Hiring a new managed IT service provider can be a stressful process. Many companies have had a bad experience working with an MSP bottom-feeder in the past. Others may be outsourcing IT support for the first time and lack a clear understanding of what an MSP does and does not do, or how to identify a quality partner.
In either case, the process of finding the right partner is full of uncertainty.
To make the process easier, many businesses reach for a familiar tool, the request for proposal (RFP). For well over half a century, companies have used the RFP to document their business requirements, solicit bids from vendors, and select the best option for their needs.
But, after 20 years in the IT services field we can confidently say the RFP is a terrible tool for choosing an IT partner. It may even be undermining your efforts to find a worthwhile IT partner, leaving you with a substandard choice.
Here are four reasons why you may not want to use an RFP.
The heart of a successful MSP relationship is not transactional; it’s long-term partnership that’s nourished by continuous input and collaboration from both parties. The RFP negates those critical human dimensions, reducing the relationship to a list of technical requirements and capabilities.
What is the culture of the MSP that you’re interviewing? Will they take the time to discuss business strategy with decision makers, or help your company plan new technology projects to ensure proper business-IT alignment? Does their vCIO team have a history of outstanding service in your area? What cases studies are they most proud of?
Even the best-written RFP will not provide you with those important details, which means that you’re getting an incomplete picture of the potential IT vendors.
Many businesses that want to partner with an MSP don’t have an internal IT team. As a result, their RFP gets drafted by non-technical staff who are basing the proposal on what they think they need from an IT service provider.
The reality is that the process of choosing an MSP often involves a dose of discovery.
Any worthwhile MSP will spend time talking with your leadership, learning about your business challenges, and helping you architect the right solutions as part of the sales process. During that time, you’ll uncover new obstacles and goals while gaining valuable insight into how your IT can help you better run your business.
The process of drafting and circulating an RFP, then managing and reviewing all the proposals you receive, contains dozens of steps. First, you must assemble a team to draft the RFP, then gather input from across your organization, compile questions, distribute the RFP, collect documents, and more.
Each phase requires hours or days of input from your team. This can not only extend the sales process, it’s also a serious commitment of time and resources. Given that many RFPs failed to identify the best MSP for your needs, unless you’re soliciting help for a specific IT project or goal, then all that time and money is getting wasted.
According to the U.S. Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), 77% of proposal professionals say that their process isn’t ideal.
After all that work, your RFP is not likely to help you find the MSP you need.
The process of responding to an RFP is lengthy. As a result, some providers will choose not to invest the time and energy into an RFP response if they’re not confident they have a good chance of winning. They might suspect that you have a favored provider in mind already, for example, or think you’ll choose the company who bids the least for the work.
Reputable MSPs know they bring value to the table and won’t waste their time fighting a fight that they can’t win, or don’t want to win. The result is that you’re left with a group of fly-by-night MSPs competing on price alone. This does nothing for the stability of your network technology.
Someone dislikes responding to RFPs so much, they actually wrote a book about it!
If you’re not going to rely on an RFP, how do you identify an IT services team that can be the long-term, strategic partner that you need? The good news is that the best way to pick an MSP is easier and cheaper than the RFP process.
You can learn a lot about the reputable firms in your area with a simple Google search, much more than most RFPs will ever teach you. What does their website look like? Are they updating it to provide news and content that’s relevant to your needs? What do online reviews say about each of the companies in your area?
Those basic questions alone can help you weed out the wrong choices. For example, if an MSP seems to work mainly with companies in the healthcare industry and you’re representing a law firm, then there’s no need to even start speaking with them.
Now that you have a short list of choices, the best way to learn which MSP is best for you is to sit down and speak with them. Only by talking with the leadership of an IT services firm will you know if they’re someone you want to help you make important technology decisions.
What kind of questions should you ask during your interview? Start by asking them about their background. How did their company develop to where it is today, and what people, processes, and technology do they rely on to work? What makes their IT services desk great?
Next, you should inquire about their expertise in your industry. Have they helped companies like yours in the past? What goals have they helped similar companies achieve? During this process, the focus should stay equally on both the content of what they’re saying as well as the personal and cultural qualities you want in an IT partner.
After you’ve found a partner with solid reviews from businesses you trust, a track record of helping companies like yours, and a team that you can envision working closely with for years, then you can discuss details like pricing and on-boarding.
Struggling to find the right MSP for your business? You can always work with a trusted leader in the field like Complete Network. For over 20 years we’ve been helping businesses in Albany, New York, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Bluffton, South Carolina take control of their IT and approach cybersecurity risk with confidence.
Interested to see how we do it? Reach out to our friendly team any time at 877 877 1840 or [email protected].
In an ideal world, technology would be a consistent source of competitive advantage and benefit for small and midsized businesses. The reality is that many fail to realize that confidence.
Without the right resources and support, even a highly skilled technology team can become overwhelmed by the growing list of technology management duties. When important tasks get neglected, it creates ripple effects throughout an organization that damage productivity and efficiency.
The co-managed IT services model solves these problems by providing your existing IT team with all the support and resources they need to successfully plan, manage, and defend your network technology.
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