Technology is changing and evolving at such a rapid pace that it’s difficult for many associations and nonprofits to keep up. That’s why many organizations work with a Managed Services Provider (MSP) that monitors and manages their IT infrastructure, hardware, software, and networks.
What should you look for in an MSP?
This post will answer that question, but first: How does an MSP help associations and nonprofits?
Some organizations turn to MSPs because they don’t have sufficient IT staff. Others have the staff but would rather they focus on more mission-critical initiatives. In either case, an MSP acts as an association’s outsourced IT department. MSPs—like DelCor—help associations prevent IT crises, reduce costs, and improve operational and technological performance.
An MSP delivers a multi-layered approach to IT. We serve as the traditional help desk for desktop, laptop, tablet, phone, and peripheral issues. We also manage the back-office infrastructure, including the network, security, servers, patches, data backup and recovery, and connectivity.
Selecting a Managed Service Provider
We’ve been providing managed services to clients for decades, so we have some ideas about the qualities you should seek in an MSP.
Association experience. Narrow your search for an MSP to established organizations that have deep experience in the association or nonprofit industry. You want your MSP to be familiar with the vendors and systems used by associations and nonprofits. For example, your MSP should have a good understanding of the different systems used to manage member data and run your annual meeting.
Advanced skills. Look for a company with skills in change management, integration, security, virtualization, and cloud technologies to help you make the most of your technology—now and in the future.
Accessibility. Your provider’s network operations center should be located in the U.S. and staffed to meet your needs.
Strategic and proactive. MSPs shouldn’t only be concerned with your operational needs. There’s a strong strategic component to what you do, and that should carry over to your MSP, which should be more than a “utility.” Your MSP must be both operationally and strategically proactive, and focused on preventing problems, not just fixing them.
Dedicated consultant. This type of strategic approach requires a dedicated consultant who’s in your office with some regularity—once a month at a minimum. A dedicated consultant gets to know your organization. He understands your strategic direction and goals. Because he has “ears to the ground,” he understands your organization’s daily operations and your staff’s unique challenges.
Trusted advisor. A dedicated consultant also helps with technology planning and budgeting, bringing you the best solutions based on deep knowledge of the solutions in the marketplace and what will work for your needs and budget. An MSP consultant can also help you make the case to your board to invest in technology that helps you achieve your mission, vision, and goals. At DelCor, we’re always available for board education.
Up to the challenge. Ask prospective MSPs about the most difficult issues they’ve faced with association clients, and how they dealt with those issues. Find out how they handle issues such as a virus infection, data breach, or loss of data. Ask them about the proactive steps they take as part of their service.
Reputation. Get several association references and ask them questions such as:
- How long have you been with your MSP?
- How is their support and responsiveness?
- How do they react when there’s an emergency?
- How do they proactively help you?
- How are they with your board?
Relationship. Ideally, you’ll have a long-term relationship with your MSP. However, at the beginning, a one-year contract is fine. You need time to make sure the relationship works. You also don’t want to be stuck for three years in a bad relationship because of a contract. Make sure your contract (or service level agreement) is performance-based.
Remember, an MSP is not just another utility.
If you think of your managed services provider as a partner, you’re likely to make a more appropriate choice for your organization—setting you up for long-term success.
Flickr photo by darkday