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Choosing a managed IT service provider, whether for the first time or by moving on from your current provider, is a complex and nuanced decision. Every provider varies slightly in its approach, service offerings, depth, and cost. But there are several objective criteria by which a business can judge the quality of their current MSP.

This piece explores those criteria, giving you a clearer framework for determining whether your current MSP is working for you.

Note that this is not primarily a piece about inhouse vs MSP — if you’re still debating the merits of the IT managed services model or a managed IT Help Desk, we recommend reading up on the three posts linked here.

Instead, we’re talking to firms who are already working with an MSP or who are actively looking for MSP providers. If that’s a good description of your business, use these nine measurements to identify if an MSP isn’t working for you.

Trust: the most important element

First and most importantly, consider whether you’ve lost trust in your current MSP provider. If so, it’s time either to regain that trust or to move on.

Trust is foundational to any healthy business relationship. But consider the implications if you cannot trust your managed IT services provider: this company has detailed knowledge of your operations. Intimate access to your data. The keys (metaphorical or literal) to your entire IT infrastructure.

They could, whether willfully or through ineptitude, destroy your IT environment — and possibly even your business.

Trust is key, and the good managed services firms will earn it and keep it. As far as what to look for in an MSP, trustworthiness certainly tops the list.

Communication and collaboration is poor

Our next sign that it may be time to move on from your current MSP is the state of communication and collaboration. Again, an MSP is vital to smooth business operations. If they aren’t communicating with you on terms you set and in language your team can work with, they aren’t supporting you in the way you need.

The same can be said of collaboration: does your MSP truly work with you, or are you forced to conform to their methods, tools, and systems? A truly collaborative partner evaluates your current IT environment along with current and future business needs, and only then customises an approach that will lead to success.

Lesser partners design one system and attempt to cram all clients into that system. You aren’t identical to your MSP’s other clients — and you shouldn’t be treated as if you are.

Is your IT Managed Service Provider an extension of your team?

Next, evaluate whether your IT managed service provider is functioning as the extension of your team that they promised to be.

Practically every MSP will tout the value of IT support, speaking along the lines of “we’ll take over your IT support functions and become an extension of your team.” But has that proven to be the case? Or does it feel an awful lot like you’re simply taking a number and waiting in a long queue of other clients?

Here again, is the MSP willing to operate in the ways your team already operates? Or does your vendor demand you conform to their system?

Is it a collaborative environment between both teams?

Moving beyond a mere extension of your team, an MSP ought to be a truly collaborative partner with your firm, especially if your agreement involves a mix of responsibilities (with your IT group retaining some and the managed services provider taking on others).

So ask yourself: is your current MSP relationship truly a collaborative one, where your team’s input is heard and valued? Or does your working relationship feel more like “the MSP’s way or the highway” — where every task and process must fit into the MSP’s predefined workflows?

True collaboration involves input, as well as give and take, from both parties, leading to a better end result than either party could have generated independently. It’s possible when working with an MSP, and it’s up there on the list of what to look for in an MSP.

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Is your MSP on the same page as your company strategically?

Thus far we’ve been speaking primarily of tactics: the specifics of what gets done and how it gets done. While tactical issues are crucial, they will never align quite correctly until you and your MSP are strategically aligned.

To determine this, define your goals for the partnership. What are you hoping to get out of the relationship? How do you envision getting there? What will an ideal end state look like?

These questions get at the strategy element, not just the day-to-day tactical decision-making. If you and your MSP cannot reach a point of agreement on the “how” questions, you are not strategically aligned.

Is the IT environment well managed?

One of the most obvious signs of dysfunction, a poor IT environment reveals problems somewhere in the relationship.

These problems are not always completely the fault of the MSP, of course: a firm that simply will not spend what is necessary on IT will reap unpleasant results no matter who is doing the IT work.

But where you believe your side of the equation to be what it needs to be, management problems in the IT environment may suggest a weak or poorly aligned MSP.

Look for these common IT environment issues and whether they are present in your current setup.

