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9 Critical Questions to Ask When Selecting a Managed Services Provider

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9 Critical Questions to Ask When Selecting a Managed Services Provider

Whether they are engaged to refocus spending on operations, regain control of infrastructure and hardware costs, fill critical staffing gaps, or even reinvent themselves, IT departments use managed services to provide technical resources on their behalf. In fact, 65 percent of CIOs who are focused on growth plan to partner with a managed services provider instead of doing everything in-house.

In exchange for fees for their managed services, IT departments get a lot in return. First, IT departments can better control costs by turning fixed costs into variable ones by only paying for services that they need or use. Second, managed services providers are able to provide trained, experienced, and certified staff when and where you need them while also helping to focus overall in-house labor costs. Finally, managed services can help to rapidly implement new technology with specialized staff and services while also reducing risk by helping to manage compliance on your behalf or linking payment to defined service levels.

With all of these benefits, plus many more, it is no wonder that, according to a 2018 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, 32 percent of CIOs plan to increase outsourcing spending in the future. So, if you’ve decided to join them or if you just want to evaluate your current managed services provider, here are eight critical questions to ask:

1. What types of skills and experience do they have?

This question could be considered basic table stakes in evaluating a managed services provider. In addition to confirming their skill levels, certifications, and experience in the current systems, hardware, databases, and other intricacies of your IT environment, managed services need to be able to do the same for your future footprint. Ask about their ability to manage change, act as trusted advisors to improve your operations, and stay on top of industry trends.

2. Do they take a customer-centric approach?

Although there is a contractual relationship in place, choosing a managed services provider is like selecting an extension of your own IT organization. Make sure that their most important priority is your success, that their culture values responsiveness, and that you are comfortable with when and how you can reach them when you need them.

3. Can the company handle hybrid IT environments?

Your IT infrastructure is going to have products provided by a range of vendors. The managed services provider should be comfortable working not only with the vendor themselves, but also the diverse hardware, software, and network tools, individually and as a whole.

4. Do they have a broad portfolio of managed services?

While there are some cases in which a specialized services provider could fit your needs, one of the benefits of managed services comes with the economies of scale. The more services you are able to bundle together, the more you can not only introduce financial savings, but also drive operational efficiencies as your business and services flex and grow.

5. What security protocols are in place?

Whether they are there for a short-term effort or a long-term partnership, their security practices, policies, and tools deserve a thorough review. Throughout the relationship, the vendor will have access to your staff, data, tools, hardware, and more, so taking this step is of the utmost importance. This includes understanding how they will react to a breach or security incident and how they will protect your data if such an event occurs.

6. Does the company continue to innovate?

The only thing constant about the IT industry is change. Yesterday’s cloud-first model is today’s data analytics trend. Make sure that the managed services provider not only keeps their staff up to date with their skills, but that they are continuing to invest in the back-end infrastructure and services that your organization will evolve into tomorrow.

7. Is the company financially sound enough to be your partner?

After you go through the entire managed services provider selection process, you want to make sure your partner is going to be able to perform the services you need. With new providers entering the market regularly, look for not only longevity, but also customer reputation, financial stability, and industry and analyst feedback.

8. Does the company tie payment to performance?

One of the key ways to transfer risk to a managed services provider is to introduce service level agreements (SLAs) that tie specific, measurable outcomes with payments. If a managed services provider cannot meet the service requirements as described in the agreement, they should be prepared to back up their contractual commitments with financial or other compensating measures.

9. How flexible is the company in their approach to unique customer imperatives?

When you are selecting a managed services partner, they are there to help your staff be more productive, your network more reliable, and your services more stable; not the other way around. Therefore, you want your selected vendor to offer the services, skills, and delivery model needed to match your requirements (and not someone else's) so your operations don’t skip a beat.

Making the Decision

Though not every company can answer all of these questions (and many more) effectively, FNTS—a valued partner in this space—can. FNTS has been providing hosted and remote managed services since 1996 through their state-of-the-art data center with 99.99 percent availability, hardworking technical staff, and customer-driven, customized solutions.

To learn more about FNTS and how their 20+ years of experience and numerous vendor partnerships can help your organization make the most of your IT systems, visit FNTS.com.

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