n established IT environment assessment process is required for an IT outsourcing provider to deliver suitable and effective services to your company. The understanding this assessment can provide will aid in building the foundation for a long-term partnership between your firm and the IT provider of your choice.
A managed IT services provider must have a clear picture of the technology your organization uses to function on a daily basis, as well as the ebb and flow of your business life-cycle. This information will help the MSP accurately predict and serve the needs of your company with minimal misunderstandings or unexpected IT expenses that could hinder the client-provider relationship.
Outlined below are a few of the steps a reputable IT outsourcing provider should take to educate its employees about your IT infrastructure and what to look for if you’re uncertain an MSP is making a sufficient effort to familiarize its employees with your business.
“At the very least, a managed IT services provider needs to be present as a business partner and have the heart to educate its clients as to what’s happening within their IT environment. The MSP should not be trying to sell the client a service, but trying to match the company’s business processes to an appropriate IT strategy.” –Nicholas Gikonyo (Former Vice President, Managed Services at Aldridge)
IT environment assessment process
Every valuable MSP should be highly communicative during new client on-boarding and rely upon an established IT environment assessment process to ensure the provider has a clear picture of your business needs. A key feature of this process is a thorough IT environment assessment.
The IT environment assessment process should occur after a principal to principal meeting between your business and the IT solutions provider which identifies the main problems affecting your company’s processes and the goals of your organization. After this meeting occurs, one of the MSP’s Professional Services Engineers should come on-site to your business to perform an IT environment assessment that includes a technical evaluation and security audit of your network.
The engineer will note how many routers, servers, computers, applications, etc. your business uses and develop a road map of how this technology interacts to aid your firm’s processes. At the very least, the managed IT service provider’s employees should understand two elements of your business’s technology environment:
New user set up
- What equipment does each new user need?
- What applications need to be installed on a new user’s equipment?
Network configuration (the infrastructure that provides services to your business)
- How are services delivered?
- How does your business retrieve and share information?
- What applications are present and how are they used?
- For example, if the MSP is reviewing email applications, does your business have a hosted Exchange, or do you have Office 365 in the cloud?
Documentation during and after the IT environment assessment process
These are the basic details concerning your company’s environment, but they are the necessary stepping stones for the managed service provider to deliver suitable services to your organization. All of the information gathered by the IT outsourcing provider during the network assessment, executive meetings, etc. should be documented by the IT provider from the very beginning. This will develop an extensive history and profile of your company’s IT equipment, issues, resolutions, and changes which the MSP’s employees can reference when managing support requests and potential IT projects for your business. In addition, thorough documentation will facilitate faster service by the MSP and avoid causing any information silos if, for example, the account manager assigned to your firm ceases working for the MSP.
Transparent technology standard
A transparent MSP will usually determine and communicate its ability or inability to serve your company’s IT needs during the front-end sales process. Your business may be too far outside the managed IT services provider’s target client profile or technology standards, be too big, too small, or have too many users for a certain MSP to be an effective partner. However, in some cases, changes can be made to facilitate a resolution.
A mature managed IT services provider will likely compare the map of your company’s IT environment to its own technology standard to see if and where technology gaps exist. This evaluation will allow the managed IT services provider to determine if it will be able to implement its service offerings with the technology your business has in place.
If, for example, the managed IT services provider does not have the required skill set or resources to support a particular application used by your company, the MSP may determine that a business relationship isn’t a suitable fit. However, the MSP may also suggest a ramp up period of anywhere from six to 18 months where the IT provider works with your business and its employees to create an IT infrastructure it can support with its breadth of services.
Continuous client on-boarding
An MSP’s client on-boarding process will likely reflect the way it will handle future communication with your business throughout the duration of your managed services contract. Essentially, on-boarding is a continuous effort and is about both technology and building relationships. An MSP should never stop trying to understand your firm’s IT environment and business as a whole. This is necessary both to serve your business well and to educate the MSP’s employees about requirements for serving your organization.
A reputable IT services provider will usually perform scheduled business reviews during which executives from both firms will meet to discuss your business’s satisfaction with the IT provider’s services and bring attention to any projected changes or goals your company plans to implement in the following months.
Outlining upcoming projects or structural changes will prevent frustration on both sides. Your business will usually not be burdened with unexpected IT expenses and the MSP will be better prepared to manage your company’s technology needs and effectively deploy its technicians to your location. A few of the questions that should be addressed during a scheduled business review are:
- Has your business grown, or does it expect to grow?
- Does your business plan to make any new acquisitions?
- Is your business shrinking, or do you expect to downsize within the next year?
- What has happened since the MSP’s last meeting with your business?
- Did any IT or business issues occur? If so, where? How were issues resolved?
- What worked well within your business’s IT environment?
- Did your business’s MSP meet the key performance indicators established in the service level agreement?
- Is your business planning to add new applications or software?
- What compliance regulations apply to your business?
- And more!
A detailed on-boarding process is vital because it helps the MSP and its staff understand what your business needs in order to operate with minimal downtime and optimal efficiency. For example, if your business has a high turnover rate and the managed IT services provider fails to address this issue, the MSP may not be prepared for the extent of the move, add, or change projects that involve altering user access or adding new hires to certain accounts. This could result in additional fees and overall frustration for both parties. These are cultural aspects about the business, but they ultimately translate into technology and service needs.
A managed IT services provider should work as a proactive partner with your business and approach client on-boarding with a goal of education. The MSP should strive to inform both its employees and your business as to what’s happening within your IT environment now, and in the future. If a managed service provider is only trying to sell your business a service and fails to perform a network assessment or ask the proper questions about your company, this could be a sign the MSP’s employees will lack the knowledge they need down the road to be of value to your firm.
If your business is looking for a managed IT services provider who focuses on employee education and client partnerships, Aldridge may be a suitable fit for your organization.