How to Work Effectively with a Managed IT Service Provider

by Jones David

It’s estimated that around 75% of businesses outsource some of their IT provision. For some, that will be just a small part of their support – for others, their whole IT infrastructure will be managed by an external company.

Whether you’re relying on a managed service provider to answer you support calls – or they’re working with you as consultants to help reduce your IT operating costs across your international sites, you’ve got to be able to work with them efficiently.

Here, we’ll look at a handful of questions you should ask a managed service provider – to help you gauge whether or not they’re going to be a good fit with your company.

Have you worked with companies like ours before?

Before you sign any agreements that relate to working with a managed service provider, it’s important that you consider whether they’re going to be a good fit, based on the businesses they’ve previously worked with.

For instance, a provider who’s exclusively worked with large engineering companies might have an impressive set of skills, but will they understand the requirements of a small retail operation?

Perhaps they will, but it’s important that you ask and get a feel for whether they’re confident providing you with the IT help you’re going to need. This is where testimonials come in useful. Don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to companies like yours and talk to them about where they get their IT support.

Can you fit with our company culture?

Although IT underpins virtually everything modern businesses do, it’s understandable that such a complex subject isn’t always fully appreciated or understood by senior management teams.

As a result, it’s rare to find a full management team that fully understand the terminology that a managed service provider is likely to bring to the table. If this is the case for your business, you should find a provider who is skilled at boiling complex subjects down to the essentials.

This can be quite rare. After all, an IT provider’s core business is tech, and that’s not always a language that non-IT businesses speak. Talk to potential providers and don’t be afraid to ask if they’re used to keeping things simple for the sake of working effectively with the wider business.

Can you keep up?

Virtually every business has goals that relate to growth. It might seem some distance off yet, but the re’s a time when companies hit their first million-dollar year – and with every additional dollar that goes through your business, IT becomes more and more important.

The question is, can a managed IT provider keep up with your anticipated growth?

It might seem like a problem for another day – but your IT support can quickly become an indispensable part of your business, so it’s important to make sure your goals are at least somewhat aligned for the medium- to long-term.

Talk to a managed service provider about your goals. Don’t be afraid to be ambitious. If they’ve helped other companies achieve the same, the re’s a good chance you’re going to be in safe hands moving forward.

How likely is it that you’ll stay ahead of problems?

Downtime can kill businesses.

That might sound like a dramatic statement, but when a company loses its mission-critical systems the impact on customer relationships, sales, and security can be catastrophic. Over 70% of businesses will be the victim of a cyber-attack at some point each year and, in some cases, the damage to the business will mean they never re-open their doors.

The thing is, it’s not just cybercrime that can be damaging. Poorly configured systems and human error are just as likely to bring things to a halt – so you need a support company to be able to stay on top.

Talk to a potential managed service provider about whether or not they can provide round-the-clock systems monitoring. If they can, the chances of losing your most important applications or systems will be massively reduced.

Will you work with our existing team?

Working with a managed service provider isn’t always something that a company decides to do from the get-go. In many cases, businesses will rely on existing IT knowledge within their staff team to get things up and running – and they might formalise that further down the line, creating a small and fairly basic IT team.

The thing is, some managed service providers don’t want to integrate and instead want to make sure they have full control over your systems. It’s understandable – if they’re going to be taking responsibility for keeping the lights on, they’re going to want to know that it’s their own skilled staff members who are doing the work.

This model doesn’t work for all businesses though. It’s also understandable that you’d want to keep some control of your IT in-house, so if you’re going to be keeping some IT responsibility, you’ll want to make sure that your provider is happy to work hand-in-hand.

How much will your service cost?

Ultimately, outsourcing your IT support has to make financial sense – and to work out whether or not this is going to be the case, you’re going to need a detailed breakdown of what your monthly payment will get you.

For this, most managed service providers offer a ‘service level agreement’ – a document that outlines exactly what you’re going to get for your agreed price – and what’s added on.

Typically, a managed service provider will provide support and maintenance, with additional network design and alternations coming at an extra cost. That said, some providers will offer a monthly allowance that means you can build some on-site engineer hours into your monthly costs if you anticipate that being a requirement.

Whatever suits you, it’s important that it’s agreed upon and written into a robust working agreement. It’s crucial from a cashflow point of view – and it’s a crucial step in ensuring your IT provision is always receiving the support you need to make sure you can keep driving your business forward.

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