Signs it’s Time to Switch your MSP and How to Find a New One
Your IT managed service provider should be a trusted advisor, an extension of your team, helping keep you ahead of your competitors by recommending, implementing and maintaining the latest technologies, all aligned with your business goals. But if they’re not doing that, it’s time to find a new MSP that will.
In this article, we’ll share the signs that it’s time to say goodbye to your current managed service provider. Next, we’ll show you how to select the right MSP for your needs. Finally, we’ll give you an overview of what the standard MSP switching process looks like.
1 – Signs it’s Time to Switch your IT Managed Service
Forbes (1) describes a great managed service provider as someone who:
- Boosts your bottom line
- Inspires collaborative innovation
- Comply with all regulatory standards
- Provide excellent customer experiences
Many MSPs deliver all those and more, but not all. If you’re experiencing any of the following from your current managed service provider, it could be time to look elsewhere.
1.1 – Relationship Issues
Having a solid working relationship with your MSP is crucial. When you don’t have that bond, communication breaks down between you. That’s when things go wrong:
- Slow response times – Your MSP is sluggish at responding to your queries and solving issues
- No transparency – An MSP should keep their customers constantly informed on what they’re working on and the charges they’re incurring
- Blame – If there’s an issue, your MSP points the finger at you rather than acknowledging their role as the monitor of your IT system
- Trust – Your MSP should have your best interests at heart. They should work with you as a partner, not just a customer. You should have a point of contact who understands your business and keeps you informed
Poor communication leads to poor service. Find a managed service provider that keeps you in the loop and is attentive to your needs.
1.2 – Your Business Has Changed
Businesses need to adapt to changing market demands. If you’ve changed and your MSP hasn’t changed with you, then it might be time to find a new one.
When your requirements change, your MSP should be flexible. You should be able to add or remove IT managed services easily, without it being a massive problem for your MSP or prohibitively expensive for you. If your MSP isn’t flexible enough to scale with you, switching to a more accommodating one may be a better option.
1.3 – Lack of Proactivity. No Additional Value Add
IT downtime can be a killer for your business. The role of a managed service provider is to take proactive steps to optimise your IT systems and minimise downtime. They should know about problems before you do and fix them quickly so they don’t happen again.
If you experience frequent IT issues in your organisation, particularly if they’re the same issues recurring again and again, it’s a sign that your MSP is not taking a proactive approach. Perhaps their tracking and documentation systems are not up to scratch, or maybe they’re just not going above and beyond for you. Whatever the reason, it could be time for a change.
1.4 – Not Staying Across Legislative Changes
Does your current MSP keep themselves (and you) up to date with the latest legislative changes?
If you don’t keep up with relevant regulations like GDPR or FSA (in financial services), it could cost you in terms of regulatory fines and damage to your reputation. The new Online Safety Act may be relevant to you if you publish content (2). But has your MSP even mentioned it to you?
This could be a big reason to switch MSPs. A more diligent MSP with awareness of your vertical will be able to discuss how other firms like yours handle these requirements.
1.5 – No Proactive Long-Term Advice
Your success should be your managed service provider’s goal. There’s so much hype about new technologies, but your MSP should know what’s on the leading edge and whether it can benefit your business. They should be able to guide you on what’s working for other organisations like yours and if it could work for you.
For example, at Doherty, we regularly encounter customers switching to us who are still using legacy servers and infrastructure – at a high cost – rather than embracing the flexibility and delivery of the cloud.
Does your managed service provider work with you according to a mid or long-term plan, or do they just react when something goes wrong? How far ahead does your shared strategy look? With a good MSP, any significant investments should be planned and budgeted well in advance, leading to more predictable IT spend. Finally, If you’re not getting good tech advice from your MSP and intelligence about what’s in the marketplace, it could be time to switch.
2 – Six Steps to Select the Right IT Managed Service Provider
So you’re not getting the service you deserve from your MSP and you’ve decided to switch? What next? Here is a step-by-step guide for selecting the best IT managed services provider for your business.
2.1 – Assess your needs
If you could create the perfect relationship with a new MSP, what would it look like?
