It's one thing getting into managed services, but getting out again is quite another.

Telecoms network operators make themselves "vulnerable" if they don't establish an exit plan with their managed services supplier, warned Mike Conradi, partner at law firm DLA Piper, at the Network Management Show in London on Tuesday.

When setting out the terms of a managed services contract, "start already thinking about the exit," Conradi advised. "[Do it] during the first few months," of the contract, he said, whether you are establishing a brand new managed services set-up or transitioning from one supplier to another.

One way to ensure this happens is to put incentives into the contract so the supplier gets paid for producing an exit plan, he suggested.

This ensures that when the time comes to issue the next RFP, the incumbent supplier will be required to disclose important information to the other bidders, such as details about staff, and provide access to premises and manuals. If that requirement is not in the contract, the incumbent will be very reluctant – understandably - to give that type of assistance to rivals, Conradi said.

In addition, "have a very long handover period," from one supplier to the next, he said. "A year, 18 months, even two years."

Switching managed services suppliers is no easy task.

"You need to think about the involvement of the incumbent," Conradi said.

"Do as much as you can to create a level playing field," for the incumbent provider and the rival bidders, otherwise the new vendors pitching for the contract will not take it seriously, he said.

Once a telco has selected a new supplier, it is crucial to make sure that supplier stands by the promises it made during the RFP process, Conradi pointed out.

"Write it in the contract," he advised. That way, "you'll be able to hold their feet to the fire if necessary."