate a smooth transition and a meaningful partnership before your engagement with your MSP begins: 

  1. Choose Your MSP Wisely
    Every MSP is different, and the partner you choose will have a drastic effect on the outcome of your engagement. Develop selection criteria to help you find an experienced MSP with the right level of collaboration and services that fill any existing gaps.

  2. Assess Your Internal Processes
    In order for your MSP to help you improve your processes, they will need to be up to speed on your current workflows. Spend some time thinking about your current processes and documenting them before you engage; doing so will allow your MSP to identify areas of improvement quickly and begin making concrete suggestions.

  3. Establish Clear Goals
    The sooner your MSP knows exactly what you want to accomplish, the sooner they can point you in the right direction. Be specific about your most outstanding pain points, as well as any secondary benefits you hope to achieve. Additionally, be clear about when you want to meet your goals, so your MSP can help you prioritize initiatives and implement services appropriately.

  4. Draw the Line Between Your MSP and Internal IT
    It’s important for your internal IT department and your MSP to establish shared goals, but you can maximize productivity by establishing clear boundaries. Remember, your MSP’s responsibility is to manage certain IT tasks and projects so your internal team can focus on their core competencies. Make sure to delineate which projects your MSP is responsible for.

  5. Decide Where Your MSP Fits into Your Corporate Culture
    Strong MSPs will do their best to fit into your corporate culture without crossing any boundaries. In order to make that assimilation easier, be clear about where and how the MSP fits into your office environment. Once your MSP has a good understanding of your organization, they should take special care to find the right people and resources to match your corporate culture. This ensures a seamless and collaborative transition when building a partnership with your MSP.

  6. Be Open and Receptive to Change
    You’re working with an MSP to improve your company’s IT processes, and change is an inherent part of improvement. It can be intimidating to change the way you do things, but trust that your MSP will only recommend changes that can help your company reach its goals. Be sure to manage your employees’ expectations about the types of changes they can expect to see.

  7. Think Carefully about SLAs and KPIs
    Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) help you ensure service quality. SLAs are agreements between the MSP and your business, and they indicate the level of service expected from the engagement. SLAs work best when defined mutually, and they are often re-evaluated yearly based on the MSP's performance. KPIs, on the other hand, are measurements conducted on a regular basis to evaluate trends and make adjustments to the MSP's service delivery. It is important to choose SLAs and KPIs carefully because they help you and your MSP decide which initiatives are working well and which services need to be revisited.

What Happens Next?

Building a successful connection with your MSP can turn a simple service engagement into a lasting partnership. But more importantly, it opens the door to more meaningful Continual Service Improvement (CSI) efforts down the line. Check out our post, You're Working with an MSP: Now What?  to learn more about what to expect as your MSP relationship progresses.

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