Your first step should be to consider precisely what you need from your new IT managed service provider. What should they do differently from your current provider? What specific services would you like to add or remove? How would you handle the relationship?
Next, think more specifically about what you need from your MSP. For example:
- Hours of coverage offered
- Do they conduct onsite visits?
- How do you access support? (phone, email, WhatsApp, portal, etc.)
- Can they offer more detailed ‘white glove’ support?
- How will they deal with ‘tricky individuals’ in difficult situations?
- Do they understand and process urgent VIP requests correctly?
- Is security a specialist area of expertise?
- Do they understand industry standards? (ISO 27001, Cyber Essentials, etc.)
- Can they help meet third-party risk management and compliance requirements
Thorough planning at this stage makes it easier when you’re talking with and evaluating prospective partners later in the process.
2.2 – Research Potential Providers
There’s no shortage of managed services providers in the marketplace, but you must find the best one for your business needs. Think about what’s important to you from an MSP. Should they be local? Should they specialise in working with companies in your industry? Should they specialise in a specific aspect of IT, like cybersecurity? Ideally, you want an MSP who is big enough to cope, but small enough to care. At Doherty, we’re a great fit for companies with between 50 and 200 users, because we’re big (and small) enough.
Start to draw up a shortlist of MSPs that align with your needs and evaluate them based on expertise, experience and reputation. Check out whether they’ve won any awards in your industry. For example, the Drawdown Awards has a category for IT managed services in the private equity space (3). Various certifications are available for managed services providers, given by software vendors as a sign that this MSP is an expert at using their solutions. Which MSP has the certifications that match your needs?
Another great idea is to ‘phone a friend’. Talk to your network to find out the MSPs they use and their experiences working with them. If someone you trust is happy to recommend an MSP, they could also be right for you.
2.3 – Evaluate Service Levels
To find out whether an MSP is as good as they say they are, check the service level metrics of the potential providers on your shortlist. Criteria to judge include:
- Response times – How quickly do they acknowledge and fix issues?
- Support – Do they offer 24/7/365 support?
- Churn rate – Do their customers stay with them long-term? What about their employees? A company with high staff churn is typically a red flag.
- Business stability – Check their financial accounts. Are they likely to be here for the long-term?
- Experience – Ask about the tenure of their delivery/operational team. You need experienced experts on board.
- Service level monitoring – How are service levels monitored and reported?
- Customer satisfaction – What are their scores like? Do they invite feedback on every support interaction?
2.4 – Consider Pricing Models
Different MSPs price their services in different ways. Most of the time, it’s a subscription model, so you play a flat rate for the services you need over a given month. A flexible MSP will allow you to add or remove services as your business needs change.
Other MSPs may offer discounts if you take up multiple services or take out longer contracts. There may also be extra fees for setup and onboarding.
If you’re unsure of the best pricing model for your business, you could choose to take out a shorter initial term, then renew on a longer-term (36-month) basis once you’re sure you’ve made the right choice.
2.5 – Request Proposals and Conduct Interviews
Now, it’s time to contact the providers still on your shortlist and arrange a meeting. Here’s where you’ll discover who is truly right for you and who isn’t.
Here are some useful questions you can ask potential MSP partners:
- How do you handle security threats? – Find out about their cybersecurity strategy
- How flexible are you if I want to add or remove services? – This is about finding out whether your MSP can support you if your business grows
- How do you communicate with your customers? – You want to ensure your new MSP communicates regularly and transparently
- Will we be an important enough customer for you? – You don’t want to be considered small fry compared to their other clients
- Are you big enough to cope, but small enough to care?
- How long have you been in business? – You should also ask for references from within the industry
- What is your customer churn rate? – A low churn rate equals satisfied customers
- What is your staff churn rate? – A company that treats its staff well treats its customers well too
- Can you share bios of the people I’ll be working with on a regular basis?
- Talk me through a typical support desk ticket from beginning to end
- How do you deal with complaints?
2.6 – Make the Decision
By now, you should have an idea of the managed service provider you want to work with, one that gives the services you need, with great support, at the right price. So go ahead and make that deal.
