What makes a good managed service provider?

June 2, 2021
What makes a good managed service provider?
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A good managed service provider must meet a number of requirements. However, the assessment of a good service provider cannot be transferred to other companies without restriction. This article explains how you can find out which managed services provider is right for your company.

What is a managed service provider?

A managed service is an IT service. This is provided on behalf of a company by an external provider, the so-called managed service provider. The service is recurring, which means it is typically provided every month. The exact scope is defined in a service level agreement (SLA).

Managed services comprise a wide range of IT services, most of which are provided remotely. The advantage of this is that only the services required are actually purchased. In contrast to outsourcing, the company retains complete control over its own IT.

10 decisive criteria for evaluating managed service providers

Consulting competence in advance

The first important aspect when evaluating managed service providers is their consulting competence in the run-up to signing a contract. This is not only true if you are considering using managed services for the first time. Your future managed service provider should be able to advise you individually and specifically. This includes, for example, looking at your current situation, but also the goals you are pursuing with your IT strategy. Equally important is realistic advice on the scope of your required IT service.

Transparency of offer and ordering process

To make it easier for you to find your way around the managed service provider’s offering, it should be transparent and well-structured. The ordering process and the steps contained therein must also be clearly visible. Finally, the service provider must show you professionally how things will continue after you sign the contract: How will we work together during the transition and the subsequent regular operation? What can you expect from your provider and what support will they need from you? Clear expectations from the very first conversation ensure a partnership and trusting cooperation throughout the entire managed services process.

Contribution of the managed service provider to process optimization

By analyzing the current situation, the managed services provider has gained an insight into your company’s current steps and processes. On this basis, a good service provider will try to make a contribution to improving your processes. Of course, this is only to the extent that you wish. Suggestions and ideas for improvement can be well incorporated into your IT strategy. At best, this will allow you to streamline some of your processes in the future.

Managed services portfolio: Extensive, but not too extensive

In order to be able to provide the right offering for a wide range of potential customers, the portfolio of a good managed service provider should be holistic. However, it is not expedient to make the portfolio as extensive as possible. Before the service becomes poor or mediocre in quality, the services offered must be focused on the real competencies. Then it makes sense, for example, to focus on a few industries and their specifics (e.g., specialist applications).

Speed of IT service provision

Another criterion for evaluating managed service providers is the speed of service provision. The time to provision should be as rapid as possible, but also with appropriate quality. In general, however, providers who agree to any desired deadline on your part should be critically scrutinized. Either they have no experience or they want to win you as a customer at any price. Both can later lead to complications in the transition and in regular operations.

Support for the transition

A good service provider also supports you during the transition. The IT service must be set up and put into operation according to your requirements. It is important that the provider has clear responsibilities and contact persons. For example, a project manager, a main technical contact and a service delivery manager who accompanies regular operations and is responsible for service quality. Other supporting measures can include a common knowledge base in the form of an operations manual. But also testing for quality control, which is a mutual responsibility. In addition, the managed service provider must raise awareness of sufficient change management and provide support in the process.

Response times and availability

How quickly a managed services provider can respond in the event of a problem is an important evaluation criterion – especially with regard to worst-case scenarios. The provision of 24×7 customer support represents the basis of good customer service in this context. The availability of the services offered is also a sign of managed services quality. Short response times and high availability indicate a good service provider – if these are statements that correspond to reality. Security and stability of the services are just as important.

Always question how the managed service provider intends to meet these quality criteria. For example, one question might be: On what technological basis are the services based? Or: How many IT experts with which qualifications are responsible for providing and operating the IT service?

Scalability of services and flexibility

Another quality feature is the flexibility and scalability of the services offered. A professional managed service provider can offer different service packages for different requirements. As a prospective customer for managed services, you should not feel pressured by a service provider to book service packages that are far too large and that you may not even need.

Compliance with agreed SLAs

The service level agreements agreed between service provider and customer should be adhered to by both parties. A good service provider can be recognized by the fact that the agreements are adhered to independently and with the highest priority.

Price-performance ratio

An appropriate relationship between price and service provided should always be present in a good managed service provider. In addition, pricing must be transparent and clear. To get a feel for the costs and associated benefits of a service, a comparison between several managed service providers is often also beneficial.

5 steps on how to find out which managed service provider suits your business

Because of the wide range of choices, it can be difficult to select the right managed service provider for you and your business. Below we have compiled 5 steps with tips and questions that will help you find a suitable service provider for your company.

1. What is your own IT strategy? Where do I want to go?

First of all, it is important to become aware of where you want to go with your IT. What do you want your IT to look like in the future? On-premises in a managed scenario? Or a hybrid cloud or a multi-cloud after all? If the future is to be designed in a cloud, is a private or a public cloud better suited? Do you need applications that may only be available in a public cloud?

Once all the facts about the current situation and all the ideas about the future have been gathered, the question of whether an innovative or a “rock-solid” managed service provider is better suited can be answered. The decision between expert and generalist must also be thoroughly considered. In addition, you should consider the relevance of IT security. Is this decision criterion essential because your company works with critical, personal data? Then you should consider whether a cloud security expert as a managed service provider might not be the better choice.

2. Where do I stand with my IT today?

In the second step, analyze the current status of your own IT. Has IT grown historically and is it still entirely on-premises? Or have IT services already been defined and parts outsourced to private or public clouds? It is also important to clarify whether your company’s IT department already sees itself as an internal service provider. Or whether it is rather the provider and operator of the basic IT infrastructure.

In the latter scenario, it is important to determine whether your company needs a managed service provider to advise and jointly develop IT services and sourcing strategies. In such a case, appropriate experience and consulting expertise are required on the part of the service provider. Do you want to be advised by someone who is independent and who will not also implement the project for you afterwards? Then it makes sense to use an external IT consultant who can also design a tender for you if required.

3. How do I work (today)?

In the following step, record the current work situation. This includes, for example, existing processes and structures according to which your company already works. Is your IT department more of an initiator or implementer of IT projects in the company? Are you and your team already used to handing over IT responsibility? Both are important aspects for working with a managed services provider.

If there are already people in the IT department who know how to manage and involve service providers, it is much easier to involve a managed service provider. This allows the IT service provider to act directly as a kind of extended workbench. Finally, it is important to clarify how much external support is actually needed from the service provider.

4. What makes my company and my users tick?

Another important factor is the structure of your company. Is the structure hierarchical and top-down, or are there flat hierarchies and short communication and decision paths? Or Is the nose factor important in addition to an appropriate price/performance ratio? Is it important for the culture of your company to match the service provider on an interpersonal level?

Also an important aspect is regionality. Is it crucial for your company that the managed service provider is within reach? This may be the case, for example, if employees are still apprehensive about cloud technologies. By having the external service provider located on site, such uncertainties can be reduced more easily.

5. Which managed service provider is the best fit for my IT department?

Since it is essential for a managed services scenario that the company’s own IT department and the service provider’s project and operations team work hand in hand, the provider must be a good fit for the IT department. It therefore makes sense to involve your own IT team early on in your own IT strategy, the corresponding sourcing strategies, the service provider selection and all other steps. So you should always ask yourself which service provider is the best fit for your colleagues!

The search for a suitable managed service provider is not always easy and there are many factors to consider. Nevertheless, or precisely because all these planning steps have to be considered and thought through in advance, it can be an enormous asset for your company. Contact us now for a no-obligation initial consultation!

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