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What To Consider When Switching Managed IT Providers

March 18, 2024
Reading Time: 5 mins
Author: Ray Sweeney

Switching managed IT providers can come with a lot of unknowns. These unknowns cause stress heading into the transition, or worse still, lead to technology indecision around the change itself.

To minimise the stress, it's important to start with a couple of absolutes.

The first is understanding that things will be different and will take some adjustment. This is not a bad thing. After all, it's impossible to yield a different result doing things the same way.

Secondly, your incoming MSP should be able to outline a clear, robust process as to how they are going to onboard you. The success of the transition is on them, not you, but you should feel comfortable that they have the right approach.

With that out of the way, you should feel some confidence heading into the changeover.

Nevertheless there is likely some additional considerations that you should be aware of before you take the plunge. Considerations that may not have been covered in the sales process.

Below are our top suggestions as to what you should consider heading into an IT services transition.

Communicating the change internally

Often forgotten is the fact that the majority of your company has not been involved in the review process which has led to switching managed IT providers. As such, they are unlikely to be aware of the reasons and strategy behind the decision.

This presents a problem. Any disruption felt is likely to trigger anger and frustration with users that do not understand the purpose of the change.

It's important to communicate the change to the whole business. The key things to cover are:

  • The purpose of the switch.
  • How to get support post-cutover.
  • Any immediate changes they should expect.

Notification to Vendor's & Suppliers

You are likely to have a number of key partners and providers that will need to interact with the new MSP or at least should be made aware of the change.

Software suppliers, key contractors, phone/internet providers, etc. will all likely have documented authorised contacts of your incumbent that will need to be updated.

Hopefully your new IT service provider will have a process, and materials to make it easy for you to make this introduction and change. In either case, go through your list of suppliers and ensure that there will not be any loose ends.

Things are likely more broken than they appear

Where there's smoke there's fire. You may not be aware, but the reasons that you are unsatisfied with the incumbent are likely symptoms of other underlying issues. Furthermore, there may well be background work being neglected as they focus on front of house.

Some of the common issues discovered during onboarding are:

  • Devices not receiving updates for months (or even years)
  • Security & Monitoring software broken/corrupted
  • Backups working but not fit for purpose (eg. missing folders, databases, etc.)
  • Major gaps in security, redundancy, or compliance.

These items can create 2 common misconceptions. One being that the new MSP is incompetent (they appear to be 'breaking everything') and secondly that they're dishonest; presenting undisclosed extras in the first few weeks.

The truth is that flushing out the neglected issues and clearing the backlog does exactly what one might expect. That is, create a wave of small disruptions, issues, recommendations etc. that are experienced all at once.

In our experience these scenarios are more common than not. Nevertheless it's something often not spoken about upfront in the sales process. In any case, it's something you should be aware of and keep in mind during the initial couple of months.

The new provider will have a different approach

In all likelihood the new IT provider probably has a very different approach. It may even be the reason you chose them. Whilst you are not going to be able to uncover all the differences up front, there are a few key ones you likely want to think about prior.

Hardware / Software / Vendor Dependency

Some managed IT service providers are very prescriptive when it comes to the brands of software & devices they use, whereas others will be far more accommodating.

Whilst there is really no right or wrong as there are pros and cons to both; it's worth knowing this upfront as aligning to the new MSPs technology stack (their chosen partners) could prove very costly if your existing infrastructure differs.

Payment Terms & Billing Cycles

It's possible that your new MSP will have different payment terms and billing dates. Given that it's unreasonable to expect them to change all of their existing processes & policies for just yourself (in fact, you should be worried if they do), you may need to make adjustments.

If you have particular needs or restraints you will want to know the impacts and understand how you will work around them. It's very uncommon for middle ground not to be achieved, but it's worth discussing in clear air rather than at the last minute.

Approach to Recommendations

The approach to recommendations can vary greatly from MSP to MSP. As an example, at Sensible we tend to flush out all that we can find first, before presenting our prioritised recommendations on a proposed roadmap. Alternatively, many other MSPs tend to present their findings immediately as they find them.

Our approach can lack speed, whereas the later approach can easily lead to overspend and/or money being spent that could have been better used elsewhere.

Whatever the approach it's important to understand the process so that you can adjust accordingly. This is particularly important in the opening few months as you will likely have numerous decisions to make. If you spend all your budget too early, you may have regrets.

Have a goal & timeline

At what point will you know that the transition was a success? What will success look like?

These are questions you want to answer prior to beginning the transition. Doing so after will muddy the waters and make it hard to know if things have gone well.

It's worth noting that no onboardings are 100% trouble free. Onboarding projects are complex, time consuming and always contain many unforeseen roadblocks. You should set realistic expectations with your new MSP, understanding up front how surprises will be dealt with.

When setting goals, focus on:

  • What were the key business objectives of making this change?
  • What level of certainty do you want in that things have been handled correctly?
  • What do you need to be able to shift your focus elsewhere?

Don't get caught up in the technical details of how things will be done, that's their concern. Stay focussed on the purpose and outcome that you are looking to achieve and hold them to that.

Summary

Switching managed IT providers is not something that you wish to do often. It's important to ensure that you have the right partner, and have considered all the key concerns to make the transition smoothly.

Getting started on the journey can be just as hard. If you would like to discuss your thoughts & concerns of switching from your current provider, please reach out or book a chat.

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