Is Your IT Company a Real MSP?
I have noticed in the last year or so, that the term MSP has become quite common. For years, when talking about IT services, I would explain what it meant to be an MSP, and how we differed from the old-line, call-em-when-things-break, IT vendor. Now people are familiar with the term, which sounds like a good thing, but it really is not.
You see, MSP has become synonymous with just any company that does IT services. Lots of companies talk about managed services, but very few have a discipline and a process that produces real, tangible results for companies they work with.
When IT is managed well, using a strong process, and adhering to best practices, you get results like:
- Incredibly stable IT that stays up and runs smoothly
- Significantly less support issues which means saving your team’s time
- Security that is built-in because best-practices are being followed
- A known plan and budget for IT
- An up-to-date platform that allows innovation and growth
- IT alignment that matches technology to your company goals
- Outstanding response and resolution of issues when they do occur
- The confidence of having a professional IT advisor working on your behalf
When a company calls themselves an MSP, but does not have the process, diligence, or focus needed, then the results are quite different. I’ve been working with several prospective new customers recently, who have line items on their present billing that says something about MSP, but the problems they are having tell me a different story. One of them came to us, because they feel like there is no game plan, and no attention to aligning IT with the company’s growth goals. Another company told us a great story about the responsiveness of their current vendor’s help desk, but other things were being ignored. For instance, no planning had been done about replacing some very risky server equipment. And, yet another prospect who was paying for MSP services was quick to admit that they really only had “a guy”, who was very good to them, but when he left, they were surprised to find things very lacking.
How then does one know if they are working with a real MSP or an imposter?
Here are 10 Disciplines of a Real IT MSP:
- Proactive IT services. Just about everyone says that they do proactive stuff on your network, but often they don’t have the process to get it done. They should be doing patching, firewall updates, anti-virus/anti-malware management, and much more. A great MSP will automate most of this, but will also have monthly human oversight, where manual double-checks are performed. Make sure they supply you with a report, so you know they are doing what they say.
- Documentation. Documentation allows knowledge transfer about your systems, and is mostly done so that your MSP can keep track of your IT. They should be documenting things like a network diagram, how to prep a new PC for deployment, and other key information about your network.
- Reactive service. I’m surprised by how many companies still handle reactive services without concern for true customer service. You should be able to create a ticket quickly and easily or make a phone call and get a live person. Each issue should be tracked and measured for response times. Priorities should be assigned. There should be an escalation process in place. You should get help in the timeframe and with the urgency you need it. This requires a system and process for providing help to customers, as well as a strong focus on communication. It won’t be done right by emailing your “guy”.
- Business alignment. So many times this is ignored. Tech guys focus on tech and often pay little attention to where your company is headed and what is next. Your IT company should have a structure that includes meeting with you to understand your goals and make sure your IT fits that direction.
- Cycle planning. This one is so simple but often ignored. IT equipment is at a higher risk of failure the older it gets. After 5 years, the risk goes up substantially. In addition, old equipment slows your people down and that gets expensive quickly. An equipment cycle schedule and budget should be established and adhered to.
- Security focus. There is so much to discuss related to having a security process. This one item could become a whole newsletter. An MSP, who is worth it will have a regular system of checking security points and systems. It will also be evident in their regular conversations with you. They will want to work with you on security awareness training, network policy and more.
- Best practice alignment. A great MSP has a strong IT best practices focus. They may in fact put the brakes on at times, when a proposed course of action is outside of best practice. When they take you on as a client, there will likely be at least a few things you need to do to improve your IT posture. And then, over time, they will create deeper alignment, which creates stability.
- Team approach. If you have an IT guy, you don’t have an MSP. To run a real MSP process, you need a team with a variety of skills: help desk, proactive maintenance, escalation engineers, project engineers, systems architects, onsite administrators, and consultants or virtual CIOs. IT simply requires a team of people focused on different skills.
- Measurement. A great MSP will have a system of measurement. They should be able to tell you about their time goals for response, planning, and resolution, as well as how they do against those goals. They should also be able to provide customer satisfaction metrics. Ask for them and see what you learn. Peter Drucker’s saying, “What gets measured gets managed.”, is true for the MSP too.
- Continuous education. For an MSP to stay on their game, their whole team must be focused on continuous improvement. IT changes faster than the wind and without an education process, tech people fall behind.
Watch out for the “me too” vendor. Many companies can give lip service to doing these things, if you ask them, but you can usually tell if they have a real process that they follow, or if they are just “trying”. A true MSP has a discipline and process for doing IT. It will be evident in their interactions with you and in the way they present themselves.
The CTaccess Complete Care IT Process is our very own MSP system for producing the results in the bullets above. If you have any questions about our real IT MSP services, we would love to talk. Leave us
Scott Hirschfeld is the President of CTaccess, an Elm Grove IT support company that has been helping small businesses stop focusing on IT and getting back to doing business since 1990. Under his leadership CTaccess provides the business minded approach of larger IT companies with the personalized touch of the smaller ones. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.