An often overlooked but distinct advantage of partnering with a mature managed I.T. services provider (“MSP”) versus hiring in-house staff or a third-party consultant on an “as-needed” basis is how the MSP business model aligns with your business. Mature MSPs, such as Digital Boardwalk, provide their services on a fixed-fee, monthly recurring model that includes unlimited support hours. Therefore, the only way the MSP can increase their profitability is to reduce the number of hours they spend servicing the business. To accomplish this, the MSP must focus on proactivity, problem prevention, and permanent resolution to common or recurring issues. This can be particularly challenging, however, when the problem is outside of the MSPs direct control.
The QuickBooks Story
Intuit QuickBooks, the leading accounting software for small and medium-sized businesses, has been around since 1983. Although the application has seen many enhancements over the years, the underlying program still functions on decades-old technology. As the rest of the technology world continued to change at an accelerating pace, QuickBooks was patched and tweaked to accommodate the changes as best as possible.
When businesses experience technical troubles with QuickBooks, it’s often due to the software not being designed for today’s technology, and a failure of one of the many workarounds that Intuit implemented over the years. For some businesses, this interruption may be somewhat minor. However, for accounting practices and other businesses that cannot operate when QuickBooks is down, it could have a substantial financial impact.
Solving the Unsolvable
When a business continues to experience issues with QuickBooks, it may seem like there is little the I.T. service provider can do to solve the problem. While the underlying issue can only be solved by Intuit themselves, mature MSPs have a trick up their sleeve to accomplish similar results.
Mature MSPs use industry-leading technology monitoring and automation systems to help drive the proactivity and problem prevention that are critical to the MSP’s success. In this QuickBooks example, MSPs can build custom “monitors” to detect the specific issue with QuickBooks, and then build processes to automatically fix the problem when it’s detected. Implemented strategically, this automation often detects and resolves the QuickBooks issue before the business ever experiences interruption.
Not All MSPs Are Equal
When evaluating MSPs, many businesses focus on common attributes such as the MSP’s average ticket response times, the number of engineers on the team, and the total cost of the services. Although these are somewhat important, they fail to identify mature MSPs that focus on, and succeed at, preventing issues with automation and other preventative strategies.
A better question to ask an MSP during the evaluation process is: “How many businesses and endpoints does your company support, and with how many technical staff?” If you are comparing two MSPs that each have similar attributes (average ticket response time, number of engineers, and cost of services), but the second MSP has two or three times the number of clients and managed endpoints, the second MSP clearly focuses on the proactive and preventative approach that will result in a far greater return on investment for you.
Unfortunately, because this proactive and preventative approach is so fundamentally different than the traditional “reactive” approach most I.T. providers established their businesses on, few MSPs today truly focus on what’s best for their end-clients. Understanding how proactivity and problem prevention can benefit your business, and asking the right questions in the evaluation process, will help you find the best long-term technology partner.