Outsourcing of IT operations and partnering with an external service provider can enable organisations to focus more on business critical issues and other strategic functions, but the desired benefits of outsourcing, can only be achieved with the right kind of partner. When evaluating managed service providers, consider the following seven criteria to make an informed decision.
Skill sets, tools and technical capability: Prospective partners should be able to demonstrate their capabilities in various technologies ranging from flavors of operating systems, virtualisation, databases, Hyper converged, to cloud. The vendor should have implemented advanced alert mechanisms in their tools and must have automated event management process. The Service management tool should have ITIL capabilities. One should also look for a service provider’s capability in providing RCA and advanced analytics by extending live dashboards for MIS reporting.
Process maturity and alignment with best practices: It is of prime importance that a matured partner should have implemented best practices prevalent in the industry like ITIL for service management and ISO 27000 for Security. An MSP certification is as added advantage. The potential services provider should also have capabilities in developing Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) & Known Error Data Bases (KEDB) and extending the same for productivity improvements.
Experience in managed service and compelling case studies: The prospective partner should have deep expertise in various delivery models including onsite, remote and hybrid and should be supporting clients across all these delivery models. If one is considering remote or hybrid support, then one should find out how many clients are being presently supported from the service provider’s NOC. One should also enquire about the nature of these support services i.e. the contracts should be end-to-end managed services and not just cases of server or network support or resource augmentations.
NOC setup and security measures: If cost optimisation is the primary objective then remote management is the best option. One should check if the prospective partner has a state-of-art NOC which is active and has considerable Security measures and ISO 27000 Certification. The prospective vendor should be able to make arrangements for a visit to their NOC.
Business SLAs delivered: One should ask for SLA like Mean Time to Respond (MTTr) and Mean Time to Resolve (MTTR) to begin with. The partner should be able to provide different SLA for End Users and Data Centers with different priority classifications. In advanced scenario the Service provider should be able to provide service availability SLA.
Flexibility: Flexibility of the partner goes beyond professional contracts. After the managed Service one tends to maintain a leaner staff and get more dependent on the partner and so the partner should not shy away from accommodating small requests and changes, which can be managed with the same effort or technical skill-sets as deployed (or utilised) for one’s environment.
The partner organisation itself: An organisation will not have a transactional dealing with a managed Service partners but likely to get engaged for few years – typically 3 to 5 years. Hence, criteria like Financial Stability, management involvement needs to be understood. One should enquire about working capital and liabilities in the market and ask the potential partners to back up their claims with proper data and references.