Usually due to budget and manpower constraints, small and midsized businesses (SMBs) often need to outsource a few aspects of their operations – and partnering with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) is one example. Just as in any other partnership, and especially since IT management is a relatively long-term deal, it's important that you establish the right business relationship between yourself and your MSP.
Business relationships are cultivated. Grown. That's what you do – at least if you want your business to flourish. The healthier your business relationships, the more productive and efficient your operations become.
Naturally, this applies to your relationship with your Managed Service Provider (MSP). Your IT is an important part of your day-to-day operations, and contributes greatly to how productive your business can become – so establishing good working rapport with your MSP is especially essential. Here are a few pointers for building and maintaining a great relationship with your current or prospective MSP partner.
Assess what your MSP can provide for you Sit down with your MSP to learn their ideas for your business, then carefully assess whether the services they offer support and augment your operations – current and planned. Look closely at contracts and make sure you understand the fine print, and carefully evaluate whether the service agreement meets your needs. Do some research about prospective MSPs (which is easy to do through the Internet) to verify their claims. Making sure you have the right fit is an important first step in getting the most out of an MSP.
Define roles and manage expectations Make sure that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and understood early in the process, especially if your MSP is integrated with or augmenting an existing IT operation. This will help minimize overlapping job roles (which is ultimately unproductive for the both of you), as well as territorial disputes and misunderstandings.
Communicate constantly While your MSP will essentially manage your IT, it's still YOUR IT department. Make sure that you open healthy channels of feedback and communication. It's also recommended that you keep your MSP informed of any new directions or strategies that you feel will affect the IT operations that your MSP partner handles. It's a good idea to schedule regular planning sessions and meetings with them so that they will be able to anticipate what you need – and provide it – in line with your own goals and timetables.
Establish trust and respect your MSP's decisions
Treat your MSP like you would your IT manager. Give them general direction, and then let them do what they do best: manage IT. Entrusting your IT to an outside contractor can be a difficult decision, but as long as your MSP is reliable and secure, it may very well be one of the best business decisions you've ever made.