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.