David Epps manages a team of Solution Engineers responsible for assisting organizations in selecting the proper mix of cloud services to meet their specific business and budget goals. David has over 20 years of IT experience including ten years in healthcare IT services and over 13 years in the Managed Application/Cloud Services industry.
Today we continue our blog series on how to buy cloud.  You can access the first installment here.
 
After you’ve decided that your business could benefit from some mix of managed IT services, how do you ensure that they are integrated properly into your business?
 
Here are seven things I advise businesses that will be implementing managed services:
 
1. Set Expectations: Make sure expectations are set correctly, in detail, with your managed services provider. Who is doing what? How? When? How fast? How much? Be clear, honest, and open – and insist on the same from your provider. Look out if your provider uses limiting words such as “technical” when describing services such as upgrades. There is a big difference between a technical upgrade and a fully managed upgrade. 
2. Ask Questions: Ask as many question you can think of. Yes, even the ones you think may be dumb. The only real dumb questions are the ones you never asked that come back to haunt you. Go through as many real-life business scenarios as you can with your managed services provider and make sure you and your provider agree how they will be handled going forward.
3. Document Everything: Service providers are very experienced and adept at selling their services. They do it all the time. However good you are at your business, you will be less experienced buying services than your provider is at selling, giving them the upper hand initially. So, you need to even the playing field a bit through meticulous documentation of responsibilities.
4. Think “Relationship”: You are about to enter into an important relationship with your cloud provider. As with other, more personal relationships in life, it takes two to make the relationship work. And remember, it takes commitment. So make sure you’re fully comfortable with the provider becoming your partner. If you’re not sure, shop around some more.
5. Get Everyone on Board: Be sure to get everyone in your organization onboard with the transition to the cloud. Make sure everyone knows that they are expected to make it work, to be responsible and not just point fingers at the service provider if there are any challenges. Check all the boxes in your organization. Get the explicit buy-in of your executive leadership teams, finance (be sure they are onboard with your cost models), IT, and the end-users (make sure they know changes are coming). You want any push-back to come before you start implementing cloud services, not after it’s completed.
6. Demand Accountability: You should feel comfortable demanding that your service provider is accountable for doing what they say they will do, for honoring commitments and providing the services and service levels agreed upon (remember, you documented everything, right?). Also make sure to hold the rest of your organization accountable as well. Don’t be surprised that your service provider will hold you accountable for your end of the relationship.
7. Review Regularly: Transitioning successfully to cloud services isn’t a one-time, set-it-and-forget-it thing. Plan on regular review meetings – whether that’s monthly or quarterly – to monitor service levels, communicate upcoming projects, and review other roadmap items so your service provider is properly prepared and ready to provide the needed levels of service.