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This is the third 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 what they should look for in their next MSP​.

Your business is a unique operation of people, process, and technology. No two businesses work in exactly the same way.  So, as you put your trust in a Managed IT Service Provider (MSP) to manage and maintain all things IT, it’s natural to desire that your IT service provider supports the way you do business. But with many MSPs, their natural tendency is to force your business to conform to them.

Rather than selling a service that solves your problems, many MSPs simply offer a “cookie cutter” solution – one that all customers must fit into. While convenient for the MSP, force-fitting your business into their mold will cost you in productivity and growth. 

There are four main reasons MSPs don’t tailor their solutions to meet your needs:

  1. They Focus on Making Services Easier for Them to Deliver – Many MSPs have small teams which limits their range of services.  But if your MSP’s offerings aren’t designed with tiers of service, add-ons, and even meeting some one-off needs in mind, you’re required to change the way you operate in order to do business with them. The right MSP should offer some degree of flexibility in its offerings to ensure that they are working to support the way you do business.
  2. They Try to be Low Cost – Remember, there will always be cheaper MSPs. And the cheapest is rarely, if ever, the best choice. You should be cost-conscious, but not to a fault.  A top-notch MSP will provide advice based on what technologies and services will make you successful and not just what costs the least for them to support.
  3. They Only Know One Solution – If an MSP always assures you the solution they offer is the best, it may be a red flag. Take backups for example: there are a large number of backup software providers and cloud storage vendors to choose from, each differentiating the way they do business. The one your MSP uses should align with your specific needs, not their inabilities and lack of resources
  4. They Aren’t Focused on You – MSPs that are fixed on selling you specific services instead of understanding what you need aren’t in the business of ensuring your success.  A quality MSP will be concerned with your business’ top yearly initiatives and work to position technology to help you get there.

Every MSP needs to limit the solutions they offer. But at the end of the day, the solution offered needs to have the flexibility to help your business move forward.

So, how can you tell if your MSP is tailoring their solutions for you or not?

Use the following questions to better understand whether your current MSP is offering solutions that help you, or just them:

  • Is my MSP looking at my business needs and making technology recommendations accordingly, or are they simply trying to fit me into an existing solution? Good MSPs do the former and never the latter.
  • Has my business outgrown my MSP’s support model? Ask yourself if your MSP’s services have evolved and scaled and continued to meet your needs as your business has grown.  Or have you outgrown the MSPs capabilities and are no longer well-served.
  • Is my MSP an expert in not just one solution to meet my needs, but two or three options? SecurityCloud, Backup and Disaster Recover are amongst the most important technologies modern companies deploy, and there is no “one size fits all” model.  Good MSPs have expertise in a number of solutions.
  • Do I see my MSP as a business partner helping us to grow, or simply a cost center? Good MSPs want to understand what’s next for your business and not just that you need email, backups, security, etc.

Questions to Ask Your Next MSP

If you are seeking an IT service provider that is highly customer-centric, use the following questions to help identify one that tailors its offerings to meet your needs with high levels of operational excellence:

  • Tell me how you go about determining what services are right for my business? The answer should not jump to the services they offer; it should be about them gaining a more in-depth understanding of what you do, how you do it, and why you currently do it the way you do.
  • What differentiates you from your competition? You’re looking for an answer that revolves around the success and the specific needs of your business.
  • On a daily basis, how do you manage the unique requirements across your customer base? Good MSPs will have formal operating procedures and automation options to accommodate unique requirements.
  • Do you offer different solutions options for a given service offering? The ideal MSP will have a number of offering tiers, software solutions and pricing plans depending on the service in question.
  • What’s your company’s mission statement or core values? It must be centered on the success of your business – whatever it takes.

In general, you should be striving to have a partner that looks at your business needs and makes technology recommendations accordingly. It should be about you, not their services. If your current MSP is unable to “do it your way”, it may be time to begin looking.

In our next article, we’ll take a look at the need for MSPs to have a depth and breadth of skills to properly address your specific requirements.