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Canadian businesses looking to expand their operations will often do so by streamlining their internal processes through digital innovation. This will likely involve hiring an external IT business partner, as the large upfront cost of hiring an internal IT team to streamline processes is often too high.

Although hiring an external team of experts is a good idea on paper, not all IT Managed Services Providers (MSPs) are created equal. Here are the three key considerations that will lead you to the provider that will genuinely impact your business.

Ensure the MSP understands your business and IT needs

An MSP must understand their client’s industry and goals inside out to create optimal digital innovation policies. Without this understanding, the MSP is destined to treat your business with a cookie-cutter approach, at the expense of better-considered technology.

A good MSP will be able to take your corporate strategy and identify how and where technology can help. They will optimise your existing resources and tools, while also constantly looking for ways to improve your operations, whether through new introductions or changes to the status quo.

For instance, we work with an interior design agency based in Ontario who had set itself a goal of improving collaboration and project accuracy. Rather than offer all our clients the same tool, regardless of their structure or needs, we introduced a Virtual CIO who worked with them to identify the most suitable solution for their business, which in their case was Microsoft Office 365.

Ensure they constantly improve your “Business as usual” policies

While digital innovation will often focus on ambitious new projects, a genuinely valuable MSP will also deliver core, centralized maintenance and support services to a high standard. They will have thorough and automated patching processes, rigorous inspection routines, and they will hold their support teams to high benchmarks and expectations. But no matter how impressive those benchmarks may seem, you must check they are sufficient for your business.

For example, different businesses require different speed or availability of help desk support. An ecommerce business operating across multiple time zones at all hours of the day, seven days a week, will need their MSP to ensure continuous uptime and rapid out of hours issue resolution. On the other hand, some businesses mainly operate within normal business hours, but have predictable peaks of activity during the year, for instance accountancy firms during tax season, and will need increased hours support and high priority service during this time.

Ensure that your MSP “future-proofs” your business

The third quality to look for in a strategic MSP is the ability to plan for the long-term. An MSP might recommend sensible technologies that initially work well for your business needs, but may not be scalable or expandable and actually undermine future efforts to grow the business.

A classic example is where an MSP recommends new approaches without considering data privacy laws, and particularly how they may change. For example, Canadian businesses who target the EU market are now subject to GDPR rules. If the introduction of this law was not considered when your MSP redesigned your infrastructure, you may find that some of your data management processes are undermining your adherence. The same may occur again if your MSP is not aware of new data privacy legislation or new industry-specific regulations that are due to be introduced and that will impact your business.

Any MSP should be sufficiently aware of the current and imminent obligations on your specific business, and on your clients, to be able to make recommendations in their context. If you’re not sure, ask your MSP to provide a review of the pressures and changes on your business and how they will impact your technology choices, and compare it to your own understanding.

Ensuring that an IT managed services plan is strategic rather than reactive is crucial for digital innovation, and for the business to meet its ambitions. Ultimately, it comes down to whether they can align with and support your strategy. If so, the result will be an immediate and continued acceleration. If not, it could mean irretrievable lost opportunity.

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