Choosing an MSP: No. 2. Strategic Alignment and POV on IT

by | Apr 20, 2021 | Security, Strategy, Support

IT strategic alignment

Does the MSP share our vision for IT and its purpose?

Financial viability is critical for an MSP. Prudent financial management ensures that the proper investments are being made in the business and that the MSP can survive the booms and busts of technology trends. Equally important is finding an MSP that shares your worldview about technology and its role in your company.

Why is it important? 

Is your company client-centric or product-centric? Is it sales-driven or marketing-driven? Is your organization a risk taker or a risk avoider? Is your brand seen as a premium brand or a value brand? These may seem like simple questions, but the answers speak volumes about your organization, culture, and expectations for your vendors. You want to make sure that the MSP you choose is simpatico with your business and IT’s contribution to it.

So, before you ask an MSP a single question, ask yourself a few questions about your perception of IT. For example, do you see IT as strategic or tactical? When you buy IT, do you purchase it with the expectation of minimizing its cost or maximizing its return? Do you want your IT function to be proactively bringing you new tools and approaches that may modify your business model? Or, do you prefer that IT simply keep the trains running on time until you dictate otherwise?

The answer to these questions will enable you to narrow the pool of potential MSPs. More importantly, the answers will help you identify the MSP who would naturally perform best against your expectations because your worldviews are aligned. 

Here are important alignment areas to consider:

Technology Philosophy

Knowing how your MSP thinks about technology with a capital T is critical. Philosophical views run along a continuum from tactical to strategic, using battle-harden to bleeding-edge tech, and viewing IT as an expense or investment. You want an MSP on the same pole as you are.

An MSP who delivers services with the goal of simply keeping the trains running on time does not get distracted thinking about how to apply technology to business problems. Unfortunately, if he is looking at his watch and thinking about the immediate train, he does not have the time to build new routes, upgrade engines, provide additional rider conveniences, or explore alternative modes of transportation altogether.

Choose an MSP that shares your IT philosophy.

Relevant questions

  1. Who is your ideal/best client (size, industry, technology, IT philosophy, culture, etc.)? Why?
  2. What attributes do your best clients share?
  3. Who is your worst client? Why?
  4. What is your best client’s philosophy about technology and its application? Why?
  5. Do your best clients see IT as a strategic investment or a cost to be minimized?
  6. Do you have a preferred company vertical you work with?
  7. Would our company be a big fish in a little pond or a small fish in an ocean?

Workstyle

Like the name says, MSPs provide a service. It’s critical that your organizational style is aligned with the manner in which your potential MSP delivers said service. Because the firm’s culture will shape the ultimate service delivery, it’s important that you understand what makes the MSP tick. For example: Is the culture laid back or serious? Is the culture process-driven or individual personality-driven? Does the MSP have a knowledge-sharing or a knowledge-hoarding culture?

Relevant questions

  1. How would you describe your firm’s culture?
  2. If I asked one of your employees to describe your culture, what words would they use?
  3. How do you reinforce your culture?
  4. How do your best clients prefer to work with you?
  5. Are your best clients more collaborative, passive, or autocratic?
  6. How often and how much do you communicate with clients?
  7. What is different about how you work with your clients compared to other MSPs? Can you provide some examples?
  8. What behaviors will get someone fired at your firm?

Performance Metrics

In the end, the ultimate tell-tale of how well an MSP is strategically aligned with your firm is how it measures its own performance. KPIs drive a culture.  If your measures of business success are not aligned with your MSP, your firms are not going to be rowing in the same direction. Business is tough enough. There is no need to create more work by choosing an MSP who doesn’t share your worldview.

Relevant questions

  1. How do you measure the performance of your business (e.g., Do you focus on service delivery, financial performance, client satisfaction/retention, etc.?)?
  2. Why have you chosen those metrics?
  3. How do you measure those areas of your business?
  4. In what area or metric must your employees demonstrate exceptional performance to get promoted? Underperform to get terminated?
  5. How are these metrics baked into your business/culture?
  6. How do you use these metrics to continuously improve?
  7. How do you share these metrics with clients?

One final note on Strategic Alignment, it’s important to pay close attention to the questions your potential MSP asks you.

The questions will be a clear indicator of how the MSP thinks about business, technology, and service delivery.  First, does the MSP ask any questions? Are they questions you expect or have heard time and time again? Do the questions make you think differently about your business? Do the questions reinforce your worldview or contradict it?

Dig deeper.

DOWNLOAD the CFO’s Guide to Choosing an MSP 

John Ahlberg, CEO, Waident Technology Solutions

John Ahlberg
CEO, Waident

CIO in the corporate world and now for Waident clients. John injects order and technology into business process to keep employees productive, enterprises running, and data safe.

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