The idea of working with a managed service provider (MSP) appeals to many thanks to the sheer range of potential options involved. While there are major differences among MSPs, some points of program management are at least somewhat common. So the question remains for those interested: what kinds of options can you expect when working with an MSP?
Program management streamlining tools.
Streamlined business flows better, and provides better outcomes. Many MSPs provide the tools that businesses want. Streamlining tools are geared toward improving program management, which allows the end user to see what steps are being taken to settle issues that may come up, and prove that projects are actively moving along.
A wide knowledge base.
Working with an MSP helps ensure that you have access to the full range of industry knowledge. While providers might only offer skills or knowledge in one particular area, an MSP can offer that same level of skill across the range of everything it offers. It has to in order to keep a user base on hand; who would work with an MSP who didn't know its own line of offerings inside and out? That knowledge base is effectively part of the MSP's stock in trade, and necessary to its own ongoing operation.
A Cadence Call is, essentially, exactly what the name suggests: a call designed to ascertain the cadence—or pace—of overall operations. Such calls can be scheduled according to the end user's tastes—commonly weekly, monthly, or even quarterly—and help provide transparency into operations and accountability that what's being promised is being delivered.
One of the best things about an MSP is that it's a specialist operation. It focuses on providing whatever services that it provides, with a side note of billing for the relevant services and back-office matters. Since the bulk of the operation focuses on providing services, the staff has both experience and skills in those areas, giving you ultimately the best chance at success with a staff that knows what it's doing.
Protection against IT gaps.
This is especially true for smaller and mid-market businesses who need to ensure their technological load-out is a match for firms in their markets. An MSP provides the latest equipment; it has a vested interest in doing so. With the latest equipment on hand, the end user knows that it will have the same level of technological advancement as most other firms, and won't be working with outdated material in a competitive field.
Standard operating procedures.
While this doesn't work on every front, it's often worthwhile to have a standardized procedure to respond to certain issues. This removes a lot of fog and uncertainty from the system overall, and improves transparency to improve trust between the MSP and its end user. Plus, for those who look into co-management options, having a standard procedure in place provides the ability to respond to certain conditions independently.
Service level agreements.
The service level agreement (SLA) is a common feature with many MSPs, and represents a clear advantage over anyone who doesn't offer it. The SLA is effectively a guarantee of certain levels of performance, along with clear remedies should those levels not be achieved. It's a way to better ensure that you'll have all the uptime or capacity that's needed, and if not, you'll have some form of consolation prize in a refund, free service or something similar.
Working with an MSP allows a business to tell what its costs will be from month to month. That SLA tells a customer what to expect, and if the customer should ever need more than that, it becomes fairly simple to define what's needed, and how it will impact costs. Those who need to plan a budget or create a forecast can therefore count on the numbers offered for the next several months. While occasional price hikes are part of the picture—is anything the same price it was 10 or even five years ago?—these usually come with some notice and remain where they are for some time.
Centralized oversight tools.
The saying goes: if it can't be measured, it can't be managed. Oversight tools are therefore a standard requirement for operating with an MSP. Program management benefits from having the ability to measure what's going on in current operations to ensure that everyone's getting what they expect out of the deal. Some providers even offer specific centralized tools for especially high-level users.
An MSP is only as good as the services it provides, and as such, this puts a premium on support that acts to head off problems while they're still small. An MSP has a vested interest in providing services to the best it can; even if it doesn't actively have an SLA like we discussed previously, it does have competition. If it can't keep up with the customer's expectations, SLA or no, the customer will simply go elsewhere. Thus, the MSP must have proactive support just to keep customers from jumping ship.
How Do I Get Started With an MSP and Take Advantage of the Right Program Management?
An MSP can offer its users a wide range of options, from streamlining tools to the most up-to-the-second knowledge about a product line. When you're ready to get involved with an MSP, just get in touch with us at UTG. We've got a wide array of partners ready to help build exactly the plan to suit your needs.