The Key Elements of a Successful MSP Onboarding Project

You’ve just signed on with a new managed service provider who will be taking responsibility for your technology systems and support. Their team is celebrating the latest win for their sales team. Your anxiety level is at an all-time high.
Did you make a smart investment? Will this new company make good on all of their promises? Is your team going to come back to you in six months and tell you that you made a huge mistake?
We can’t see into the future, but there are some early indicators that your IT partnership will be successful. One of these is how your new provider runs their new client onboarding projects.

The key elements of a successful MSP onboarding project

From our perspective – and after 25 years in the industry – a solid, thoughtful onboarding project will have the following elements:

1 – A hand-off that goes beyond your service plan.

All MSPs will have a process where the sales team will hand a new client over to operations. This involves communicating which services need to be deployed, what the client is to be billed for, who is responsible for providing engineering and account management, and so forth.
The transfer cannot end here.
During the sales process, your new provider likely uncovered a whole host of problems that your company is facing and how those problems are impacting your business. You might have told them about bad experiences you had with MSPs in the past – experiences that you’re worried about reliving. They probably got at least a cursory feel for your culture, too.
You have a story, and this story needs to be communicated to everyone who will have a hand in supporting you going forward.

2 – A clear set of priorities, and a shared definition of success.

Once your new account team has gotten a full debrief, they should come meet with you. They have a big-picture sense of the problems they’re trying to solve, and they need to translate these into actionable next steps over the first few months of your engagement
Define a clear set of priorities, and make sure you’re on the same page as far as what it looks like to achieve this initial set of goals. Maybe it’s that you’ve reduced the amount of time lost to technology issues. Maybe it’s that you’ve restored your team’s faith in your technology. Or maybe you really just need someone to make sense of your network, and help you understand all of the moving pieces.
Whatever the case may be, it’s critical that your provider align themselves with what is important to you – not what they think you might want.

3 – A process for holding your new provider accountable.

To take this one step further, there needs to be a method for tracking your provider’s progress toward this shared definition of success. How are they going to measure their performance? How often will this measurement be taken? What happens if the results show that your provider is off track?
We’re all looking to get a tangible return on our investments, and something as simple as a staff confidence survey every six months can do wonders to hold your provider accountable for that return.
They should be taking the initiative here.

4 – An all-staff orientation.

This transition is going to affect each and every member of your company.
What role are they going to have to play in getting these new services set up? Are there to be any major changes to how they work on a day-to-day basis? How are they to reach out to this new company for help when they run into a problem? What sort of turnaround can they expect? What does the resolution process look like? How often will an engineer be around to provide some face-to-face attention?
The folks assigned to your account need to work through these questions with your staff to make sure all parties are on the same page, and that your team is comfortable with the change.

5 – A methodical service deployment.

There is, of course, a technical side to the onboarding as well. Your provider should be armed with a collection of tried-and-true checklists and that will guide them through an extensive, methodical network documentation process, along with the deployment of the tools required to manage your systems (generally software “agents” installed on your servers and workstations at minimum).
Thanks to all the steps leading up to this phase, no part of this should come as a surprise to anyone on your team.
More than anything, your onboarding project should look beyond technology, beyond service plans, and actually acknowledge the gravity of the transition you’re making and what it could mean for your business.
Then, once everyone is rowing in the same direction, the real magic can happen.

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