By Brooke Agather, APN Product Manager at AWS

AWS MSP Program-1This post is intended for APN Partners preparing for the AWS Managed Service Provider (MSP) Program audit.

We’ve heard from AWS Partner Network (APN) Partners about some of the challenges they face when preparing for the AWS MSP audit, so we developed this list of five recommendations to help your organization prepare.

These tips are based on AWS MSP Partner observations and best practices and are designed to drive a positive application and audit experience. All APN Partners must perform and pass a full audit with our third-party auditing firm in order to be a validated AWS MSP Partner.

The AWS MSP Program team works closely with, enables, and trains this third-party auditing firm annually on updated MSP checklist requirements. We do this to ensure AWS MSP Partners are able to demonstrate the business and technical best practices provided in the MSP Program Validation Checklist, in a consistent and accurate way.

The AWS MSP Partner Program recognizes leading APN Consulting Partners that are highly skilled at providing full lifecycle solutions to customers. Next-generation AWS MSPs provide the expertise customers need to move through each stage of their cloud adoption journey: Plan & Design > Build & Migrate > Run & Operate > Optimize.

Tip #1 – Engage Your AWS Partner Team

Before applying to the AWS MSP Partner Program and preparing for the full audit, please engage early and often with your AWS team, including your partner managers and solutions architects.

Your AWS team can help you understand the breadth of checklist requirements. For example, it’s recommended that APN Partners begin preparing for the full audit at least six months out, as you will need customers in production for at least that long for some of the checklist sections. If there are questions or points of clarification required on any of the program or checklist items, your APN team should be your first line of contact.

You can find a step-by-step roadmap of actions to take when working towards the AWS MSP Program designation in our Partner Roadmap PDF guide. These 12 steps can be included in your overall AWS Business Plan to ensure clear milestones and establish appropriate timelines for AWS MSP Program achievement.

5-Tips-AWS-MSP-AuditWe also recommend you read Putting the Customer First: Building a Cloud MSP Practice on AWS. This deep dive has examples and lessons learned from many APN Consulting Partners who either transformed an existing MSP business model to become a next-gen MSP on AWS, or began a business by building a cloud managed services practice focused on AWS.

Tip #2 – Organize a Project Team to Drive Preparation

If your organization does not have a project leader currently assigned to the AWS MSP Program application, please consider identifying someone as soon as possible that can help drive a successful AWS MSP audit experience.

We strongly recommended you have a designated project leader to coordinate the application process, carefully review the program checklist, and assign internal members of your team to work on specific sections of the checklist.

The project leader should leverage Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) teams internally to assign areas of responsibilities for each relevant section. For example, your finance and sales departments should focus on sections 1 and 2 of the audit, while your solutions architecture team should focus on sections 5-7.

Tip #3 – Carefully Read (and Understand) the AWS MSP Validation Checklist

The AWS MSP Program Validation Checklist covers requirements, renewal motions, term definitions, and other helpful information. It’s critical that your team review the most current version of our checklist during the application and renewal process.

Most questions about the AWS MSP audit can be answered on the first few pages of the checklist. APN Partners who haven’t read or processed the checklist and worked through the requirements with their internal teams are at risk of coming to the audit unprepared.

For example, all MSP case studies used in the full audit must demonstrate the APN Partner and customer have been under agreement to provide AWS-based managed services for a minimum of six months. In the checklist, there’s a definitions section that clearly describes what a customer case study needs to include.

The AWS MSP Program checklist is updated annually, and the new version goes into effect April 1 of each year.

Tip #4 – Score Yourself Fairly on the AWS MSP Self-Scoring Checklist

Being generous with your point totals on the AWS MSP Self-Scoring Checklist makes it challenging to identify and remedy practice gaps before the audit. Review the checklist with your MSP team and score yourself fairly in order to identify and solve for any gaps your organization may be facing.

Many times, we find APN Partners that have assigned a perfect score on their Self-Scoring Checklist face challenges in appropriately demonstrating controls when they’re in audit. Performing the Self-Scoring Checklist with your internal team allows your capabilities to be questioned and will better prepare your organization for audit.

It’s very difficult, for example, to realize at audit that your MSP practice’s choice of a monitoring suite does not meet some of the controls. Or worse, your monitoring suite does meet the control but you don’t have the required case studies, or cannot meet the case study requirements for the evidence to be accepted.

In this example, missing a mandatory action item could result in your organization not passing the audit.

Tip #5 – Perform the Pre-Assessment

A pre-assessment is a remote session with the third-party auditing firm. This engagement provides a detailed and objective assessment of where APN Partners stand against the AWS MSP Partner Program checklist requirements.

A pre-assessment allows your organization to better prepare, and ensures a positive experience when in full audit for the first time as you discuss the required evidence with an experienced MSP auditor.

Please note that starting April 1, 2020, new APN Partners applying to the AWS MSP Program are required to perform a pre-assessment before undergoing the full audit. This helps to ensure any gaps in your practice are identified and remediated before the audit.

Next Steps

These tips contain very little technical content, and that’s because we’ve seen many APN Partners find the most challenges in executing the MSP audit’s required business processes.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to the AWS MSP Partner Program at [email protected]. We’re here to help, and it is our goal to help you prepare along the way!

Additional Resources

Here are some links about the AWS MSP Partner Program to help you:

from AWS Partner Network (APN) Blog: https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/apn/5-tips-to-help-managed-service-providers-prepare-for-the-aws-msp-audit/