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4 Ways to Tell You’re Not Getting Enough Value from Your Managed IT Service Provider

Nick Cavalancia

This is the seventh 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.

Like every organization, you have a limited budget to spend on IT. Every dollar spent needs to be an investment in the success of the business – which means you need to be seeing a return on your IT spend. Good Managed IT Service Providers deliver value in several ways including:

  • Maximize the uptime of your business-critical IT systems
  • Resolve issues promptly to keep employees productive
  • Protect your business against data loss and security breaches
  • Introduce new technologies that can add value and reduce costs
  • Help you leverage technology to achieve your strategic goals and business objectives
  • Provide world-class IT support while enabling internal resources to focus on your core competencies

But what if you have a nagging suspicion that your MSP is not providing enough value?  It’s an important question to ask every year as you evaluate performance and make decisions about who you want as your trusted IT ally.

Here are 4 ways you can tell if your MSP is failing to provide enough value:

  1. Your Environment Has Ongoing Performance Issues – The reality is that IT systems are complex and failures will occur.  When they do, you are right to expect rapid response and timely issue resolution.  You rightly have expectations of your MSP (as well as their contractual obligations) around their ability to respond to issues, deliver services, keep the environment running and safe from cyberattacks.  You should become concerned if your MSP doesn’t consistently demonstrate the responsiveness you need, or if failures and downtime become the norm and not the exception.  Should your MSP be slow to respond, not address issues properly, or simply fail to deliver what’s promised (e.g. not be able to recover a lost server from backups), it’s reasonable to conclude you are not getting value.
  2. You’re Experiencing a Lack of Transparency – You should have a complete understanding of the services being provided and the associated costs. While you may not be technical enough to completely comprehend all that’s being done for you, a sense of transparency should exist where you feel like you know what your money is being spent on. A mature MSP validates their services and costs with you, making them seem as your partner and not just a cost center. Transparency becomes the byproduct of their ongoing communication with you.
  3. There’s No Clear Set of Deliverables – Taking this one step further, in addition to understanding what services are part of your MSP engagement, you should also have an established list of what should be (and is being) delivered on a regular basis. Simply being billed for time or via a managed plan is, in effect, an insurance policy in the event of an issue. Instead, you should be paying for tangible, measurable deliverables (such as managed backup, patching, working endpoints, or email security) and have agreed upon metrics to define if those deliverables are being met.  For example, a monthly report showing the number of backups and success percentage would help you understand whether your MSP is delivering the services you are paying for.
  4. There’s No Continued Improvement of Plans and Offerings – Even if your specific needs of your MSP aren’t changing, the MSP themselves should be delivering value by improving their offering. Without improvement, your MSP remains stagnant – in essence, they aren’t trying to become a better MSP, which means they’re delivering services, but not value. A mature MSP provides a clear roadmap for, and execution of, upgrades to their managed service offerings and entitlements. For example, extending support times, or adding security solutions to enhance their layered security offering adds value to your budget spend.

Like anything you spend your precious budget on, there needs to be demonstrated value from your MSP. Given the strategic and business-critical nature of IT, it’s almost unthinkable to stay with an MSP who isn’t delivering value for your dollar.

So, how can you tell if you’re not getting value from your investment?

Use the following questions to better understand whether your current MSP is continually adding value for the money you invest in them:

  • Does it feel like we are not getting the responsiveness we expect? The best MSPs are ultra-responsive.  They should quickly acknowledge your support request, provide an action plan and resolve your issue.  While some downtime is unavoidable, it should be infrequent and issues should be promptly resolved.
  • When I look at my contract, is it spelled out in simple terms what I’m actually paying for? The mature MSP knows you’re not the IT expert (they are!) and makes certain it’s clear what services are included.
  • Are the deliverables I receive both defined and measured? You should be provided with a list of deliverables that’s more granular than just, say, “daily backups”. Deliverables should be clear – such as “monitored backups with remediation” – and be covered in some form of reporting where you can see that, keeping with the example, 80% of your backups had no issues, and the other 20% were addressed with subsequent backup jobs.
  • Are the specific services I’m receiving today the exact same as our first day with our MSP? If you can’t see any difference – new software, additional service levels, complimentary time… something, your MSP lacks vision and strategy for themselves, which translates into the same lacking for your business.

Questions to Ask Your Next Managed IT Service Provider

When you are looking for a new MSP that truly adds value and delivers ROI, use the following questions to help identify one that has what you need:

  • Would you walk me through the list of services provided in your contract? The test here should be whether you can easily understand what you’re getting for your money right there in black and white.  If the MSP needs to explain it to you, because it’s not spelled out in the contract, they are missing needed transparency.
  • Tell me about how you measure whether you have delivered on the services in the contract? You want to hear about monthly reports (and ask to see copies of all of them – again, making sure they, too, are presented in a way that is understandable) or meetings where the MSP holds themselves accountable and you informed.
  • What changes have been made to the services you’re proposing for me over the last year? Ideally, you want to hear about enough changes that you get the sense that the MSP is maturing their own business which, in turn, will benefit yours.
  • How do you help maximize uptime and ensure responsiveness when issues occur?  Ask about what automation the MSP uses to self-heal problems.  Ask about how support teams are structured and staff in order to ensure the highest levels of responsiveness.

IT is business-critical so the value an MSP delivers directly links to the success of your organization.  That’s why it so important for you to have confidence in your MSP and the value they deliver.  The best MSPs have value built into every part of their business – from improving their own game, to continually improving yours.