How to Select Your Managed Network Service Provider, Part 1
Managed network service (MNS) providers are an important partner in almost every modern enterprise’s digital transformation effort. They make it possible to manage network infrastructure in a reliable and cost-effective fashion, while freeing up the enterprise’s internal IT resources to address more strategic initiatives, such as planning for the future.
The market for MNS providers is crowded. Each vendor has multiple facets to the value proposition they offer. They vary when it comes to the services they provide and the maturity of their capabilities. Selecting the right MNS provider (and the bundle of services they offer) can have long-term implications when it comes to cost overruns and performance shortfalls.
We recently explored this aspect by looking at how an MNS provider can benefit your organization. We also focused on the critical capabilities that MNS providers need to be effective. Which brings us to the next logical question – how best to go about selecting an MNS provider?
From a sourcing perspective, it is difficult to compare offers from competing MNS providers. This is largely driven by the fact that there is a wide variation in service definitions –and most proposals offer bundled pricing for the overall engagement.
To address this, it’s necessary to insist that your prospective vendors disaggregate the bundle of offerings and break it down into specifics that can be compared. A proven approach is to insist bidders fill out an RFP template that asks them to provide:
- Specific ITIL-aligned activities they offer,
- The list of devices and customer premise equipment (CPE) that is to be part of the managed estate,
- One-time and other non-recurring charges (such as onboarding), as well as the recurring pricing model,
- KPI efficiencies measured in the form of network automation performance results,
- The details of the Service Level Agreements (SLAs),
- The specifics around the provider’s service delivery platform (SDP) such as the user portal that the customer will access,
- And the levels of integration with existing in-house ITSM, CMDB, and other systems.
The High Cost of Customization
All MNS providers have standardized service offerings that elaborate on the coverage and scope of the engagement. These offerings include ITIL-aligned activities and the CPE that is to be managed, in addition to the other items described above.
When there is a gap between the providers’ service offering and your MNS needs, it is necessary for the vendor to provide customizations. These can be either in the form of NOC services, or in their ability to manage specific CPE that is outside of their stated capabilities.
These customizations can be costly since the provider needs to put in the effort to build and deliver the capabilities to bridge the gap. There may also be a quality issue, since the processes, automations and integrations needed to provide the coverage are new.
The Fundamentals of Selecting an MNS Provider
As is apparent, it is not an easy task to select an MNS provider to suit your enterprise’s unique needs. The consequences of a bad decision include cost overruns and ineffective service delivery.
For these reasons, it is absolutely essential to have some form of standardized offer comparison. This will allow you to compare vendors and to carefully examine the gaps in coverage. With this data, you can then gauge the level of customization needed.
In Part 2, we will continue to examine other critical aspects of selecting an MNS provider, such as automations, Service Delivery Platforms, and SLAs.