So, you’ve made the decision to deploy IT managed services. Whether a simple support partner to provide additional expertise and problem resolution during business hours, or a comprehensive, 24/7/365 proactive monitoring and consultancy contract, you’ve recognised that managed services should save you time and money, enhance your IT capabilities and free up resource for a more strategic approach.
The next step, however, is choosing a managed IT services partner. Where to begin? After all, any potential provider is going to tell you that they offer outstanding expertise, experience tailored to the needs of your organisation, and the cost-effectiveness that is on the lips of every procurement manager. How can you choose between a series of partners that may seem very similar on the surface?
Here are some of the key questions you can ask to help make your decision.
What is your financial model?
This question is all about understanding how your proposed partner charges out its managed services. In recent years, there has been a dramatic shift towards ‘as a service’ models of IT, which essentially enable you to pay for resource as you use it, without making hefty upfront investments in software, hardware, licenses and so on. Such a model is usually the best choice for a growing business – but you need to be careful not to be locked into a pricing model which turns out to be restrictive later on.
Which best-practice certifications do you hold/which frameworks do you follow?
This question focuses on formalising the marketing-focused lines which every managed IT services provider will present you with. They may well boast a great range of technical expertise – but which vendor accreditations or certifications do they hold? They may well say that they work in a customer-centric way, or follow particular methodologies – but can they prove it? Look for standards like ISO 9001, which specifies requirements for quality management systems.
Which vendors do you specialise in working with?
Similar to the above, this question will help you understand which technology vendors and suppliers your proposed partner is most experienced in working with – and therefore where they can add the most value to your organisation. Clearly, you want your proposed managed IT services partner to be well-versed in the vendors you are already using – but you may well want advice on venturing into new areas too. This where vendor certifications like the Microsoft Gold standard are particularly useful in distinguishing between proposed providers.
What does your Service Level Agreement (SLA) look like?
SLAs are the frameworks by which you assess managed IT service providers’ performance. They are the benchmark from which you can determine whether you are getting an appropriate level of service – and they can form a benchmark for determining the performance of your IT infrastructure more generally. In short, the SLA your proposed provider uses is of critical importance. You need to understand how it works, be happy with the factors it measures and how visible those factors are to you, and ideally, you need to be able to tailor the SLA to suit your own needs.
How will you support my business goals?
This is the big one. The world of managed IT services contracts has moved on from them being mere ‘add-ons’ to your enterprise IT. The best of today’s managed services providers are true business consultants, advisors and partners. They should be prepared to attend board-level meetings within your organisation, getting to grips with your growth and development goals, and providing advice on how the right technology can support them. After all, enterprise IT is no longer a suite of tools enabling you to write documents and produce spreadsheets. It is a sophisticated world of tools and applications enabling genuine innovation, creativity and business intelligence – managed IT services providers should reflect that change.
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Topics: Managed Services