January 20, 2020
    15 MIN READ

    Not all MSPs are created equal. Here are ten signs it may be time to find a new Managed Services Provider.

    Background

    What is a MSP?

    A Managed Service Provider (MSP) is a business process outsourcing firm that takes over some portion of a company's daily IT operations or departmental functions, such as supporting the business applications, databases, or infrastructure environments. Most often, a MSP provides services like remote DBA support, application management and support, and infrastructure support.

    IT Outsourcing market value

    In 2018, the marketing value of information technology outsourcing peaked at 62 billion USD.

    Why do organizations outsource to a MSP?

    • To gain access to resources with niche skills sets that are only needed for a set amount of time. Rather than employing a full-time employee with the same skills, outsourcing to a MSP can be a more cost-effective option. 
    • For business continuity — MSPs can create a disaster recovery plan and providing support coverage during periods of time when full-time employees are unavailable; weekends, off-hours, holidays, etc. 
    • To manage critical IT functions so their internal staff can be more productive and focus on strategic projects that improve the business.
    • Lack of an internal IT staff.

    Whether you are deciding whether to hire a MSP or already have one in place, here are ten red flags to watch for.

    MSP Red Flags

     

    1. Problems with Pooled Resources

    Understanding the Pooled Resources model

    The pooled resources support model leverages a shared group of resources such as Database Administrators (DBAs) or Oracle EBS Technical Consultants. As opposed to resources are not "named" and work remote or off-shore, rather than on-site at the client's office location.

    A pooled resources model can unburden the cost of support but can also create headaches for client management and stakeholders. Service quality and consistency are two common challenges when leveraging pooled resources. 

    A DBA or Application Developer can resolve issues more effectively and thoroughly when they understand your environment. The resources assigned to your company will never know your environment if a new resource is supporting it for the first time each time you contact them.

    Under the pooled resources model, MSPs usually have a range of clients that share the same resources. The logistics of resources is hard to track, as they support multiple clients and you might not be a top tier client for them.

    Choosing a MSP solely based on price can ultimately cost you more money in the long run. For example, you may need to pay for additional products and services that aren't included in your managed services contract — from specialized consultants that your MSP is unable to provide, to local resources that can work at your office location.

    Red Flags
    Your MSP does not have an on-site or remote resource who facilitates the communication between you and the pooled resources.
    Pooled resources do not follow your internal processes or steps for activities like moving code to production.
    Pooled resources that require too much time to resolve technical issues that are specific to your business.

    They stop working on your ticket when they receive higher priority tickets from a different client they support, which breaches your Service Level Agreements (SLAs) when they need to work on other client tickets that are a higher priority than yours.

    Example: While your MSP team is fixing one of your Sev 2 tickets they receive a Sev 1 ticket from a different client. They stop working on your Sev 2 ticket until they resolve the Sev 1 ticket for the other client.  

    Your MSP lacks sufficient resources to support the SLAs laid out in your contract.
     

    2. Obtaining Documentation and Fixes is like "Pulling Teeth"

    A lack of documentation is one of the most common gripes that we hear from clients.

    So, why is it so difficult to document?

    Short answer — it isn't.

    MSP's with the right processes in place should be building a documentation library for each client they support. Whether they have a process in place and choose to follow it might be the reason why you have a hard time obtaining documentation.

    Alternatively, your MSP might not create or share documentation for the sake of job security. We often encounter this scenario during a knowledge transfer with an incumbent MSP that is being replaced.

    Red Flags
    Your MSP does not document bug fixes or maintain a documentation library.
    Your MSP is hesitant to share documentation with you.
    Your MSP documents some but not all issues or bug fixes.
    You have needed to postpone or extend KT (knowledge transfer) sessions due to your MSP's lack of documentation.
    There are frequent issues that you can't trace back to the individual who caused it, for example, when your MSP applies a patch or deploys a change to Production without opening a ticket or following your process.
    You are dependent on a single resource to perform the same work in the next environment because they performed the initial work.
     

    3. High Turnover Rate

    When your MSP regularly cycles through resources it can cause inconsistencies with the quality of support you receive. Having a consistent team is critical for business continuity and to ensure there are stakeholders who are accountable for driving the support engagement.

    Red Flags
    You are frequently on-boarding and training new MSP resources.
    You are frequently managing new account requests or closing accounts for resources no longer with your MSP.
    There is little to no communication to close accounts when MSP resources leave the company. This can also cause a security breach for your organization. 
    Your MSP doesn't track who supports your company.
     

    4. Inexperienced Resources

    If you've outsourced the bulk of your IT operations to your MSP, do they provide resources with the appropriate skills? How are they tracking and communicating issues? Do they have a ticketing system in place that is easy to use? These are areas that should be specified in your support contract. If you expect your MSP to support any upgrades or new technologies that your team implements, it's imperative to spell out these requirements in your contract. Without defining your expectations and foreseeable scenarios your MSP may consider these tasks to be out of scope and require additional costs to support.

    Red Flags
    Your MSP provides resources that lack the specialized skills or certifications needed to support your environment.

    Your MSP is unable provide resources that can support new systems implemented by your internal team, or the latest version of existing systems that have been upgraded.

    For example, if your MSP supports your Oracle E-Business Suite 11i environment and you upgrade to R12.2, can they support the R12.2 version?

    Your MSP utilizes communication tools that are ineffective and difficult to work with.
    You MSP lacks additional tools to effectively support your environment.
     

