How To Hire a Managed IT Services Provider Without Sacrificing Control
Let’s face it. The very idea of hiring a managed IT services provider and handing control over to someone you can’t see can seem daunting. At the same time, working with a managed IT servies provider can also be very rewarding for you, your end users, and your budget.
It is more like moving from a quarterback role to a head coaching role. You are calling the plays, and you need your players to execute the plays in order to score.
There are several things you can quarterback during the negotiation and implementation phases that will help you ensure that you are not sacrificing control. Here are a few.
Define your vision
Before you begin your IT outsourcing voyage, make sure you understand what it is you are looking to achieve. Are you trying to control your budget? Is your goal to improve response time for end users? Is there new technology that will be implemented as a result of outsourcing? It is important to keep your motivations clearly in front of you as you move forward so that you can gauge your progress towards achieving those goals.
If you haven’t already done so, take some time to write down what it is that you are looking to achieve by outsourcing your IT. Then go back and look at your list and think about how you will measure whether you are doing what you were trying to do. If you can’t measure it, keep working on the definition until you have something measurable.
As you begin the contract negotiation process, keep your goals in mind. For each goal, there should be a metric, and you should have a conversation with your MSP partner to determine how you and they will measure their achievement of that goal. Think of it like creating a performance improvement plan for an employee: Create clearly defined outcomes with measurements for determining the success or failure to achieve the outcome.
Whenever possible, there should be financial incentives defined in the contract for successful completion of the goal. You may also wish to include penalties for failure to meet the agreed-upon targets.
When you are reviewing the proposed services agreement, compare it to the notes you took while defining your vision. Does the agreement address each of the objectives that you identified? If not, then go back to the MSP and update the agreement.
Keep in mind that your role should be defined in the contract as well. You should determine what their expectations should be for you, and what the consequences are for you not doing your part. After all, they can’t do it without you.
When negotiating the contract, include language to define how you will communicate with the MSP and how they will communicate with you. Define an initial schedule for meeting to discuss how they are doing with respect to their goals, and for determining what you can do to enable their success. This, too, is like the process you use with an employee on a performance improvement plan.
After you have been working together for a while, you can decide together whether you need to continue to meet on the same frequency.
You will also need to communicate with your end users to verify that they are receiving the level of service that they expect. You may want to implement an IT user group as a way for your user community to communicate with you regarding ongoing issues. Depending on the results of the discussion in the user group, you may or may not want to include the MSP in the conversation.
If you want to be successful in outsourcing some or all of your IT to an MSP, you need to do more than just hand the ball off and expect them to succeed. You will need to work with them to identify areas where they need to improve and to keep them focused on improving. If there are business processes which are preventing them from completing their goals, you may need to push for changing those processes.
Like a good coach, keep the following in mind:
- Not every play needs to result in a touchdown. Sometimes the goal is to run out the clock, and sometimes it is to keep the ball out of the opponent’s hands. You want to keep your MSP focused on doing the day-to-day things that provide value. If you do that, you will be more likely to be successful.
- Each player has a role, and you need to keep those players focused on their roles. Your role is to be the coach. If you find that you are doing day-to-day activities that should be handled by the MSP, you are not contributing to the success of the team.
- Remember what game you are playing. It sounds trite, but you manage a soccer team differently than a baseball team.
Together you win
The most important thing to keep in mind throughout the outsourcing process is that you can’t win without them, and they can’t win without you. And the business loses if either of you don’t do your part. Keep in mind that you are a team, and work towards achieving your goals together, and you should have a successful outsourcing experience.