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Managed Service Buyer Checklist – part 2

The following are questions four through seven of a ten-point Q&A designed to help guide your managed or hosted service procurement process. Here are the first three buyer questions and service provider answers.

4. What is the depth and breadth of your current managed service portfolio?
  • A service migration path provides the means to adapt to your growth needs.
  • Service providers that are specialists may offer services through their partners.
It helps to have a forward-looking view of your needs when selecting a service provider. Sometimes a specialist is preferable to a multi-service provider. Otherwise, try to anticipate future service requirements, and consider giving preference to a provider with those combined skills.

5. How can I be sure you will apply the best people, processes, and tools? Is your company certified by a leading vendor, and are your offerings delivered using industry-leading technologies to meet the highest quality of service?
  • Service providers have data on how they've qualified to meet standards.
  • Providers are often required to attain a "qualification level" that is tiered.
The good service providers will achieve basic industry-standard technical certifications. The better service providers will comply with the ITIL foundation practices. The best will have passed the stringent qualifications of a service designation process that requires an independent third-party audit of their performance. They must pass rigorous annual assessments of their network operations center. Technical design and operations staff must also complete advanced training.

6. Where are your network management facilities located, and what are the hours of operation? Describe your escalation process, in the event of an outage.
  • Service providers typically have both primary and backup facilities.
  • Find out whom to contact when your primary support contact is not available.
Depending on your needs, service support during regular business hours may be enough. However, some businesses have requirements for 24-hour operation. Help desk coverage, staffing levels, and backup planning are important aspects to consider in this scenario.

7. What are the assurances for levels of availability, serviceability, performance, and operation? What is the process for remedy if and when levels aren't maintained?
  • All service providers establish and maintain benchmark measurements.
  • Service contracts detail the metrics, and references have results data.
It is now common for service providers to offer service-level agreements (SLAs) as an integral part of a service contract, where the "level of service" is formally defined. The SLA can include the common understanding about services, priorities, responsibilities, and guarantees -- sometimes specifying financial remedies as a result of failure to comply with SLAs.

Next step: The remaining Q&A will be featured in part 3. We'll also provide a link to a complete list, and an ROI calculator to help you start to build a business case.