There's no doubt that, these days, you've got a lot of options when it comes to managed service providers (MSPs). With so many firms vying for a share of the market, it's easy to become overwhelmed in that huge stack of options. Understanding what sets one MSP ahead of a competitor has several layers, one being how the MSP views and offers program management as part of their service. With that in mind, here's a rundown of the things a mid-market business should be looking for when it comes to program management.
Why is the Right Program Management the Key to Finding the Right MSP?
You should get transparency into their own processes, into what security measures are taken, what remediation is available if something goes wrong, and the like. You should be able to see what each team (your IT and the MSP's team) is doing, and make sure that duplicate efforts are not being made.
Visibility and collaboration are the cornerstones of transparency. If your MSP has a centralized tool that allows you to see what steps are being taken to protect your network, you will be aligned with yourMSP and stay in-the-know.
Things go wrong. It's a fact of life, and owning up to that is a sign of clear integrity. Does this MSP do what it says it will? Take the lessons learned from the transparency and look for how they're applied. Are these lessons just marketing-speak to get you in the door? Or are these principles you can count on? You'll likely have to check with previous customers on this one, and it's even better if the company boasts a service-level agreement (SLA) that spells out exactly what will be provided. An SLA that includes talk of rebates or free service if violated is best of all.
If your MSP boasts that it is a proactive and reliable partner who honors its commitments, then that's exactly what you should be looking for. The MSP should believe in transparency and collaboration as much as you do, and should be committed to reaching your goals with you.
Who's watching? The greatest principles are only as good as their latest application. Look for the right oversight that doesn't let small problems go past unchallenged, and for a company that's always working to improve. These are people you want handling your services. Are they using asset tracking systems? Do they use remote monitoring? What kind of confidentiality programs do they have in place? Look for a company that has oversight programs in place, not just for their own operations, but for your data they'll have in their care.
Look for old successes to better predict a path of future success, when you're actually working with them. Look for firms that have been in the market for a good while. With an Insight Research Corporation study suggesting an 11.6 annual growth rate, it's easy to see a lot of that will be new, untested firms. While every firm has to start somewhere, it's worth holding out for a firm with experience and proven reliability.
We all know problems can happen at any time, but will the MSP be ready to respond? Look for a 24 / 7 support staff. It's comparatively rare, and a business who had to call for support on a Saturday or on Thanksgiving will make mention of that when talking about that company. The costs of downtime average $5,600 per minute, according to a Gartner study, and though that depends a lot on a company's circumstances, no company will argue that the sooner problem's fixed, the better.
The best firms will commonly have the best tools. We've covered some of these already like remote monitoring capabilities, but there are several others a firm should have on hand. Virtual infrastructure operations, disaster recovery services, application management tools, end user computing functions, colocation, and a wide range of others will give you access to the fullest range of options, and better present a solution that's made specifically for you.
This actually goes hand-in-hand with better tools. It's one thing to have the tools, but will you be allowed to use them? Check into the company's user agreements, and look for a company that will allow you to change things up when you need to. A company that offers scalability options is a great start here; when you can buy what you need, when you need it, and then stop paying for it when you don't need it, it's a good sign. It doesn't do much good to have the latest tools if you're still working from a contract written five years prior.
There's no doubt that all of these points contribute to the likely success of MSP program management. At the end of the day, however, none of this matters against one key criterion: can we afford them? While there's certainly a case to be made for even an expensive service if it means more revenue than expense, there's never a way to spend more than you have. Pricing agreements should be predictable, and again, transparent. While there's room here for flexibility, especially if scalability options are involved, the rates involved should also be clear.
How Do I Get Started Finding the Right Level of MSP Program Management?
That's a lot to look for, and finding all of it in one place might be a tall order. One great place to start looking for the best in MSP is with us at UTG. We maintain a staff of over 50, and work with dozens of individual service providers to help make sure you get the very best. Just get in touch with us to get the ball rolling, and get an MSP that can live up to your expectations.