Three and a half years ago I wrote a blog post on developing standards and their importance to your customers. A lot has changed since then and I thought it was time to update the post with recent content. Even today, developing standards takes time and energy, but an MSP can overcome initial challenges and gain a significant advantage over its competitors.
What’s A Standard?
Authoritative bodies define standards to help solve problems. Standards often meet the following criteria: introduce a recurring solution to an existing problem, receive mass adoption by the majority, and implemented by solutions providers. These qualities apply to standards across all industry types.
Standards prevent fragmentation among clients by streamlining operations, support, and the decision-making process. After all, standards and alignment is a key component of Technology Success. Aligning clients to your best practices reduces reactive noise and allows the vCIO to concentrate on budgeting and strategy.
In a world changed by COVID-19, standards and alignment are more important now than ever. The increase in personnel working from home exposed serious security flaws giving threat actors a new approach to confiscating sensitive data. Cybersecurity and the practice of implementing security measures—internally and externally—is at an all-time high.
How Should MSPs Develop Standards?
Developing standards from scratch is a daunting task. You need to research the appropriate frameworks or compliance requirements, format them to be usable, then choose what to keep. Luckily, there are many sources available for inspiration. Standards often fall into three categories: statutory or regulatory law, frameworks, and industry best practices.
Doing something “because that’s how it was always done” is the worst method of creating standards. Information passed through various employees, known as tribal knowledge, becomes lost in translation as it moves through the ranks. Tribal knowledge is verbal and changes over time with no formal documentation. Standards and best practices have written requirements and documenting them are mandatory.
As part of standards and alignment, we include the myITemplates repository in our myITprocess software. It contains a collection of statutory and regulatory compliance templates, frameworks like NIST and CIS, and industry best practices. Whenever you need some or most of these templates, you can drag and drop them into your standards library. Also, myITprocess comes with a 150-question starter template out of the box to get you started.
There’s No One-Size-Fits-All Approach
Technical alignment is not a cookie-cutter process; It is different for every MSP and every customer. Many of your clients will align with core standards such as firewalls, networking equipment, and workstation requirements. But, other standards you choose to implement vary between customers due to industry, size, complexity, level of risk, and so on. Statutory, regulatory, and contractual compliance objectives prove all customers are not the same your approach to standards alignment should follow suit.
As mentioned earlier, creating standards is a difficult, time-consuming process. While we offer some help through the myITemplates repository and the starter template, you must put effort into researching your own best practices to align your client base. As time goes on, the process will get smoother and your understanding of those requirements will come more naturally.