Is Your Washington DC Nonprofit Putting Out An RFP For Managed IT Services?

What should be the most important item on your checklist when looking for a managed IT services provider? Here’s a hint: it’s not cost!

What should be the most important item on your checklist when looking for a managed IT services provider? Here’s a hint: it’s not cost!

It’s no longer cost-effective to maintain staff for every individual element of an office – that’s not news. Managed service providers have been around for decades, but the true explosion of the managed service provider was in the late 1990s when the professional world underwent an evolution of epic proportion, comparable only to that of the debut of the computer. Remote monitoring and management emerged as valuable security-as-a-service options, and the managed services provider quickly became a high-demand business model.

Most managed service providers – especially in the IT services industry – market similar service packages and each claim to outshine competitors in the level of service, quality, and reliability. But which of these qualities is most important? Also, ‘cost’ is notably absent from this list.

First, any reference to cost in branding or marketing language is replaced by the consideration of value, and the provider’s value proposition. What can this provider do for you? What makes this provider stand out from all other providers? More recently, that last statement isn’t necessarily to reinforce why the provider is better, but why the provider is better for you.

What should you look for in a managed IT services provider?

As already said, promises made in marketing materials are pretty critical:

  • Reliability:
    • What’s unfortunate about this characteristic is that it’s often only in a crisis – large or small – that you find out if this promise holds true. If a server crashes in the middle of the night or on a weekend, is the provider responsive and timely in handling the situation? On a smaller scale, if a workstation behaves oddly and the provider needs to determine if this is a virus, if files have become corrupt, or any of the millions of other possible circumstances that can happen, does the provider minimize downtime of the workstation and get you back up and running quickly?
  • Quality:
    • Can the provider do everything that they claim they can? How thorough is their service offering? Do they have testimonials from current or former clients to share? Remember, this is an interview. In looking for a managed IT services provider, you are making a hiring decision, with the only difference being the decision is which company to hire instead of an internal employee. There’s no harm in checking the references of the provider, just like you would for any other hiring decision.
  • Service
    • The provider is friendly and polite in all sales efforts, but do they follow through? Will they give the same level of attention and care upon entering a formal relationship that they do from the onset of initial talks?

These three considerations are the forefront of what value a managed services provider can offer an organization, though these are not the only items on any checklist. Remember to relate each of these questions to your company directly when you can, and weigh each factor in your decision.

Think you’ve found “The One”?

You narrow the field down to just a couple or three options, and you’re trying to choose which managed IT services provider is the right fit for your nonprofit. Aside from the characteristics you’ve already read about, there are a few other considerations we recommend:

  • Has the provider worked with a nonprofit before?
    • The nonprofit business model differs from the for-profit business model is more ways than just how money is handled and how this is reported to the IRS. In addition to the cause or purpose served by the nonprofit, funds support operational costs, including overhead – into is the category staff/team members fall. As an outsourced team member, a managed service provider will need to be cognizant of the cost sensitivities, but also how this information is handled by internal applications. Additionally, safeguarding donor information, including personal details like contact information, is a requirement.
  • Has the provider worked with local (D.C.-based) companies or nonprofits?
    • A local organization is always preferred to a nameless, faceless entity across the country – or around the globe. Name recognition will go farther in a local situation, and likely this is the same case for networking and relationships.
  • Can they give you examples of true success stories?
    • You want to hear about a brand you recognize or a situation you can identify within this area to support their position as a possible provider.

Are they the right Washington DC IT partner for you?

Here is a short list of considerations we recommend you consider as you get closer to making a decision on which managed IT services provider you enter into a long-term relationship with:

Being able to confidently support the software and applications you use is an absolute must for a managed IT services provider with which you plan to work. By this we mean the knowledge and expertise should already exist so there won’t be any lead-in time required and the provider can start out strong, rather than get there eventually.

Technology is a constantly evolving concept, and an IT services provider should already be “ahead of the game”. New applications, new software, new ideas and new uses for existing solutions emerge every day, and we have to rely on the experts to keep abreast of changes and give their customers the very best options available.

Intelice Solutions can help you with all of your IT needs and has a team that specializes in working with nonprofits. Our commitment to quality, reliability, and service are unparalleled in Washington DC, and our clients would like nothing better than to share success stories with you about what makes Intelice Solutions the best managed IT services partnership for you.