Managed Services Defined: How the MSP Partners Trustmark Helps Companies

John Tippett, chief operating officer of EDTS, which provides managed IT and security services to clients in the southeast U.S., can’t imagine his company not earning CompTIA’s MSP Partners Trustmark. “How could a company like ours that says that we’re here and we participate and follow industry standards not pay attention to something like this?” he asked.

Tippett was involved in the development of the MSP Partners Trustmark – a business credential designed to qualify and differentiate organizations providing on-premises IT services via a managed services business model – and took his company through it as soon as it was available. He has been involved with the IT association for years and now serves as the liaison between EDTS and CompTIA, as well as vice chair of CompTIA’s MSP Partners Community. “I knew that there’s legitimate need around a Trustmark like this and got together with CompTIA to help create it,” he said.

So what is this legitimate need? According to Tippett, a certain vagueness still surrounds managed services, which the Trustmark aims to counteract. “Managed services is tricky for clients to put their hand on exactly what you are doing,” he said. “Anybody who works out of the trunk of [his or her] car even can still claim to do managed services and go in and sell it to any sized company. The thing for any client to consider is can they actually practice what they preach, can they actually do what they say they’re going to do.”

The MSP Partners Trustmark verifies this ability via an un-audited self-reporting process. Tippett explained that this is what makes earning the Trustmark most productive for MSPs.

“It’s not demonstrating that you’re technically doing something,” he said. “It’s more demonstrating that your practices are sound and you’re doing things in a way that’s contemplating [things like] employee turnover and how that is going to affect your clients. A lot of MSPs may find that they’re looking at areas of their business that they have not looked at in some time or scenarios that they have not even thought about.”

An IT services organization acquiring the MSP Partners Trustmark must agree to a code of conduct, provide customer references and submit an application covering the criteria identified in the control framework. The control framework consists of five sections:

  1. Code of Conduct.
  2. Operations.
  3. Management and Finance.
  4. Services.
  5. Customer References.

Each of these must be successfully completed in order to earn the CompTIA MSP Partners Trustmark. This includes areas such as the managed services agreement, standard operating procedures, systems and tools for delivering services and general business best practices. Combined with customer references, it creates a comprehensive credential that illustrates the quality and commitment of a managed services provider.

Tippett said he found the Trustmark’s prequalification checklist particularly helpful. “It provokes an internal review of your practices,” he said. “Once you do that, you find that some of the things that you do or that you think that you do aren’t written down. [It] makes you think through things a little more than if you say, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve got a plan if one of my engineers leaves. I know what I’m going to do.’ You find yourself discovering maybe some details that you weren’t quite sure about or you hadn’t thought about ahead of time.”

He also pointed out that the MSP Partners Trustmark is vendor-neutral. “A lot of the certifications are pushed by vendors,” he said. “They’re vendor-specific and they definitely have their merit. I’m not taking that away from them, but it’s different when it comes from an organization like CompTIA that’s vendor-agnostic. You know CompTIA’s always just looking for best practices.”

According to Tippett, the next step for the MSP Partners Trustmark is to go beyond un-audited self-reporting to an audited process. “Right now, you just have to acknowledge the framework that’s there, put the paperwork in place and send it in,” he said. “There’s going to be a more detailed level developed sometime in the future, and that piece of it will more drill down and say, ‘OK, prove that you do this. Prove that it happens.’”

To learn more about acquiring CompTIA’s MSP Partners Trustmark, click here.

Daniel Margolis serves as manager, communications editor at CompTIA. He has worked as a professional writer and editor for 15 years, covering a range of industries.

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