How To Evaluate an MSP Vendor in Eight Steps

Vendor evaluation

Clients’ needs are quickly changing. They’re looking to tap into the business enablers, efficiencies and revenue streams fueled by new data analytics, sensor, automation, cloud computing and other solutions. They need their MSP to guide them through those changes, overcome related challenges and leverage future opportunities.

To address those changes, MSPs need the same type of direction and support from their vendor partners. But finding a vendor that truly believes in the word “partnership” is not always easy. In this new world of solutions-as-a-service, the task of finding the right vendor set is even more difficult.

Every MSP has vetted a vendor to ensure it’s well funded, offers products that fit a customer’s needs, and has some type of partner program. But as more MSPs look to add products that augment core RMM (Remote monitoring and management) and PSA (Professional services automation) platforms, it’s worthwhile to review some of the essentials that determine whether a vendor has what it takes to be a valuable partner. Here are a few strategies and tips that can improve the evaluation process.

1.REPUTATION

Tap into your network of trusted colleagues – other MSPs, association and alliance directors, distributors – to find out what they know about the vendor and whether it offers the services, support and conditions you seek. Ask about licensing and revenue models, as well as product scalability and compatibility with your current and planned offerings.

2. VISIBILITY/AVAILABILITY

Vendors with the strongest partner relationships are usually the ones with the most visible channel execs. They’re the ones who, after the trade show or industry event, are always at the bar or restaurant building relationships with a group of channel partners. If they’re putting in extra hours to listen, share and communicate, chances are their bosses do too.

3. PROGRAMS

Established vendors new to the MSP space often base their programs on outdated channel models, while new vendors might lack the experience needed to build solid programs. A good program should include training, education, marketing, lead gen and a dedicated partner portal, all optimized for the MSP market.

4. COMMUNICATION

Failure to communicate is one of the top complaints service providers level against vendors. Communicating a price change, product launch or new SLA structure a few days before it happens is far too late. Find vendors that involve their partners in forming key decisions.

5. ADVISORY COUNCILS

Look for vendors with advisory councils that meet regularly, foster honest discussions and respond to feedback. Typically they will have expertise in the vendor’s various areas of business and can provide practical insights as well as serve as a sounding board or reality check. Speak with members when vetting a vendor.

6. SLAs

Carefully evaluate a vendor’s SLAs for the service delivery process, issue resolution, performance levels and standards. If SLAs don’t meet certain needs, try to negotiate. (Here’s a good piece on the issue from Dan Liutikas, CompTIA’s chief legal officer.)

7. CONFLICT

If a vendor has a direct sales model, find out what policies it has to avoid channel conflict.

8. COMPLIANCE

Customers require MSPs to carry relevant certification and audit credentials. MSPs should require the same from vendors. (Charles Weaver, CEO of MSPAlliance states the case in this article.)

The vendor/MSP partnership is by no means a one-way street. MSPs have to enter the relationship with reasonable expectations. But a bit of due diligence and research before taking the plunge can lead to a long, happy and fruitful marriage.

For more on how to choose the right vendor, visit:

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