Internal employees are having a poor IT experience

Most firms working with an MSP offload helpdesk and IT support tasks to the MSP. This takes significant day-to-day pressure off the internal team, but it only works if the MSP’s service level works. A poor experience here may look like employees being subject to long wait times or clueless first-level phone support.

If you’re hearing consistently negative employee feedback in their interactions with outsourced support functions, that’s a sign of trouble.

Inadequate budgeting or poor use of funds

The money question is a little more complex as this is an area where your business has direct input, but often the problem at some level does fall to the MSP.

Many unspecialised or undifferentiated MSPs attempt to compete on price, luring in clients who seek to pay the lowest possible price for managed IT services. The trouble with this approach goes far beyond “you get what you pay for”, though. When an MSP is itself constantly cash-strapped (due to setting bargain-basement rates), that provider is unable to deliver the needed level of service or must ask for exceptions or extra payments to cover certain needs.

There’s also the possibility that your MSP is not using your (adequate) funds optimally, leading to a seemingly inadequate budget that is instead being mismanaged or misspent.

It can be difficult to know conclusively where the problem lies on this point, but often a conversation with another MSP will shed light.

Constantly firefighting and not able to think long-term

When you work with an MSP, that relationship should result in someone having the margin to think strategically or long-term. Sometimes that’s the MSP; other times it’s the client business. Either arrangement can work and has its own strengths.

What will not work, on the other hand, is an environment where neither party can devote resources to that long-term strategic thinking. If you’re paying an MSP to handle the day-to-day so you can do the long-term work, then you shouldn’t be stuck constantly putting out fires. And if you’re relying on your MSP for both the day-to-day and the strategic, then your MSP provider must allocate appropriate resources to both. If you find them saying “we can’t get to y because of x” more than on rare occasions, they are not managing your IT environment well.

The MSP is not evolving alongside your business

Next, consider how significantly — and how quickly — the business landscape evolves. Some of the products, services, and tools you use every day couldn’t have existed five years ago — and perhaps couldn’t have even been imagined.

Your ideal MSP must continue evolving as you do — yet do so without chasing every new trend or pushing unproven solutions. If the approach, tools, and systems your MSP uses look just like they did when you first signed a contract five or ten years ago, your current MSP is not evolving and could be holding you back.

The market conditions have changed but the MSP doesn’t have the capability to adapt

Along the same lines, sometimes the entire market shifts. Your business may exit one category and enter a new one. You may need to invest in a new, tech-infused service channel to remain competitive. That channel didn’t even exist when you signed with your current MSP, so it wasn’t a consideration at the time.

Or perhaps as your company matures you see the need for additional information security or cybersecurity resources. Many MSPs offer some level of service here, but is this specialty something they do well?

The question now is whether your MSP can adapt to your changing needs as well as those of the broader IT and cybersecurity landscape. If you’re hearing “we can’t” or “that’s not something we support”, it’s likely time to move on.

System failures leave your employees incapacitated

Ultimately you are, at minimum, paying for a well-functioning status quo. If your MSP is unable to maintain the uptime and availability you need for your business to thrive, it’s failing a core test.

Outages happen and systems fail, no matter your IT model. But a quality MSP will get you back up and running quickly, not leave your employees incapacitated for long stretches of time.

How the right MSP can help your bottom line

With the right MSP, your business can thrive without worrying about IT concerns, boosting your bottom line through enhanced productivity, morale, and synergy. Most organisations also save on costs compared to managing all functions with an internal IT staff, and they gain better focus when they don’t have to handle staffing, hiring, and training new staff.

How CBS can help with IT Managed Services

If your MSP is no longer working for you, it’s time for a change. Canon Business Services ANZ (CBS) offers top-tier IT managed services throughout the ANZ market with a focus on mid-market and enterprise organisations. With a workforce of over 1,700, you’ll never run into issues of scale, skill gaps, or capacity.

Read about some of the customers we’ve helped get ahead of IT complexity and move their business forward, Wellways Australia, Pepper Money, and Campbelltown Catholic Club.

CBS also offers a comprehensive range of IT and business transformation service, including IT consulting services, IT infrastructure management, and much more. If your organisation needs more than just managed IT, CBS is well positioned to build a customised and comprehensive package of services for you. 

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