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How to Select a Managed Service Provider


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10 candid questions will help you determine if a provider of managed services can meet and exceed your expectations. Also included are examples of specific details (answers) that you should seek.

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How to Select a Managed Service Provider

  1. 1. Q&A How to Select a Best-Fit Managed Service Provider The following 10 candid questions will help you determine if a provider of managed services can meet and exceed your expectations. Also included are examples of specific details that you should seek. How do you select a best-fit service provider? Ask all the right questions. Where do you start the selection process? Focus primarily on how the service offered will help to solve problems or create new opportunities—not merely what it does (its features and functions). 1. Are you prepared to offer only the features and functions that my business needs, instead of the ones that you include in your one-size-fits-all service bundle? ● Ask for a list of all the “standard” items included in the base bundle ● Request details of all optional items that can be added and/or subtracted According to recent market research, decision makers at companies of all sizes now prefer that service offerings only include essential features as mandatory elements in a bundle. All other features may then be selected from a menu of options. 2. Can you describe the services that you offer—and their business benefits—in terms that I, and the other members of my executive team, will understand? ● The salesperson or sales support person should address your specific needs ● Ask the service provider to explain any terms that you don’t understand If you can’t determine how the managed services will directly benefit your business, then you’ll be unable to make an informed decision. Qualified service providers should be able to describe their offerings within the context of your specific business requirements. 3. Will you provide case study materials to demonstrate how you delivered a managed service solution that solved a business challenge similar to mine? ● Documented customer success stories provide useful insight ● Reference checks should include details on the business impact While a service provider with limited experience may be able to meet your application needs, those that can clearly articulate the methodology they use to meet their existing customer needs will likely provide a better fit. Moreover, a basic knowledge of how your industry operates will help to avoid misunderstandings. 4. What is the depth and breadth of your current managed service portfolio? ● A service migration path provides the means to adapt to your growth needs ● Service providers that are specialists may offer services through their partners It helps to have a forward-looking view of your needs when selecting a service provider. Sometimes a specialist is preferable to a multi-service provider. Otherwise, try to anticipate future service requirements, and consider giving preference to a provider with those combined skills. © 2008 Cisco Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. This document is Cisco Public Information. Page 1 of 3
  2. 2. Q&A 5. How can I be sure you will apply the best people, processes, and tools? Is your company certified by a leading vendor, and are your offerings delivered using industry- leading technologies to meet the highest quality of service? ● Service providers have data on how they’ve qualified to meet standards ● Providers are often required to attain a “qualification level” that is tiered The good service providers will achieve basic industry-standard technical certifications. The better service providers will comply with the ITIL foundation practices. The best will have passed the stringent qualifications of a service designation process that requires an independent third-party audit of their performance. They must pass rigorous annual assessments of their network operations center. Technical design and operations staff must also complete advanced training. 6. Where are your network management facilities located, and what are the hours of operation? Describe your escalation process, in the event of an outage. ● Service providers typically have both primary and backup facilities ● Find out whom to contact when your primary support contact is not available Depending on your needs, service support during regular business hours may be enough. However, some businesses have requirements for 24-hour operation. Help desk coverage, staffing levels, and backup planning are important aspects to consider in this scenario. 7. What are the assurances for levels of availability, serviceability, performance, and operation? What is the process for remedy if and when levels aren’t maintained? ● All service providers establish and maintain benchmark measurements ● Service contracts detail the metrics, and references have results data It is now common for service providers to offer service-level agreements (SLAs) as an integral part of a service contract, where the “level of service” is formally defined. The SLA can include the common understanding about services, priorities, responsibilities, and guarantees—sometimes specifying financial remedies as a result of failure to comply with SLAs. 8. What are the type and scope of management capabilities that you routinely offer? ● Request a list of capabilities and associated benefits, relative to your needs ● Historical reporting is essential, forward-looking insight is valuable Examples of typical basic management tools include a service desk and management of various activities including assets, configuration, fault, change, release/update, performance, capacity reporting and planning, and trend reporting with recommendations. 9. If required, how will you support existing or acquired IT/networking infrastructure? ● Service providers may have policies that limit the device types they support ● In addition, some providers only support devices they install and configure If you are like many managed service users, then you have an environment where a combination of self-managed and out-tasked infrastructure will need to coexist—at some point in time. Service providers should be able to delineate how their role and responsibilities start and end in a multifaceted scenario. Likewise, they should explain their role in the event that they are asked to operate in a multi-vendor or multi-service provider environment. © 2008 Cisco Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. This document is Cisco Public Information. Page 2 of 3
  3. 3. Q&A 10. How do you price and deliver professional services, beyond the scope of the managed service? ● Examples of advice, support, and guidance should be included as standard ● Ask for non-standard consultation examples, and associated fee structure There will likely come a time when you will ask your service provider to perform an activity that is beyond the scope of your managed service agreement. You should anticipate this event by asking the service provider what constitutes routine (non-billed) information and guidance, and in contrast what is the fee structure for time and materials work—or other billable activity. Summary Managed services have a long and successful history of helping businesses like yours to reap the full benefits of IT and networking technology capabilities—without the drudgery and distraction of the ongoing equipment operation, management, maintenance, and perpetual updates or enhancements. Asking the right questions, and receiving full disclosure regarding the services offered, will enable you to confidently select a best-fit service provider for your specific needs. ® Cisco understands that this selection process is critical, and has developed the Cisco Powered Program to help. Cisco awards the Cisco Powered designation to a select group of managed services providers worldwide that offer their customers reliable, proven, and cost-efficient technologies and solutions. The Cisco Powered logo tells you that the service provider uses industry-leading Cisco solutions in its network and that Cisco recommends its managed services. Act Now: Find a Recommended Service Provider Printed in USA C67-508933-00 11/08 © 2008 Cisco Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. This document is Cisco Public Information. Page 3 of 3