Managed Service Providers (MSPs) can be a real lifesaver, especially for small businesses that have IT needs just like everyone else but are hard pressed to find the manpower and resources to support a dedicated tech department. As with all business relationships, it's important to establish good rapport with your MSP to ensure that everything flows and goes as planned.
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.
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.