What is the ISO 4401 Framework and How Can MSPs build it into Business?

As discussed in part 1 of this blog, ISO 44001 is now a global standard for enabling successful collaborative business relationships.

Why does this matter to?

What makes a great MSP? A great MSP is one who proactively and consistently integrated his/her services with the clients’ business requirements. What better way to foster this engagement than to build your own customer relationship map off this standard! Imagine a client satisfaction model that you adopt across your organization with each of your most valued clients – or with all of your clients. MSP’s and Cloud providers have many compelling reasons to focus on collaborative working relationships. For an MSP or Cloud Provider to thrive, multiple partnerships with vendors and suppliers; with other MSPs, and with their clients must be successfully developed and operationalized.

So if an MSP wants to adopt this, how is ISO 44001 implemented? The framework consists of eight themes, organized along a generic life-cycle of collaborative business ventures. Once the standard is published more in-depth coverage and specificity of planning will be discussed, but to get a head start now, start to explore the following questions and themes:

  • Operational awareness: vision, values, leadership, and objectives
    • Initial questions to ask? Is there a senior executive who will sponsor the initiative? What kind of governance might there be? What might operational objectives and the true value be? How can the plan be operationalized? What new competencies and behaviors will need to be developed?
  • Knowledge: strategy, outcomes and implementation plan
    • Initial questions to ask? What will the combined strategy and business case be? What organizations might be involved? Approach and exit strategy? How will knowledge management occur? What risks might the combined partnership have?
  • Internal Assessment: policies, people, skills and collaborative maturity
    • Initial questions to ask? Consider leadership, skills and motivation.  How would a plan be implemented? How does your business communicate and collaborate with partners today? By what means? How often? How effectively?
  • Partner selection: capabilities, roles and responsibilities – who will your partners be to serve the clients’ needs:
    • Initial questions to ask? Partner evaluation, selection and initial engagement? Joint objectives and joint assessment?
  • Working together: management systems and processes that support your business practices for partnering with your clients.
    • Value creation: continual improvement of your offerings, clear messaging around your solutions, business models, and pricing and delivery models
    • Staying together: performance team, monitoring and measurements
    • Exit strategy: disengagement triggers and process – when is it time to sunset a client or partner; or end a relationship? How do you know? What are the specific criteria?

What types of challenges can an MSP overcome by leveraging this standard? Challenges often discussed amongst MSP’s and by industry thought leaders may be overcome through successful collaborative working relationships. Here are a few examples:

  1. Develop your client relationships to where customers ask you for advice. This model is a method to guide you along that success path.
  2. By better communication and collaboration, you can develop a clear vision of what current and prospective clients need and therefore invest in the right technologies to align your business strategy for future growth.
  3. Curate and strengthen your brand so that your services are centered around building partnerships with your customers. You then develop a dialogue of helpfulness and clarity as you proactively build your collaborative working relationships strategy and in day-to- day interactions.
  4. Let your clients know what you are doing to support them. This serves as a model to ensure you capture the proactive policies, services, solutions, and problems that you solve on a regular basis for your clients.
  5. If you offer a 24X7 customer service or helpdesk; or a proactive monitoring and assessment – building an ISO 44001 compliant business service into these offering can be a tremendous enabler for success. They enable you to deliver a higher quality service, and to ensure the clients perceive that as well.

After about ten years of development and real world implementation in the UK, the resulting ISO 44001 standard is being deployed as an organization development framework to maximize the value of business relationships with external partners.

It can put you on the leading edge to gain the competitive advantage first. It provides a common language and life-cycle across industry for any organization to use, and it can be tailored to specific needs which mean you can adopt this model at varying levels with your SMB or Enterprise clients.