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Ensuring a Smooth Transition to a New Managed Services Provider
Feb 16, 2017
Selecting a new managed services partner and transitioning from old to new is a long process. Adapter Carl Hanssen shares his considerations and best practices to help customers transition smoothly.
At Adapt lately, we rarely encounter clients who are asking us to take over provision of their IT services from an internal IT team – many of them have already been through the outsourcing process, some have changed Managed Service Provider (MSP) several times, so when looking at new contracts, they involve taking on services from another MSP.
There are a few reasons why our clients decide to change (apart from the obvious ‘it’s time for a change’ and to get a better deal commercially):
The contract the client signed with their current provider either no longer provides them with the service they need & at a competitive price, or never did – so the supplier and client can’t resolve the differences
The incumbent MSP has changed business focus during the lifetime of the contract and is no longer an expert in providing elements critical to the client
One or several service impacting events have taken place which have irreparably dented the MSP’s reputation - and consequently the customer CTO’s - reputation within their own business
The client is greenfielding their application estate and looking for expertise in the new platform of choice – most often Adapt sees this as a shift from legacy dedicated or shared multi-tenant infrastructure to cloud services
IT Managed Services as a Journey
The evolution of IT Managed Services within a business is a journey. Changing MSP is a stage in that journey - a significant and major one, carrying with it an opportunity to radically improve services and shape future business direction. Selecting a new partner or transitioning to a new provider is a process. Here are some considerations, based on my personal experience of involvement with Adapt’s clients:
Be upfront about what you need
The most successful relationships happen when the conversations between customer and MSP clearly articulate what’s needed from the new provider, rather than what the customer is getting from the old provider (which may not be unsatisfactory/ out of date etc). The signed contract should unambiguously give the customer what they need and include vital elements such as refresh, scaling, exit clauses etc.
Allow enough time
Some transitions – like moving services to the cloud - can be accomplished very quickly. Others – where there are WAN links, physical hardware, software development and integration - can take many months. If there are dedicated WAN links involved, the typical SLA on a new provision (e.g. if an Multiprotocol Label Switching tail needs to be landed in a data centre) is 90 working days – if there are roads to dig up and fibres to lay, it can take even longer and that’s before any migration can start. So it’s easy to see how the entire process from start (first contact with potential new suppliers) to finish (services relocated) can take longer than envisaged.
Another point when considering timing is to plan the migration at least a couple of weeks before the last possible moment – if you have to dig into so much project contingency that the date absolutely has to be moved back, or the move is aborted and you have to roll back, you’ll have nowhere left to go.
However strained it becomes, keep things as amicable as possible with your existing MSP. The success and pain-free nature of any service transition/ migration depends on cooperation between the old and new suppliers. In any scenario, the new supplier will be keen to go the extra mile to ensure everything goes smoothly, the trick as client is to get the old supplier to behave the same way. A major cause of relationships breaking down is when the existing supplier feels like they have been misled or cheated in some way along the line.
Understand the contract
There’s no doubt that you’ll understand the contract with your new MSP in great detail. The contract with your old supplier matters just as much - many contracts contain exit clauses that specify the level of involvement and cooperation during a service transition to a new supplier. This is vital knowledge and will save time and money in the long-run if it’s properly understood. You also need to be clear on ownership of hardware and software assets & support contracts.
Clear project ownership & management
There is likely to be a large number of parties involved in a transition project so there needs to be a clear overall owner, who has levers on all parties and is able to effectively control each strand of the project. Often the client has to assume this role, as it’s very hard to empower other parties in this way - not impossible, but it requires careful thought, planning and contractual agreement.
When looking for a new partner, consider long-term objectives, as well as short term deliverables and your current position. As started above, the evolution of IT Services within a business is a journey. You must know your starting point and find a supplier that will guide you and work with you on that journey towards your long-term objectives, helping you to realise incremental benefit at each stage.
Assume that the scope of the managed service will change during the lifetime of the contract, so look for a partner that is prepared for that change and can accommodate it. Press for a contract that underpins this.
If you are looking to change your MSP, I hope the transition is successful and that you win through the process. Don’t be afraid to seek advice on your journey - contact us if you want to talk about it by tweeting @DoMore_Adapt or getting in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.