It’s easy to take your MSP for granted when we largely operate out of sight and mind, but it is worth remembering that like any other supply partner, we are most effective when we work in trusted partnership together. The best MSP relationships are built on collaboration, enabling your team to concentrate on your core business activities, whilst the IT experts unburden you of IT worries.
Here are my suggestions on how to make the most of your relationship with your MSP, enabling you to take full advantage of your IT service investment.
Build your long-term strategy
You could just sign a basic IT service contract and let it run in the background, but by doing that you are missing out on the huge potential of building a strong professional relationship with your MSP. In my experience, the best customer and MSP relationships (and therefore the most successful results) come from a pragmatic approach that is free to explore the evolving needs of the business.
An expert MSP will enable you to explore the latest innovations and technology, helping you to find the best value-for-money and practical solutions to support your business goals and your team. Taking this approach, you can also plan further ahead, anticipating and mitigating against any potential issues. The pandemic has been a great example of how sensible planning and flexible systems can make all the difference when the unexpected happens.
Forget any preconceptions
Whilst MSPs love technology (it is our area of expertise after all), the right one will never forget that IT technology is nothing more than a business tool at the end of the day, one which needs to enable your business to work smarter and more efficiently. The needs of the business must always be the primary driver for any technology applications.
Sadly, all too often businesses have a bad relationship with a provider at some point, perhaps feeling they really didn’t get their value for money, and this taints any new relationship. Therefore, it is vital that you find an MSP that will listen to your requirements, enabling you to build the right relationship of trust. Whether you have a large or small budget, it is vital that your business gets value for money from your investments.
Exploring the options together
A constructive and helpful working relationship is essential for both the MSP and the customer. An excellent approach to this is running Innovation Workshops, whereby your relevant team members have open and candid conversations on your IT pain points as well as exploring your long-term goals. This enables a friendly conversation about the technology available, exploration of what your competitors are doing, and provides expert advice and guidance on how your business will benefit from the solutions on offer.
Once you have agreed on the best potential solution there are a number of options to ‘test the water’ – be that proof-of-concept projects (that are free or subject to basic costs only) and sandboxing, where systems are tested in isolation to assess their suitability for your business without any risks to your ongoing operations.
Finding the best approach for you
No one solution works for everyone, with the internal workings and politics of your business requiring a solution that is exactly right for your needs and circumstances. Some companies have a highly knowledgeable IT team or person that wants to take the lead with the support of an MSP, whilst others may be looking for the MSP to take the reins and steer your technology journey.
Whatever the best approach is for your business, it needs to be a strategic partnership rather than just a contractual/financial one. The best MSP relationships will also provide value-add beyond the contract, be that trusted advise or an expert opinion which can save you a lot of unnecessary expense or (even worse) choosing solutions which will fail to meet your needs and/or disrupt your business operations.
It is also essential that you take a firm interest in your MSP and the IT needs of your business. Recent socialising restrictions have made it harder to build or maintain interactions between businesses and their clients, but it is virtually impossible for an MSP to deliver the value and service you need if you don’t interact sufficiently with them.
Making the most of your investment
The right MSP wants to deliver value to your business. As skilled professionals we take a pride in ensuring your IT provision is well matched to your operational needs and enables your business to be successful – knowing the solution works is a big reward both professionally and personally.
In my experience there is rarely a set template for getting an MSP and client relationship right, it must be tailored to the specific needs of the people and systems in place. However, working together we can take the opportunity to add real value and to deliver the support which enables you to do the same with your own customers.