Alliance: A Professional Code of Ethics Will Distinguish MSPs from the Crowd

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print


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Like those doctors, lawyers and accountants follow, an MSP code of ethics will hold members accountable and enhance the profession's image in the eyes of end users.

Looking to enhance the image of its membership in the eyes of end users, the MSPAlliance, a professional organization of managed service providers, has created a code of ethics.

The move is intended to provide a benchmark for the emerging area of managed services and to also give the organization's members an advantage over anyone who might hang up a managed services shingle and say they are a managed services provider, said Charles Weaver, president of the 7-year-old Chico, Calif.-based MSPAlliance, which has about 330 corporate members.

"Doctors have a code of ethics, lawyers have one, as do engineers, as do accountants," Weaver said. "Every profession has them, and our members said that it's time we had one of our own."

Weaver said the code of ethics will be used to hold members accountable and that violators may be publicly ejected from the organization.

The code consists of three major components. The first requires MSPs to keep confidential any sensitive information they come across in their customers' enterprises. Second, MSPs are required to turn over information to law enforcement officials if so requested. And third, members are required to participate in a yet-to-be-set number of continuing education courses. Weaver said that the required courses will likely be a hybrid of those offered by the MSPAlliance and by third parties.

The idea to create this code of ethics has been in the works for a few years, but the formal process began in November when the alliance's advisory board called for action on the issue.

"We've seen the managed services market grow pretty rapidly, and a lot of providers have been jumping on the bandwagon—like brake-fix shops," said Michael Backers, president and CEO of Altoria Solutions, a Cincinnati-based MSP that provides services nationwide.

"We were looking at the managed services field as a profession," Backers said. "We are managing parts of customers' networks, protecting their intellectual property and providing other delicate services. In our eyes it requires professionalism and a code of ethics."

The MSPAlliance's advisory board members believe the code of ethics will accomplish two things—provide member companies with an edge over non-accredited companies and also provide a benchmark for the entire industry as customers will expect a certain level of professionalism from MSPs.

While MSPAlliance lacks a formal plan for promoting the code of ethics to end customers, the organization will offer outreach through its Web site to inform end customers of the benefits of dealing with MSPAlliance members who subscribe to the organization's code of ethics.

"Members of the MSPAlliance are typically in leadership positions in regard to their managed services offerings," said Rob Scott, managing partner of the Scott and Scott LLP law firm, based in Dallas. Scott is a member of the MSPAlliance advisory board, and his firm specializes in working with MSPs on contracts. "This code of ethics is the logical evolution of a profession that is concerned about preserving the confidence of the end-user community in the value of services being offered."

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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