Path Forward BlogTips for Hiring a Managed Service Provider
Outsourcing Your IT? How to Evaluate a Managed Service Provider
Are you considering outsourcing your information technology (IT) needs? While cost optimization is typically the driving factor for any outsourcing decision, when it comes to IT, the added benefit is the expertise of having dedicated professionals. Engaging with a managed service provider (MSP) gives your company a more robust skillset, a broader scope of experience, agility, and, oftentimes, faster exposure and understanding of new technologies.
More than a Purchasing Decision
Deciding to hire a managed service provider (MSP) is a big decision, especially if you are looking to transition from an internally run information technology (IT) department to an outsourced model. Deciding which MSP to hire can be an even bigger decision – and you don’t want to get this wrong.
Finding the right MSP starts with being very clear on your expectations, business goals, and what areas of expertise and services you are looking for from a provider. For example, for healthcare organizations, the focus is often on areas like improving the overall business operation efficiency and increasing security and compliance so that providers can focus on patient care.
Vendor Relationship vs. Strategic Partnership
By choosing to outsource your IT needs, you are choosing to join a partnership. The difference between creating a strategic partnership with your MSP versus a vendor relationship starts in the selection process. Several considerations can help provide assurance while also creating a foundation of trust for a healthy, productive, and lasting relationship.
A prospective MSP that can offer more than just basic IT Services will present more strategic partnerships. Additional services to consider are disaster recovery and business continuity services, risk assessment, security, compliance services, and patient contact and engagement services. These other offerings allow your MSP to become a single centralized source of expertise and value generation for your organization.
Once you’ve screened several options and narrowed it down, you should work with the firm to initiate an evaluation of your current systems.
Any MSP you consider should be willing to evaluate your systems and provide a report before an agreement is signed. This evaluation may come at a cost; however, this should be a reasonable amount based on the time spent for the needed experts to evaluate your environment and identify key recommendations.
Here are the three primary factors we recommend you look for in an IT evaluation and proposal before you enter into an agreement with a managed service provider:
Integrity: Did the MSP perform an honest evaluation of your organization’s environment?
A critical step towards understanding your business needs will be for the MSP to schedule time to interview your IT and operations staff to gain a complete understanding of your current environment. The goal is to identify opportunities for improvements, where additional security and added value can be offered.
What you should expect:
- A prospective MSP should ask questions about everything in your current environment from your applications and how those applications are hosted, to understanding your existing operational workflows and network topology.
- Have discussions about policy management, procedure enforcement, and HIPAA compliance. All findings should be documented, and the report you receive should be an accurate reflection of your environment’s current state.
- If there is very little room to improve in a particular category, this information should be reflected, thus exhibiting their integrity as a potential strategic partner.
- Once your evaluation is complete, you should have an honest and precise understanding of where you are in your technology maturity and a good idea of the services you may require from an MSP.
Trust: Is the MSP offering you only what you need?
As a decision-maker, it’s critical to know if the MSP is offering or recommending more services than are needed. You want to be sure the services you are purchasing are in alignment with your business needs.
What you should expect:
- A prospective MSP should be transparent about what they can offer your organization versus what they will offer your organization. An MSP may have the capability to provide a full suite of services when your organization may only need a limited subset of the offerings.
- Similarly, they may be able to improve your environment through no-cost solutions instead of costly solutions from which they can take a margin.
- The right MSP will be transparent about this and tell you the truth about what your environment needs; doing so will establish trust between the two organizations, which will enhance your ability to become long-standing strategic partners.
Value: Does the MSP have a plan for immediately improving your environment?
When you decide to invest in a managed service provider, you should understand their value proposition. Their intentions should be more than just onboarding you as a client and taking over control of monitoring your systems.
What you should expect:
- There should be defined action items that will provide you with the immediate benefits of their service offerings.
- The report they provide you with during the evaluation will not include detailed project plans. Still, it should give you a list of projects or areas of weaknesses that need further evaluation.
- The action plan and value proposition establish a foundation from which you can move forward together as you enter a strategic partnership with your MSP.
A Lasting Strategic Partnership
Since 2002, our team of IT experts has refined our approach initiating strategic MSP partnerships, and these criteria are embedded in that process. As a result, we have a track record of successful long-term strategic partnerships with our clients. Our approach provides:
- A site evaluation and overall health score;
- An executive summary that includes our purpose for evaluation;
- An explanation of scoring with associated detailed listing;
- Recommendations for improvements;
- Recommendation of services based on the needs of your organization.
Comprehensive Services, Customized Engagements
Path Forward offers a wide range of services, including IT, Patient Scheduling, Risk Management, and Audio Visual that can benefit any organization. We customize every engagement to meet your needs. Our team has always operated as a distributed workforce, so we didn’t miss a beat when the COVID crisis forced the industry to work remotely.
The strongest testament to our work is the fact that so many of our clients have trusting relationships with our onsite teams and have integrated them into their daily operations.
Written by Ashley Birt, Regional IT Manager