“An extension of your team” is a common phrase used by many managed service providers (MSPs), but is that really what you want? If you just needed to extend your team, you could simply hire another employee or a part-time contractor. However, when you seek out a managed service provider, you should be looking for something much more.
The value of an MSP
So why do you look for a service provider in the first place? Consider a few common reasons:
- You don’t have or can’t find the right talent to support a technology
- You realize a certain technology is not a core competency for your company
- You recognize outsourcing job functions lead to cost savings
- You don't need full-time support—just the right expertise on occasion
When a decision to outsource is made, seek something better and have higher expectations than you would for an internal team member. After all, you will be dependent on the third party to support one of your most critical systems.
Key considerations for you MSP decision:
- Technical expertise—above all, if you’re going to outsource a job function, ensure the MSP support teams are well versed in the technology for which they are responsible. Service provider personnel are subject matter experts and should deliver a higher level of execution than your internal team.
- Transparency—This seems obvious but isn't often seen in practice. For effective outsourcing, you need open communication, documentation of delivery, support tool access, regular status reports, weekly meetings and support processes that don’t hide issues behind a curtain. In other words, an MSP needs to go above and beyond with communication—and do it at a much higher level to ensure alignment.
- Relationship—The MSP employees assigned to your account should be a good fit from both a technical and personality standpoint. If you have concerns, the service provider should quickly address the issues and ensure proper resources are deployed. While it may be difficult for you to make internal employee changes, it should be easy to get the right MSP team.
- Flexibility—Are the business processes of your MSP flexible? Contracts should adjust to the client’s changing business needs. If something outside the norm is needed, it should not automatically trigger a change order. An employee wouldn’t charge you more just because they had to work on the weekend, so why should your service provider? Flexing resources up is easy, but what about flexing down? Service providers never like to reduce the value of their contacts, but as a customer, your needs may change and being locked into a rigid three- or five-year contract can be problematic.
- Accountability—with the many disciplines needed to support complex SAP environments it’s easy to understand how finger pointing happens. However, if a managed service provider claims to be an expert, they should never point a finger. Experts lead the discussion, identify potential solutions and follow up until the problem is solved. Every IT department could use more people like this, and there's no reason you shouldn’t expect it from your service provider.
If your team struggles with technical expertise, transparency, flexibility and accountability, do you really need just an extension of what you already have?
Then demand more. The right MSP is out there.