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October 21st, 2015 - By Howard Cohen
Companies who have engaged a Managed IT Services Provider (MSP) have enjoyed not only an excellent return on their investment, they have also benefited in many other important, operational and productive ways.
Accountability is probably the one most important element you’re seeking in anyone who serves your business. Somebody who you can hold accountable for getting done what needs to get done.
“I take full responsibility,” is, of course, a very easy thing to say. But what does it mean? How does it help you? When something has gone terribly wrong and someone stands up to say they take full responsibility, how does that resolve what went wrong?
Why Companies Choose a Managed IT Services Provider (MSP)
Most information technology (IT) environments are multi-vendor. Seldom does a company buy everything from one manufacturer, and very few, if any, are the manufacturers who even could provide everything your company needs.
Instead, we integrate products from many manufacturers, always trying to use “best-of-breed” from every category. Best servers, best storage, best desktops, best software, and more. The best are always ready to stand behind their product, so they each offer a warranty to assure satisfaction during the early use of their product.
Then something goes wrong.
You’ve very likely experienced this. You call for warranty support from the vendor whose product you believe has failed. They inform you that the problem was caused by something connected to their product. You contact the manufacturer of that product. Once again a finger gets pointed at another component. Soon you’re not sure how you’re going to get your problem solved.
This is often the scenario that motivates a company to seek a Managed IT Services Provider. Most MSPs advertise that they will take full responsibility for the problem and get it solved for you. You don’t need to call multiple vendors. In the all-too-popular metaphor, you now have “one throat to choke” no matter what is causing your problem. Just call the MSP and let them figure it out. If they don’t….
That’s Where it Breaks Down
You are now paying the MSP to take full responsibility. You hold them accountable for every minute that the problem remains unsolved beyond the Service Level Agreement (SLA) you’ve both entered into. But what does that accountability mean?
It’s all too often that this is the point at which you need to go back and read your agreement again. What exactly is the SLA? More important, what remedies are available to you when and if your MSP declares that they cannot resolve your problem? What recourse do you have? And what do you do about all the employees who are sitting idle while you try to figure that out?
Often, the worst you can do is terminate your MSP agreement and start looking for another solution. So much for one throat to choke. They’ve basically declared themselves choked to death as far as you’re concerned.
One Hand to Shake
A truly professional IT services provider knows that the solution begins long before the problem emerges.
When you first sit down with a prospective provider, listen carefully to the questions they ask. If their first questions have to do with who manufactured your servers, your storage, your firewalls, and the rest of your infrastructure, politely excuse yourself. They don’t intend to serve you, just your equipment.
Instead, listen for questions about how IT is currently serving your company. What information are you managing? How does it travel between you, customers, suppliers and other associates in terms of the flow of your business. Where have you experienced delays? Be encouraged when they ask to speak to various operational managers about how IT supports their operations.
Ultimately, you’re not seeking someone to provide management of your services. You’re seeking someone to help you better manage your information to reduce costs, increase revenue and thereby help you increase the profitability of your company. Done right, the technology becomes transparent to you and what you see are the results you’ve been seeking. Real, tangible results you can deposit in the bank.
The right IT services provider knows that your information management cannot depend solely upon the technology you’ve already invested in. They also know that the investments you’ve made must be utilized to their fullest value without compromising ongoing continuity of business operations in the event of a failure. They have backup contingency plans in place to support you should anything fail. They don’t make excuses. They solve problems and improve systems.
Bringing it back to the metaphor, they never use their hands to point blame at anyone else. They use their hand to shake yours when you thank them for improving your business by taking full responsibility for management of your information.
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