How to Break Up with Your Current MSP

Relationships can be hard!  Personal relationships, stakeholder relationships, customers, business partners….and don’t get me started on kids!

In business, relationships need to be win-win to ensure the creation of value for both parties and they often start out that way.  But over time, a lot of things can change; markets shift, quality can drop, products become commoditised as technology advances in leaps and bounds.  And relationships can falter as operational issues arise and expectations are not met.  Some businesses grow and others wither and die.  It is impossible to predict if business partners and suppliers you have chosen are going to be able to deliver on their end of the bargain – long term.  This is why, sometimes, you have to “break up” with the organisations that provide you products and services….when value is no longer being created, when prices increase but the service does not, when products are dropping in quality, when timeframes are rarely met, when relationship dysfunction impacts business outcomes or when the other party is just taking advantage of you.

No one likes a break up.  It’s a difficult conversation that few people want to have.  It can lead to disappointment and bad blood.  It can get messy!  The below contains some hints and tips to assist you in times like this.  The context in this blog is breaking up with your MSP (an IT Managed Service Provider) but the wisdom below is applicable to most other business break-ups too.

Problems that can arise?

Before launching in to break up strategies, let’s have a quick look at some typical problems that can arise when you have been working with the same MSP for a while:

  1. Complacency:
    • There appears to be no IT strategy or plan in existence from your current provider
    • You are experiencing declining organisational productivity due to mis-management of technology resources
    • There is a lack of support and service from the existing IT resources at times when they are most needed
  1. Poor response to a specific incident:
    • A cyber-attack has highlighted poor cyber-security systems or practices
    • There has been a loss of business data due to a “ systems failure”
    • There are on-going service outages and/or regular downtime
  1. Cost increases:
    • There has been an overspend on IT, against the budget
    • There are surprise IT expenses that you were not expecting
    • Price hikes are above the market for the services provided
  1. Failure to keep up with the growth of your business
    • The business has grown to the point where staff need to access ‘always on’ IT support, through a 24×7 service desk:- but your existing provider cannot deliver this
    • There is a need for specific technical skills and experience for the implementation of one or more business-critical IT projects:- but your existing provider does not have the much needed capability

Does any of this sound familiar?  If so, the best way forward is to have a serious conversation with your existing MSP.  Ever heard of the term “natural justice”?  It means giving people the opportunity to respond and/or the opportunity to improve.  It’s a good strategy to highlight the things that are not going well with your current MSP and clearly articulate your expectations.  Everyone deserves a chance, right?

Next Steps….

So there has been some problems with your MSP (or any other product/service provider you rely on) and you have informally let them know and nothing has changed; things are moving too slow, or they have lapsed back into their old ways?  What’s next you say?  Is it time to break up yet?  I’m afraid so…it’s time to do some adulting!

There are plenty of ways to do this and sometimes you can combine two or more of the below strategies to ensure that you achieve a great business outcome, preserve relationships (where possible) and manage and mitigate risks; like losing data, getting locked out of systems, being stranded without a provider or losing business continuity.  The below are my top 5 strategies for an MSP Breakup:

  1. Review your contract and confirm that it is still “in date”. Confirm the notice period and send a letter/email to your Account Manager giving notice.  Simple, direct and legal.
  2. If your contract is due to expire in the next 12 months, give your existing provider notice that you intend to “go to market” in the lead up to the expiry date. Invite them to make a submission.
  3. Write a letter or email outlining your concerns, actions you have taken to date and expectations going forward, giving a clear deadline for improvement. This is more of an escalation than a break up, however a good strategy nonetheless.
  4. For the brave: Set up a meeting with your Account Manager in person. Come prepared with the key issues you are dissatisfied with and examples.  Explain your position in a matter-of-fact, dispassionate way and let them know you will be going elsewhere for IT support.
  5. Identify an alternative MSP and set up a meeting to understand how they would better manage the challenges and opportunities within your organisational/industry context. Atlantic Digital aims to be ANZ’s most trusted MSP and is open to supporting business in such a transition.

In Summary

If any of these problems strike a chord with you; your MSP is complacent, responds poorly to critical incidents, is costing too much or cannot keep up with the growth of your business, it is probably time you had a conversation with a trusted, reputable MSP that is local to you.  Breaking up is hard to do, but with the above strategies, you will be in a position to take control of the situation and get into an MSP relationship where your business is proactively supported and is safe from cyber-attack, all for a fair price.  Best of luck!