As you draw up the contract, be sure to clearly define the services your MSP will deliver for you. Establish a Service Level Agreement (SLA) where the MSP commits to response times, system uptime, reporting and anything else that matters to you. Setting expectations before you begin working together is crucial, so both sides know what they need to do to drive the relationship forward.
3 – What Happens When You Move To A New IT Managed Service?
Switching MSPs shouldn’t be disruptive to your business.
At Doherty, when we onboard new clients, we first assign a dedicated account manager. This person will be your main point of contact, the first person you’ll call when you need something from your new MSP. They’ll take the time to get to know you and understand your business and requirements. Ensure the MSP you switch to offers a similar level of service.
Now, let’s focus on the practical aspects of the switchover. It’s a three-step process.
3.1 – Audit and Onboard your environment as-is – the “Support” phase
The first step is a discovery audit and tool deployment by your new managed service provider. This is where your new MSP works to understand your existing systems, preparing to take over day-to-day support while avoiding making any significant changes. They’ll capture details of your systems, deploy their management tools, provide guidance on how to get the most out of the service desk and what to expect, understand who any VIPs and approvers are, and ensure they have appropriate access to any online services such as Microsoft or Google. The focus throughout this phase is to ensure that your team are able to continue with an absolute minimum of changes or disruption.
Typically this service will overlap with the existing MSP for around a month, giving ample time for handover of information between providers. Your new MSP will remove the solutions installed by your previous partner. In most cases, the two companies will work together to ensure a smooth transition with minimal disruption to your IT managed services. If you have hardware leased from your former provider, they’ll want it back.
3.2 – Identify outstanding issues and make appropriate recommendations – the “Stabilise” phase
Often during an audit, your MSP will discover issues left over from the previous provider, including potentially dangerous risks. Your new MSP should make recommendations on how to address them with minimal disruption. The issues identified could be longstanding items impacting your team directly, or risks identified on the backend or cloud systems during the onboarding audit.
The intention of this work is to address any of these critical issues early in the relationship to reduce risk exposure, technical debt, and reduce unpredictability. Once these critical items have been addressed, your organisation should enjoy a smooth-running and reliable IT environment.
3.3 – Agree strategic IT roadmap – the “Optimise” phase
Once the audit is complete, the relationship can move into a more strategic and longer-term view. You can work together to map out the next 12-18 months, including larger improvement works that need to happen. A good MSP will ensure that IT investments are closely aligned with business priorities. They’ll address risks and concerns, but also help your organisation embrace modern technologies.
An MSP with relevant vertical expertise will be able to advise what other firms are doing, and how you are placed within the industry. Your account manager will have scheduled service review and strategic planning sessions with you to ensure you’re receiving an appropriate service and getting good advice on emerging technologies and opportunities.
3.4 – Going Live With Your New MSP
Once this transition is complete, the old provider’s support can lapse, and all support requirements are delivered by the new MSP.
The first month of your new relationship can often be tricky. It’s the time when there could be the odd hiccup, or your employees get frustrated because things aren’t quite how they used to be.
It’s normal for the first month or so with a new provider to flag up some teething issues, so a quality Managed Services Provider will ensure they go above and beyond during this period.
Now you know when it’s time to switch managed service providers, how to choose the right MSP for you and what the transition looks like. So, there’s no need to settle for poor service from your MSP. If you don’t like how they manage your IT services, vote with your feet.
A good transition should be smooth and pain-free – and you won’t look back!
At Doherty, we’re experts at building long-term relationships with our clients. We’ll hold your hand through the process outlined in section 3, with a dedicated account manager available whenever you need them. Then, once we’re up and running, our experts can help you make use of even more innovative solutions to drive your business forward. We’re not just an MSP, we’re a trusted partner on your journey to technical excellence.
To find out more, visit our services page.
1 – Forbes – 4 Hallmarks Of A Great Managed Service Provider
2 – Farrer & Co – An update on the UK’s Online Safety Bill: a new landscape for internet regulation
3 – Drawdown Awards