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4 Deadly Sins of IT Service Providers That Lack Vision and Strategy

Nick Cavalancia

This is the sixth blog of an eight-part series intended to help small and midsize organizations understand what they should expect from their Managed IT Service Provider (MSP), recognize signs that it may be time to switch, and identify what they should look for in their next MSP.

No business can survive if they stagnate. Organizations need to grow revenue, become more productive, launch new products, address new markets, and increase customer satisfaction to survive and thrive.  And that means the technology you have in place today may not be what you need tomorrow. But, as every business that is going through some form of a digital transformation knows, it’s no longer wise to scale the business and then deal with the tech; it’s needs to be planned the other way around.

So, you rely on your Managed IT Service Provider to be a visionary and an advisor, to work alongside you to determine what should come next for your IT environment, when it should happen, and a plan for getting there. But many MSPs lack the needed depth and breadth of skills, or the strategic experience that would translate into foresight to help craft and execute a plan to implement solutions that aid business growth. At best, without vision and strategy, your MSP simply addresses tactical break/fix issues and can never be a true trusted IT ally

So, how does a lack of vision and strategy hurt your business long-term?

There are 4 deadly sins of IT Service Providers that lack vision and strategy:

  1. They Aren’t Looking for Risks in Your Business – Every business faces IT-related operational and security risks.  Top tier MSPs understand this and add value by actively identifying and prioritizing risks and presenting options for mitigation. If you’re not having discussions around aspects of the business where you are vulnerable (e.g., no resilience plan for your on-premises email, or users falling for phishing scams and infecting your network) and what to do about it (using Office 365 for email and Security Awareness Training, respectively), it’s clear your current MSP isn’t focused on your future and a true partnership.  The most visionary MSPs use intelligent automation technology to mitigate many of these risks in real time through self-healing.
  2. They Aren’t Advising You on Things They Don’t Sell – A true partner who’s in it to make you successful is concerned about every aspect of your business’ technology, including the parts they aren’t going to make a dime on.  Why? Because they are invested in your success – whether they make money on it or not. An MSP lacking the vision to even see the importance in being your trusted advisor on all things tech doesn’t understand the value of relationship over revenue.
  3. They Simply Throw the Tech They Know at Your Problem – While some of your business needs are common (such as the need for email), parts of your operations are unique.  Your growth strategy is based on where you’re seeing successes and not just a cookie-cutter path. If your MSP is simply putting your “round peg” needs into their “square hole” services, rather than strategically assessing what’s the right answer to meet today’s needs and be flexible to meet tomorrow's needs, your business growth is being stifled.
  4. They Aren’t Thinking About the Next Level of Your Business – The operational processes, technology and skillsets that got you to where you are today may not help you grow tomorrow. MSPs with a vision have experience in managing IT operations that are more efficient, secure, productive, and scalable than what you have in place today. They should be listening to you about your needs more than talking about new services, and communicate a vision of both what to do next and why it will be better for your business.

As your business evolves, your Managed IT Services Partner needs to be a key asset in helping you achieve success, or it’s time for them to move on.  The good news is you don’t need to wait until you’re “ready” to grow; you should be seeing a sense of vision and strategy from them today. If you’re not, it’s time to start looking.

So, what constitutes “vision and strategy” in your current MSP?

Use the following questions to better understand whether your current MSP has the foresight to take your business to the next level:

  • Has my MSP discussed risks in my operations that I’m unaware of? MSPs who have seen it all before should be discussing potential security, efficiency, and business resiliency issues they see (that you don’t) and how to address them.
  • Is my MSP more eager to give me a quote than to listen? An MSP has their own perspective but needs to be aligning the solution with input and context from you. A discussion about “what’s next” shouldn’t be a one-way conversation of them telling you what to do.
  • Do I believe my MSP is even thinking about my future? Lots of MSPs are just fancy “break/fix” shops; you have a problem and they solve it.  The right MSP is thinking as strategically as you are – or more.

Questions to Ask Your Next Managed IT Service Provider

When you are looking for a new MSP with the vision and strategic insight to grow your business, use the following questions to help identify one that has what you need:

  • What does your typical engagement with a customer look like? This open-ended question is specifically designed to allow you to hear whether the MSP talks about taking care of technical problems, or whether they provide holistic management of your IT for today’s and tomorrow’s needs.
  • How do you determine what the right solution is for your customer? You definitely don’t want to hear about how their one solution is so great that it meets everyone’s needs. The right MSP has experience in many options and listens to the customer’s business needs, selecting the right solution that can easily address those needs today, but also gives the customer room to grow seamlessly.
  • Would you give me an example of how you transition customers as they grow? The right answer includes seeing problems with the current mode of operations, lots of listening to the customer regarding how they want their business to change with growth, and a sense of strategy and control throughout the process of doing the work of leveling up the customers IT environment.

An MSP that provides vision and strategy is a true partner that helps you grow your business and mitigate risks.  They have earned their stripes through helping scores of small and midsize organizations navigate the complexity of IT.  They understand the need to proactively identify opportunities and risks, well before you even ask about what to do next. MSPs with a vision for your business are invested in your growth not because it brings them more revenue, but because it strengthens the relationship, drives business results and is the right thing to do.

In our next article, we’ll take a look at how to tell if you’re not seeing an appropriate amount of value for the dollars invested in your MSP and how to make sure your next MSP definitely delivers.