Mapping SLAs to Business Goals is Key for MSP Success

Getting Real Business Value from Services Partners Goes Beyond Technology

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After more than a few years in the industry (yes I started out on an Apple II back in the mid ’80s), I never tire of attending industry customer events. As Marketing Director, it means that I get to spend quality time talking directly with clients and discussing what it is like in the “real world.” Just recently, we had a booth at the Microsoft Future decoded event and I had a long and interesting talk over coffee with the head of infrastructure at a large international bank based in London.

We talked about what NTT were promoting at the event in terms of solutions, but she said it was not just about the tech stuff – server-less computing, hybrid cloud, mode two dev ops and such like. To her a managed service provider (MSP) today must go farther than just “what is on the tin” in terms of managing the technology – they must understand the business inside out and comprehend exactly how the services being offered are going to help the client reach their business goals.

So this got me thinking about a blog post topic….

Incredibly, the managed services market is forecast to be worth about $282 billion by 2023, according to analysts, as enterprises increasingly depend on technology to boost business productivity in the digital economy. Certainly the woman I spoke with said that over 60% of her annual budget spend now goes on various service providers. So what to look for when picking your IT partners?

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Choosing the right MSP to partner with can be a daunting task. “How do I know an MSP can adapt to my business needs as my enterprise changes and grows?” “How do I know I am getting real business value from my investment in the services provided by an MSP?” These are all questions I hear clients ask as technology is now pivotal to day-to-day business processes - and high on the boardroom agenda. But just how do you measure business value against an MSP?

Of course, service level agreements (SLAs) provide the foundation for the relationship between the provider and the client.  SLAs are there to define and document the technology services the MSP will provide - alongside response times, performance standards, payment models and so forth.

SLAs are, therefore, an important aspect of the contract, laying out metrics by which services are measured, issues addressed or penalties given out. Delivering on a strong set of SLAs will enable the MSP to better integrate themselves into your business plan. But, in my experience, SLAs alone can’t help your senior management understand the level of business value they are getting from the relationship.

The relationship of IT with the rest of the business

According to a recent independent survey we carried out with IDG Connect of more than 1,000 IT decision makers across the U.S., Europe and Asia, IT skills shortage and being able to balance security with accessibility were the key reasons they were reaching out to MSPs for assistance.

Partnering with MSPs enables organizations to reduce in-house workloads, enabling IT teams to focus on more important projects that drive business value. It also allows you to take advantage of MSPs’ economies of scale and provide you with access to the latest technologies and skill sets. Cloud infrastructure, for example, is by far the biggest sector enterprises currently farmed out to MSPs, mainly due to lack of in-house specialist skills in this area.

However, a stand-out MSP should also be able to address your specific business needs and understand how technology impacts your productivity and efficiencies. 

Technology’s relationship with the rest of the business

To ensure that your relationship with your MSP is moving in the right direction, it is a good idea to build in some customized key performance indicators (KPIs).  As the old adage says: “what gets measured gets managed.”

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We are all aware in the MSP world that there is much that can be measured. But there is also a danger of measuring too much and sacrificing driving business forward. So KPIs need to be chosen carefully. You could, for example, measure your in-house IT team’s productivity on business-focused projects pre- and post-MSP arrival. Or look at how much you’ve managed to close the skills gap by bringing an MSP on board. Remember, part of the value of KPIs is their ability to spotlight positive or negative trends, so they need to be regularly reassessed in line with your enterprise’s IT transformation plans.

By measuring how your MSP is performing against the IT issues you had in the past, you can properly resource your IT requirements and align them with your business growth for the future. You can also quickly spot any teething problems. But it’s not all about technology.

A mutual understanding

A personal service aspect is key to any client’s relationship with their MSP. It is what builds trust and loyalty. Remember also that how well your MSP understands your business processes has a direct result on how well they can support your IT infrastructure – and ultimately help to boost the bottom line.

A recent case study comes to mind involving an airline that turned to us to host its Internet booking systems. The existing system was proving both unreliable and slow. So when we agreed to take over the running of the servers, we searched for areas of improvement in both reliability and speed. This prompted a mutual agreement that the number of on-line flight bookings was to be a major KPI. So we baked this into the service level agreements as a key measurement. The result was a significant increase of on-line bookings and a CIO who walks into the boardroom every quarter with good news to share.


When selecting and negotiating with an MSP that might take over the running of your IT infrastructure, look past the usual technical measurements such as “uptime/availability” and “throughput” and think more about SLAs that are aligned with the goals of your actual business.

SLAs: support for ongoing success

At NTT, we have the experience, expertise and accreditations to deliver against applicable SLAs that will contribute to your success and bolster your bottom line. We understand that as business changes, so do service requirements, and that SLAs need to be regularly reviewed to fully align them with business goals. To view a global survey of over 1,000 IT decision makers by IDG Connect on the adoption of managed services, or perhaps get in touch regarding our services visit:

About the Author

alan jpegAlan Hill  - Global Marketing Director – NTT (Managed Services) Linkedin

Alan has worked in senior international positions for global lighthouse technology brands such as IBM, Cisco, Fujitsu, Siemens, and Motorola, and brings more than 20 years of experience in marketing, communications, and public relations to his role as head of global marketing for managed services. He is responsible for all external communications, including PR, web presence, social media, and marketing campaigns. Alan’s primary focus is to continually increase global thought leadership eminence and brand awareness to help drive business results.


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