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By: Ben Kohn on April 23rd, 2020

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Why MSPs Aren't for Everyone

Cost | Managed IT Services | Managed IT Chicago | Business IT

I’ve been a business owner and collaborator with several MSPs before joining Framework. In my career, I’ve worked with or alongside hundreds of customers that have engaged third party vendors to handle technology support and strategy. In many cases, it has gone very well. Other times, well, not so much. Since joining Framework, I have worked with dozens more clients looking for Managed Services, and our team has talked to hundreds, if not thousands.  


While Framework IT is passionate about the benefits of working with an MSP, understand outsourcing your IT support isn’t for every business.  It’s important for businesses not only to understand the benefits, but also when working with an MSP might not be right for them.


In this article, I’ll lay out some of the common problems that arise in relationships between companies and their MSP.  


Why should you work with an MSP?


Managed IT Service Providers act as the outsourced IT Team for a variety of clients. Different MSPs focus on different niches, but in general, all provide some form of support and strategy on how to utilize technology to make their clients better. MSPs operate as an ongoing service provider to their clients and many have adopted a monthly retainer model to mimic the function of an internal IT Team. The best MSPs will combine strategy, best practices, and support to create a roadmap for growth. 


As technology continues to permeate every aspect of the workforce, the role of an MSP will continue to grow. Globally, there are over 50,000 IT MSP’s generating an estimated $193 Billion (US) in annual revenue.  As the world of technology gets more complex, it’s the responsibility of MSPs to help clients navigate it well.  


Common problems when working with an MSP


In any business partnership, there are going to be disagreements, and trying to list them all here would be exhausting.  But in the spirit of good faith, we’ve taken some time internally to discuss what the most common symptoms of an unhealthy relationship between a client and an ITSP are.  They are titled as statements made by clients and dive into an explanation of what they may be facing.  If any of these statements represent your thoughts on Managed IT Services, it may not be a fit for you. 


IT is not a priority right now


We hear many prospective clients or friend’s businesses say this.  It makes sense, given the variety of tasks a growing company needs to accomplish to meet its goals, that managing their networks and computers isn’t at the top of their task list.  A business that has few noticeable IT related issues may say that the status quo isn’t getting in the way.  The old, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ axiom fits neatly in this category, and in some cases, that’s ok


What we have noticed is that in the early stage of company growth, leadership will take on the task of setting up everything from printers to email servers. In sophisticated clients, there may be a technical lead, like a CTO, who has the skills to deploy firewalls and server infrastructure.  This is a fortunate thing to have for smaller businesses whose primary goals may be to build revenue or firm up a product. 


Yet as headcount and client interactions grow, so too do IT environments.  We have noticed an increasing number of prospective clients claim IT isn’t a priority, only to have to scramble to fix issues outside of their capabilities when it becomes one. 


Other times, a business may never cross this bridge.  In the case of family-owned restaurants, for example, a few computers and a small wireless network are all that is necessary to churn out delicious food, keep the customers happy and the books kept.  In these instances, paying a monthly retainer for an MSP wouldn’t make financial or practical sense. Instead, business owners or interested parties can learn a bit about best practices and try to implement them or to find a break-fix computer support firm and lean on them when issues arise.  


We have an internal technical resource(s)


When a company reaches a certain size, it’s inevitable that at least one, if not a few of its employees have some form of technical training.  After all, technology has permeated every aspect of business, from marketing and sales to administration and accounting.  Learning how to write complex equations in Tableau or code in HTML requires a level of understanding that parallels other IT assets. It is easy to understand how leadership, without the nuanced understanding of individual online services, may expect a marketing resource to be able to figure out how to troubleshoot a wireless access point issue. 


Other groups have taken the time to build their own internal IT department, with roles and support desks that look very similar to an MSP.  Internally, they have ticketing systems, asset management and escalation procedures that support the applications and workflows of that specific business. The processes in place should be replicable enough to hire additional resources to support internal initiatives.  


When issues arise that are outside of the capability of  the internal team, they may lean on contractors to help them get over individual humps. Still the core of support and strategy will remain with the internal IT department. Most frequently, we see robust internal departments in companies with greater than 400 employees


We have a plan in place for IT issues but no vendor contract 


If you’re working with a break-fix IT vendor, this is most likely your bucket.  There are many organizations who decide that having a fixed monthly cost for IT services will exceed any unplanned expense that arises from having to call in a contractor on short notice.  In some instances, this may be correct.  In others, the true cost of reactivity may be buried in lost productivity or data breaches. When considering to evaluate the cost of break-fix vs an MSP, it’s important to understand these numbers and to try to value them in your organization.  


Even after understanding these functions, a break-fix arrangement may make the most sense for an organization. In these instances, a dedicated resource to call with issues may be nice to have, but the cost to get it is too high.  In other cases, MSP’s like Framework IT offer to have proactive monitoring or strategic influence over the business is simply more than the organization wants, and in these cases, a break-fix vendor makes plenty of sense.