Should I Bring a Date?

MSP and VMSCustomers who are considering a go to market event for a VMS enabled MSP solution are faced with a difficult question. Should I ask the MSP provider to “bring a date” and proactively align with a VMS partner, or should I “invite” the MSP and VMS providers separately? In many cases, this represents the first in a series of critical decisions regarding the eventual composition of a Managed Service Provider program.

The emergence of the IT stakeholder group as a significant influencer in the sales process for MSP selection has brought increased focus on the selection of the VMS provider. The need to understand security and integration issues related to the VMS implementation is addressed throughout the sales cycle, often beginning during the RFP process and continuing on through presentations, contract negotiations and pricing. But is it advantageous to the customer to review the VMS providers separately from the MSP providers?

Based on the RFPs I have received this year, there seems to be an equal mix of requests for us to select and partner with a VMS provider versus opportunities in which the customer is conducting a separate bid event for the VMS. However, recently I have seen several RFPs with separate process for MSP and VMS selection.

If you are considering separating the MSP and VMS provider decision, here some questions worth analyzing:

  • Do the MSP and VMS partners have shared experiences? When two bad events occur, the awards may be granted to providers which have not previously worked together. The ability to leverage shared learning and draw upon previous implementation experience is a valuable attribute when considering the overall solution.
  • Will there be challenges regarding negotiating pricing and contractual terms and conditions? Having an established relationship among leadership and the confidence that there is precedence for timely contract execution between the MSP and VMS providers is an important consideration.
  • Is there alignment with the program scope? MSP providers will make the selection of their VMS partners based on their knowledge of the relative strengths and differentiators within the software. This knowledge is typically the result of specific implementation and program management experience. When these experiences are measured against the specific scope of a given opportunity, it becomes a critical aspect of the VMS provider evaluation.

Regardless of the structure of the RFP and the overall approach, it is critical to establish an IT presence on the steering committee and ensure that the implications of the VMS implementation are understood and endorsed throughout the buyer organization.

The broader program objectives – cost savings, compliance, risk mitigation, process improvements and acquisition of best talent among them – will continue to be MSP program drivers and areas of focus during the MSP sales evaluation process. Allowing the MSP provider to select and respond jointly with a VMS partner results in a more carefully considered solution which will support a seamless implementation without compromising the concerns of the IT stakeholders. So the next time you send out invitations to an RFP party, consider asking your MSP provider to bring a date!