How to Ensure Your MSP Has An Effective Onboarding Process

When working with a managed services provider, it’s imperative to learn their onboarding process to ensure it meets your organization's technology expectations, goals, and current infrastructures.

Jul 23, 2021 | 7 min read

Books stacked with text - Effective, Onboarding, Process

The term “onboarding” is broad enough that it can mean different things to different groups, such as new employees, services providers and vendor partners, and customers. 

When it comes to the Managed Services Partner (MSP)-customer relationship, the value of a strong onboarding process directly sets the bar, especially during the introductory stages. It’s typically the first interaction between the two groups, and if clear expectations, goals, communication, and other processes are already in place, it will undoubtedly lead to a solid, long-term relationship built on trust, service, technology innovation, and customer success.

According to a survey by the customer service platform Gladly, 68 percent of those surveyed said theywould pay more for a product from a company which had a strong record of good customer service.”

A separate survey conducted by Wyzol, a video marketing firm, concluded that 63 percent of customers said that onboarding “is an important consideration in whether they make the decision in the first place.”

These findings, along with many others, underscore how an effective and streamlined onboarding process is critical to the Managed Services Provider (MSP)-customer relationship. Therefore, it’s important to partner with an MSP that emphasizes its onboarding process through well-documented and easy-to-follow integration and workflows. Such items could include itemizing infrastructures, conducting migrations or other services, examining and refreshing existing hardware and software, integrating and providing toolkit access, and outlining services rendered and response times. This is also an appropriate time to identify, document and publish Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)—all of which direct the support model priorities. 


Consider this checklist your guide for a successful onboarding experience when partnering with an MSP.


1. Immediately Establish Onboarding Process Priorities And Expectations

Setting up a series of regularly scheduled in-person or online meetings with the MSP to manage expectations will avoid important questions, such as: 


  • What is my organization responsible for?
  • What are your reasonable response times?
  • What are the long- and short-term relationship goals?
  • What is the cost structure? 

During these meetings, your MSP should also outline realistic expectations and accountability—with accompanying deadlines—for each step of the onboarding process. This can be accomplished via a manual checklist or online task management tool.

Having a plan with regular updates and communication is critical to a successful onboarding and long-term MSP-customer relationship.


2.  Ensure Regular And Effective Communication

As the cornerstone of any customer-centric relationship, consistent communication is most critical for an effective onboarding process. While regular meetings and task management tools can help, they aren’t substitutes for constructive conversations conducted virtually, by phone or in person. 

A reputable MSP not only values their employees, vendors, and toolkit partnerships, but their customers as well. Look for a provider that not only touts its core values, but makes it part of its corporate culture. 

Keeping customers updated throughout the process with a formalized check-in schedule is paramount, especially when managing expectations and team deadlines. 

When it comes to the Managed Services Partner (MSP)-customer relationship, the value of a strong onboarding process directly sets the bar, especially during the introductory stages.


3.  Assemble A “Go-to” Team

Many MSPs provide a “cookie cutter” approach to their onboarding process for customers of all sizes and industries. But the truth is many organizations, especially small and medium-sized businesses, have different needs that require a more individualized approach.

A successful onboarding starts with the MSPs project manager and senior team of engineers working diligently through each process phase. This ensures the proper approach, strategy, and implementation, while also meeting deadlines and expectations.

An MSP boasting an extra layer of assistance through a client services coordinator, and services delivery and project team is important for regular internal and external interaction. This information-sharing environment also helps with project design, implementation, and ongoing customer support.


4. Set Up a Deliverables Timeline

As previously mentioned, developing a timeline with tasks and relevant due dates is critical. It’s best to select a project manager or another skilled team member—representing both the MSP and the customer—to ensure deadline adherence. 

The MSP should create a comprehensive task list with corresponding deadlines. It’s best to break this down into weekly phases with specific itemized action items. This could include assessment and planning, implementation, training and reporting, and completion handover.

Not only will this ensure effective communication, but it will also facilitate appropriate task delegation, information sharing, and transparency—on both sides.


5. Implement A “Go Live” Plan

In conjunction with your task and deliverables list, everything should lead seamlessly to the completion of the onboarding process. This phase is exceptionally important because it’s where most of the work will occur. Therefore, effective communication and clarity are critical for a successful onboarding and launch. 

Managing expectations is also vital, so it’s best to engage an MSP with effective documentation processes, such as a Statement of Work (SOW) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)—both of which direct support model priorities. These will ensure everything is in place prior to launch, such as basic support needs, daily maintenance, long-term planning, and strategic initiatives.


6. Conduct a Thorough Network Assessment

This facilitates the MSPs understanding of the customer’s operations, as well as any loopholes or issues prior to onboarding. For more information on network assessment and management, check out our recent blog: “Understanding the Value of Outsourced Network Management.” Having this step provides additional intelligence on the customer’s operations, and how the MSP can effectively provide assistance in both the long and short term. 

It’s also prudent for an MSP to provide customers with a questionnaire for additional insight on their network management and operations. This can help alleviate any surprises during or after onboarding. 

7. Install An Onboarding Software Tool And Antivirus Solution

While you’d think that all MSPs immediately implement an internal onboarding software tool with Remote Monitoring & Management and antivirus protection, many omit this step, or simply overlook it. Taking this important step ensures efficiency and threat protection from the get-go on client servers, workstations, and company-owned or approved, personal devices. 

While there might be times the MSP needs to perform an on-site visit during or after onboarding, these tools provide secure, off-site access. Your MSP should also test and run these tools regularly to ensure working order. 

8. Provide Employee Training On New Systems And Technologies

With new procedures, implementations and tools, the MSP must ensure the client and its employees are trained and up to speed. This includes either in-person or online sessions offered by the MSP to ensure familiarity with these new Standard Operating Procedures and technologies.

When considering an MSP partnership, it’s important to choose a provider who understands your technology needs, business operations, and internal culture.


In the interest of transparency, it’s also important for your MSP to be open about its availability for general questions, assistance, help desk requests, and other services.

9. Conduct a Post-Onboarding Review

After your MSP takes your organization “live,” they should provide a thorough review before handing everything to their internal account management team. Working with an MSP with a dedicated professional services offering will ensure you’ll always be in contact with an account and project manager, as well as other knowledgeable technicians and engineers. 

With all of these parties at the core of the MSPs services delivery process, they are dedicated to ensuring you receive the best solution for your business and budget.


10. Provide Regular Reporting And Metrics

Be sure to ask about performance and tracking frequency. Usually conducted at both the 30- and 60-day mark following onboarding, your MSP should present metrics and reporting for various operational elements. Accomplished through the MSPs online dashboards, these findings provide insight on current operational challenges and how the MSP has solved these issues.

Regular reporting offers valuable intelligence on internal business processes, MSP efficiency and effectiveness, and progression toward shared goals and accountability.


Trusting the People, Process & Products

When considering an MSP partnership, it’s important to choose a provider who understands your technology needs, business operations, and internal culture. While an onboarding process can be overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be with the right People, Process and Products

LincolnIT provides full, or customized a la carte services offerings for SMBs, mid-market companies, large enterprises, and nonprofits through our five Care brands. Contact us for more information, or to request a proposal. 

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