    5. Too much reliance on 1-2 "star" employees

    If your outsourced support team continually defers complex issues to a specific individual, it may be time to evaluate the team's qualifications. What would happen if the specific individual takes time off or leaves the company? Would the remainder of the support team be unable to solve complex tickets?

    Red Flags
    Communication comes to a halt when your MSP's point person is unavailable.
    Issue resolution is delayed when your MSP's "star" resources are unavailable, whether the resource's time off is planned or unplanned.
    There is a lack of participation from your MSP support team when their "star" resources are unavailable.
    You have raised these issues with your MSP but they haven't rectified the issue.
     

    6. Your organization is not your MSP's top priority

    How many layers of management do you need to go through to get contract answers and escalations addressed? Does your MSP provide a dedicated executive sponsor that will work with you and proactively address issues, forecast support budgets, etc.? Are they responsive?

    Red Flags
    Your MSP does not provide a dedicated Account Manager, sponsor, or success team that you can contact directly to address issues and get answers to contract-related questions. You might need to navigate multiple layers of management to get in touch with the person responsible for managing your account.
    The chain of communication between you and your MSP Account Leader(s) is limited to business hours.
    There is not a clear escalation path or communication channels to use when you need to escalate an issue to your MSP.
    Your MSP's support resources are unavailable to work on your tasks due to focusing on other clients.
     

    7. You are not receiving the proactive support spelled out in your contract

    Does your MSP perform proactive activities like maintenance, tuning, and space allocation? Do they provide proactive recommendations? Do they only resolve issues after they impact your business?

    This is a major problem for organizations that outsource their entire support operations. The MSP is expected to be the expert that knows what and when to scale to avoid future issues. It may be time to move on if you find your MSP constantly fire fighting or repeating issues with temporary fixes and not providing a permanent solution.

    Here are some examples of reactive versus proactive support:

    Red Flags for Reactive Support Proactive
    Programs erroring out due to space issues. Putting alerts in place and setting appropriate thresholds to notify in advance.
    Performance issues towards every month end and firefighting. Identifying what programs are run and working with teams to tune the program code to improve performance.
    Allowing interface programs to run and error records to build up, which results in poor performance. Cleaning out errored records from interface tables on a set frequency, identifying interface programs and tables, and performing a scheduled clean up.
     

    8. Your MSP has difficulty scaling when you need them to

    A primary reason for outsourcing IT support is to overcome limitations with in-house technology or skills. If your MSP is unable to scale the IT support team up or down within a reasonable amount of time without affecting response times, it may be time to look elsewhere. You should be able to adjust the size of your support team quickly and on-board additional resources, when needed. This is the core reason in the first place for outsourcing IT support. 

    Red Flags
    Delays in hiring a particular Subject Matter Expert (SME) when needed.
    The same resource is portrayed as a SME across multiple technologies, even though this resource may not be.
     

    9. Your MSP causes security issues

    Your MSP should manage and account for potential risks to your systems, and have in place the processes and technology to stay compliant with data privacy and security. They should follow the same procedures and expectations that apply to your in-house team.

    security incidentOne in four enterprises (1,000+ employees) are increasing 2020 IT spend due to a recent security incident according to a SpiceWorks report.

    Red Flags
    Your MSP team shares user credentials and passwords between multiple resources.
    Your MSP resources save sensitive data to their local machines.
    Your MSP resources access your systems from unauthorized locations.
    There has been phishing or compromised accounts as a result of the MSP not exhibiting common sense.
     

    10. Your MSP support team needs constant guidance and direction

    This is a mixed bag because each organization approaches outsourced support differently. Some want a MSP that provides technical fixes and strictly follows the direction of the client (reactive more than proactive). Basically, the MSP is the man-power that responds and resolves issues when they arise. 

    Whether your MSP provides Tier 1, 2, or 3 support, each tier requires a different mindset. Let's take a look at the differences between support tiers.

    Tier 1 — Reactive Damage Control

    Tier 1 support resources do not necessarily need to think outside the box; they are tasked with resolving a technical issue and follow your process to close that issue. They follow your direction and react to issues as they occur.

    Tier 1 Red Flags
    Your MSP support resources are often unable to fix assigned issues and your internal team is regularly required to step in.
    Tier 1 support resources only follow your internal process for closing a ticket when convenient.

    Tier 3 — Proactivity to Avoid Disaster

    Tier 3 support typically involves senior-level resources that anticipate and solve IT issues before they impact your business. Tier 3 support resources may also be tasked with improving system performance and scaling systems to accommodate business growth.

    Tier 3 teams are expected to work under minimal direction. You shouldn't have to remind your Tier 3 support team to perform activities like performance monitoring and tuning, scheduled maintenance, audits, or providing recommendations and best practices. Ultimately, you defer to your MSP  for a solution under the assumption that your MSP is the expert.

    Tier 3 Red Flags
    You are frequently reminding your MSP to perform proactive activities.
    Your MSP fails to give proper notice before performing scheduled maintenance.

     

    How you can overcome these red flags

    Replacing a MSP isn't an overnight task and the process itself can take months. 

    If you're dealing with these red flags and want to evaluate what options are available, you can explore ennVee's automated Oracle EBS application support services, Remote DBA support, and infrastructure support services.

    You can also schedule a meeting with our team to discuss your current support challenges and understand the benefits of automated and proactive managed support services.