How to Choose Your Managed IT Service Partner

trusted IT partner

How to Choose Your Managed IT Service Partner

It’s finally arrived – the long-awaited budget approval to hire outside managed IT services to help your IT team balance the heavy load they’ve been carrying. Gone are the days of working overtime and missing vacations because there’s simply no one else available to handle your company’s IT systems in your absence.

So, while you’ve been given the go-ahead, where do you start in finding your organization’s ideal managed IT service provider? Out of the multitude of choices, how do you select the best partner to take IT responsibilities off your plate, so you can concentrate on running your business?

We sat down with Protocol Networks’ CIO/CTO, Philip Rogers, to discuss what you need to look for in a managed IT service provider.

What are the signs that I need a managed IT service provider?

Unless your organization has a glut of IT people just looking for things to do, you can use a managed service provider (MSP). CIOs can look at an MSP partnership as an opportunity to make sure their staff doesn’t get overworked by taking whatever can be done by an outside service for a reasonable price and using it to their advantage.

What types of services should a CIO expect from an MSP?

MSP is a generalized term. If you ask 5 CIOs what an MSP provides, you’re going to get 6 different answers! Everyone has a different answer because it depends upon the provider.

The first step for a CIO is to determine what they’re looking for specifically. For a company that does payment processing, an MSP will do something completely different than if you’re a company that does web hosting. A CIO should have a clear understanding of what they need from an MSP partner and drive the conversation to find an MSP that meets their needs.

What types of services are best suited for an MSP vs. their in-house IT team?

The best uses of managed IT services are projects or systems that use industry-standard equipment, technology and software, are reproducible and, ultimately, documentable. In-house teams need to handle nascent technologies within an organization and projects that have some sort of core visibility to their leadership team.

Think about your own house – it’s acceptable to outsource having somebody come in and clean because you have a mutual understanding of what is key to the success of that project. On the other hand, you wouldn’t have somebody come in from the outside and just independently choose what color to paint your walls. You’re going to have some input there. It’s the same sort of thing with an MSP and an in-house IT team.

It’s always good to dedicate your internal people to systems and projects that have an increased level of visibility.

What are some red flags when you’re evaluating managed IT service providers?

Red flags include:

  • An MSP that does not tell you no
  • An MSP that does not admit that something is not within their core capabilities
  • An MSP that doesn’t ever push back on things when you’re engaging with them

A good MSP partner is going to be able to tell you when your baby’s ugly. They’re going to have to come back and say, “Listen. This isn’t necessarily what you want to hear, but this is what you’re going to need.”

How do I keep my internal team feeling engaged and valued when bringing in an outside partner?

This is a lot harder than it sounds. I recommend getting your team involved early in the conversation, so they have input. Most people have a problem if they feel like things were sprung on them or if they feel they had no input during the earlier stages of a project.

The more people you can get involved with earlier, the better. Now, everybody doesn’t have to have an equal say, but they should all have some input.

Wouldn’t it be more efficient to just hire another staff member than to hire a whole MSP?

Sure – as long as you break it to them that they can never have vacations or get sick. One person can’t provide the same 24/7 services that an MSP can. If your MSP partner has somebody call in sick, that’s their problem, but your organization is still covered. If somebody goes on vacation or changes their career, it’s the MSP’s headache to find people to fill the vacancy. When you’ve got 1 or 2 people doing something that the MSP could do, you’re really opening yourself up to some headaches when life steps in.

What’s the best way to build trust with your MSP at the beginning of your partnership?

Being honest during the earliest phases of the partnership is essential. The more a potential partner for an MSP glosses over their issues because they don’t necessarily want to showcase where their flaws are, the less successful that MSP partner is going to be later.

You have to be upfront about your real problems – the things that keep you up at night. By the same token, the MSP has to be realistic about their capabilities. Both sides will be happier with the partnership if they go into it with an accurate view of the situation.

Protocol Networks provides managed IT services with a reliable team of experts who understand your business. We build a deep understanding of your challenges, goals and business plan so you can offload your internal IT team without worry. Please reach out to us any time with any questions you may have about managed IT services.

How COVID Improved Remote Help Desks

help desk computer and headset

Within a few weeks of COVID hitting, the United States labor force was transformed into a work-from-home economy, with an unprecedented 42% now working from home. Without this rapid shift to remote work, pandemic lockdowns would have been short-lived, as the entire economy would have collapsed. U.S. organizations’ ability to maintain operations while keeping the virus at bay with work-from-home employees illustrates how important a remote economy is to combat COVID as well as future pandemics.

Rising to the top as an unlikely hero to workers at home is the IT help desk. While employees were in the office, they could just walk down the hall to ask their colleagues at the help desk any questions they had. Or, they poked their head over their cubicles to ask the person next to them for how-to advice. Now, that has changed.

IT Help Desks Connect Workers

In today’s work-from-home offices, employees now turn to help desks more often and for longer amounts of time per call. Asking your help desk “What exactly does the function key do?” may feel embarrassing face-to-face. With the extra boundary of being safe at home, the question now gets asked. Ultimately, workers are becoming more educated about the technology they use as their reluctance to ask “stupid” questions has been diminished by working from home.

Help desks now support workers 24/7 instead of the traditional 8–5 routine of working at an office. Employees work whatever hours they can throughout the day and night as they juggle working from home, homeschooling their children and the stress of being locked down.

What CIOs Need to Know About Help Desks

Working from home has opened up the field of IT talent, as it’s not restricted by geography, while also comforting managers that a remote-work option is viable when society returns to normal.

While help desk metrics are skewed by the current circumstances, here are our observations to help you plan how to man your help desk.

1.     Support calls are longer, more frequent

Support calls are taking longer so response times are longer. In other words, people are on hold longer. The upside is that help desk professionals are enhancing employees’ feelings of connectedness to their companies while teaching them more.

2.     Employees are becoming more IT savvy

IT help desks are providing more resources like articles and helpful websites for work-from-home employees. Workers are more likely to spend time with this information while at home, so they are building their basic IT skillset. And, because they’ve had to do things on their own, like setting up their home office, employees have greater confidence in their IT abilities.

3.     IT help desk communication skills are improving

Help desk support personnel typically haven’t had to be very conversational beyond “Hi, how are you?” in the past. Now, as the calls for help are more frequent and longer in duration, IT support professionals have to come out of their comfort zones to build conversational skills.

Need a Help Desk?

Help desks support users day in and day out, dealing with a multitude of questions and challenges covering passwords and the copier to more difficult technical issues like recovering data and accessing the cloud. Manning your help desk with one or two internal IT people puts a drain on other necessary IT functions and also limits the knowledge base available to your end users.

Managed IT services can provide your organization with an outsourced help desk with multiple tiers of support for all topics and user questions.

Help desk personnel are often forgotten in the best of times. But, they are leading the way when it comes to communicating during the pandemic.

Open Your Help Desk

Looking for options to augment or revise your help desk strategy? Call 877.676.0146 for a free consultation or contact us online.