For many organizations, transitions represent a roadblock or a challenge to overcome, like a ship steering through stormy seas to reach safe anchorage. The change of direction is seen as a risk, a sometimes-necessary evil to reach the long-term goal. The greater the impact on the business, the scarier the transition becomes.
Given the importance of information technology to modern businesses, changing your IT service provider – or more impactful still, your entire IT service model – certainly ranks among the most impactful changes for any business. However, it doesn’t have to be one of the scariest, riskiest, or least desirable, if it’s done right.
As an Account Executive at Dataprise, helping new customers navigate through the transition to Dataprise services is a huge part of my job, and honestly one of my favorites. I encourage customers to see the transition not as a source of risk to their business, but as an opportunity to improve existing elements of their business and create the foundation of a successful partnership. Like any voyage, this requires the right vessel and crew (your managed service provider’s (MSP) business and team as well as your own team), the right tools and expertise (processes, software, documents, etc.), and most importantly, the right mindset.
While helping customers through the transition process, I consistently receive feedback and this last requirement – the mindset – is the one that presents the most challenges to many organizations. This is understandable, as change naturally brings many unknowns and ‘what ifs’ that can slow down decision-making, sow confusion and anxiety, and cause inefficiencies if not properly addressed. However, when organizations take the right steps to ensure the success of the transition, the process becomes an energizing, exciting opportunity to facilitate improvements.
Over several years of experience, I have noticed that many successful organizations tend to use the same broad strategies to navigate the transition successfully. The purpose of this article is to expose and elaborate on these strategies to benefit other organizations.
Decision-Making and Buy-In
The first factor to consider is the process by which the organization selects its managed services provider (MSP). In general, organizations should give this decision the same level of weight and consideration as any other business decision with similar costs and impact. Every organization’s process is different, but it needs to match the level of relative investment. Common steps include:
- Getting budgetary approval from the Chief Financial Officer
- Obtaining executive buy-in from the appropriate stakeholders
- Going through a formal RFP process
- Forming a committee to evaluate and vote on proposals
When gaining executive buy-in, it’s important to ensure that the departments and groups which stand to be most impacted by the change are involved early. This ensures that potential hurdles later down the road are addressed proactively and helps to propel the transition forward.
As a veteran provider in the MSP space, we can confidently testify that value is more important than cost alone when making technology decisions for your business. However, cost and budgeting are still critical considerations when planning for a transition to a new service provider. When planning for their IT budget, many organizations forget to account for onboarding costs, which can cause budgeting challenges further down the road. While onboarding costs may seem like an inconvenience, its important to remember that the transition represents a significant amount of effort on behalf of the MSP, and if done right, will provide significant long-term strategic and operational benefits to your business.
In addition to onboarding costs, there will likely be some overlap between the outgoing service provider and the new partner, meaning that billing will most likely overlap for a short period as well. Similarly, there may be costs associated with purchasing new hardware if your current hardware is owned by your outgoing MSP, or if it is outdated and past the term of vendor support.
Information and Documentation
One of the most crucial elements of a successful service transitioning is the gathering and synthesizing of the right information to enable successful ongoing service. Your new MSP will need to be able to receive and document administrative credentials, network diagrams and infrastructure data, IT policies and processes, additional related business procedures, and other, similar information. If you already have this information documented somewhere, and have updated it within the last six months, it ensures a much smoother transition, as there will be no need to pause to search for or update documentation.
Identifying a Champion
Who within your organization will be responsible for ensuring that the transition is successful? Who will be the primary liaison for your new MSP? The MSP will ultimately be responsible for performing much of the work that goes into the transition but identifying an internal “champion” provides the MSP with a clear point of contact and ensures that your stakeholders know who to turn to for updates and information. For larger organizations which wish to involve a greater number of stakeholders, creating a RACI matrix can help to clearly define each individual or group’s role.
Lastly, organizations should be careful to consider the timing of any transition and its potential impact on your business. That means considering potential contract overlap like mentioned above, but also taking stock of your business. Are there any major IT projects or other company initiatives going on which might negatively impact, or be negatively impacted by, the transition to your new MSP?
At Dataprise, we can often be quite flexible to accommodate customer needs. By working with your Account Executive and Onboarding Team to identify potential risks to the transition process, organizations can easily avoid potential pitfalls due to timing by adjusting the onboarding plan.
The operational goal of any transition is to minimize the impact on your end-users and business while maximizing the potential for a successful ongoing relationship. Though there will always be potential for storms and rough waters, choosing the right partner (the other half of your “crew”) and taking the right actions to prepare will keep your ship sailing smoothly. The benefit of partnering with an MSP like Dataprise is that we have been helping organizations with their IT needs across the country for 25 years. With an experienced partner who is invested in your mission, a well-established transition team, and a clear understanding of your goals and needs, no port will be closed and no voyage too far.