By B.J. Havlik, President and CEO

I vividly recall a time, long before SRC, when I was in the IT department of a large Fortune 500 organization. We had tapped the talents of a very skilled third-party managed service provider (MSP) to help us deliver production databases to our clients, but something went wrong and we were not able to deliver the solution in the timeframe that our client  had expected.

Technically, the MSP was at fault, but when my executive management wanted to know who was responsible, I told them I was.  When you work with a managed service provider, you can’t abdicate accountability.  If you maintain control of the relationship and take accountability for the process, you realize that the outsourcer – in this case, the large MSP we were working with – is actually a part of your team.  They are not there to take over your project; they are playing a role that you defined for them.

So, when people ask me if working with an MSP means handing over the keys to their IT kingdom to an “outsider,” the answer is a resounding no.  You have to keep the keys to your IT kingdom, but you can selectively use outsourcing to help you deliver the right service levels throughout your organization.

Knowing this ahead of time helped me immensely when I and a small group of colleagues founded SRC Technologies a decade ago. What I learned in those early days was that an MSP needs to look and feel like an extension of your own team. I can’t tell you how many times our clients here at SRC have said to us that we are “like part of their own business.” It’s the highest form of compliment a managed service provider can have from a client because it means we operate so seamlessly that people cannot tell where the internal team stops and the MSP picks up. Therefore, if there is just one thing you take away from this blog post, I hope it’s this: The most important thing when considering a long-term relationship with an MSP is to choose one that can blend into your own team so well that even you can’t tell where one stops and the other begins.

Sure, you want to have a contract so you establish who is accountable for what up front.  But you also want to build in enough flexibility and “greyness” so that you can blend the two teams together. After all, if you’re really working together as a cohesive unit, then the objective is the same for the MSP as it is for your organization. And, if one of you fails, you both fail – together.

The keys to establishing this kind of deep, intuitive relationship are threefold:

First, make sure that accountability guidelines are firmly established up front and center. And, be certain that the processes that define your deliverables are effectively connected and outlined. While you want that “greyness” in there to allow your IT team and the MSP’s team to bend and flex together, you need clear documentation, with responsibilities and accountabilities well defined from the start.

Second, it’s imperative that your team and the MSP’s team are comfortable enough with one another to engage each other in a collaborative, cooperative fashion.  In other words, they can’t be effective if they are afraid of you. Maintaining control of the relationship is not about you saying, “Jump!” and your MSP asking, “How high?” on the way up.  It is far better for the relationship and, ultimately, for the projects you work on together if your managed services partner says, “Why do I need to jump? Let’s talk about this.” This is the point at which real collaboration begins.

Third, be certain that both you and your MSP partner are completely and totally on the same page when it comes to what your shared client is expecting. That shared client may be your own internal HR department or your marketing department. But, if you have true clarity about the service levels your shared end-user clients expect, and if you’ve defined who is accountable for what and you’ve developed a collaborative relationship, then you’ve got the recipe for the perfect co-managed relationship.

If you’d like to learn more, read another of our recent blogs, “How Managed Services Helps You Overcome the ‘Balancing Act’ Dilemma.” Next, explore this case study to see how one company used managed services to their advantage, then download a checklist to help you choose the right managed service partner for your business. Finally, find out how one simple truth has shaped our 10 years in business, then contact us for a free consultation to discover what SRC  Technologies can do for you.