Have you ever heard of an MSA, Master Service Agreement? If not, you may be missing out on an important contractual tool that can help your business protect itself and succeed. But what is it, and how does a master service agreement actually work?

Here’s everything you need to know about MSA. What is a master service agreement and how should it be drafted to ensure mutual success for both parties? We will also discuss the benefits and possible risks of working with MSA.

What is an MSA Contract, and What Does it Do?

Let’s begin with the master service agreement definition. MSAs are legally binding documents used when two companies enter into long-term agreements. The MSA master service agreement defines the scope of the relationship and puts in place certain parameters so that the parties understand each other’s expectations. The agreement outlines payment terms, obligations, confidentiality agreements, and service level expectations.

An MSP contract, or MSP master service agreement, is a type of master service agreement that describes the T&C under which a managed services provider (MSP) delivers IT services to its customers.

The MSA is an important document that sets expectations for how companies should work with their suppliers. By understanding what an MSA is and how it should be properly drafted, businesses can protect themselves in the event of disputes and get the most out of their supplier relationship.

Here’s more on what is a master service agreement used for.

What is the Purpose of a Master Service Agreement?

The MSA is used to create the basis for the relationship between two companies. It describes what each party can and cannot do, as well as their obligations to each other. The master service agreement includes the expectations, responsibilities, and obligations clearly and concisely. This helps ensure that both contractors understand their roles and can work together effectively.

MSAs also help protect both parties from potential disputes or misunderstandings by making the terms of the agreement clear.

What are the Advantages of a Master Service Agreement?

MSAs provide a number of advantages for contractors. They help protect both parties from potential liability. By clearly outlining the terms of the agreement, it reduces the risk of any legal issues arising from the agreement. 

Master service agreement MSA also provides a framework for resolving any disputes that may arise during the term of the agreement.

MSA can also help reduce costs by providing a plain and straightforward framework to work within. This can help streamline the process and ensure the cooperation runs efficiently and effectively. 

In addition, it allows you to save time and money by avoiding the need to enter into a new agreement each time you enter into a new business relationship. There is no need to conclude a new agreement each time, because it already sets the framework for the procurement process.

In conclusion, MSAs are an important contractual tool that can help protect your business. It ensures that you have a successful relationship with your partner.

What Should be Included in an MSA?

For an MSA to be effective, it must contain certain elements and be tailored to the needs of a particular situation. The document begins with the names of the parties involved. What follows is a brief description of their roles and responsibilities. It should also include a statement of the purpose of the agreement, such as the project or service to be provided.

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The MSA should contain a section that defines the key terms and concepts used throughout the document. This will help govern the relationship between the companies when it comes to understanding the agreement.

Provision of service

The provision of services must be clearly stated in the MSA. This includes goals and objectives, scope of services, any limitations or exclusions, and deadlines. In addition, it must specify any warranties or guarantees that may apply to the services provided.

It should also include a detailed description of the services, any associated costs, and any timelines or milestones that need to be completed. Let’s dive into this.

  • Main goals and objectives. The main goals and objectives of the agreement should be clearly outlined in the MSA. This includes any specific tasks that need to be completed, as well as any expectations or requirements for both parties.
  • The scope of services to be provided. In this part, clearly define the services that will be provided, as well as any limitations or exclusions. Describe a chosen work model and weekly working hours standards as relevant to the outsourcing agency’s time zone.
  • Delivery dates. The clause defines when services will be delivered and any deadlines for completion. Also include penalties for late deadlines.
  • Human resources. Describe any staffing needs, such as the number of personnel needed to complete the project. Describe the qualifications or certifications that are necessary for the personnel involved.
  • Quality requirements. This clause outlines the quality standards that must be met for the services to be considered satisfactory. It should include any specific requirements for the services, such as accuracy, timeliness, and reliability.
  • Warranties and guarantees. These may describe employer and IT vendor independence guarantees, warranties for the services provided, and any other assurances that may be applicable.

Payment Terms

The MSA should also get a section outlining the payment terms for the services provided that includes details on when payments are due, how they will be made, and any late fees or penalties that may apply.

Software development payments can be made in three ways:

  • Fixed price. This payment model involves a fixed fee for the entire project. It is a one-time payment.
  • Time and materials. This is a pay based on hours worked and materials used. It includes the hourly rate for the services provided, as well as any additional costs associated with the project.
  • Milestone payments. With this model, payments are made at predetermined milestones throughout the project.

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Intellectual Property

The section outlines who owns any intellectual property created during the course of the agreement. It should as well include provisions for how that intellectual property can be used by the parties.

This clause mentions any copyrights, trademarks, patents, or other intellectual property that may be applicable to the services provided.


Here, you provide a detailed description of the information that is to remain confidential between both contractors, as well as any restrictions on the use or disclosure of such data.

Performance Monitoring and Management

It is important to clarify how performance will be monitored and managed. This information needs to be specified in the project SOW (Statement of Work). This section should contain general details on how progress will be tracked, any reporting requirements, and any penalties or remedies that may apply if either party fails to meet its obligations.

Change of Orders

Consider how changes to services or project scope will be handled. Specify who is responsible for making the changes, how they will be communicated, and any additional costs that may be incurred as a result of the changes. It is necessary to describe in detail the process of making changes.

Termination Clause

Describe the conditions under which either party may terminate the contract. This should include details of how and when the notice must be given, any applicable fees or penalties, and any other relevant information. The side effects should also be discussed.

Dispute Resolution

In this section, describe how any dispute between the parties will be resolved, including any applicable arbitration or mediation procedures. You may add any mediation or arbitration requirements, as well as any applicable laws or regulations that may apply.


Provide for the obligations of each party in the event of a breach of contract or other legal action. If one party is found liable for damages, the other party must pay for any loss or damage incurred. Be sure to indicate the exceptions for which no refund will be charged.

Communication and Notices

To have smooth interaction on the project, you need to regulate certain points before the work starts. They are:

  • How the communication will occur – via email or phone? 
  • Who is responsible for sending notifications?
  • When are responses expected?

When the MSA is drafted, it must state who is responsible for staying in touch during development, their preferred methods and tools for messaging, and the location for the real-life meetings. Agree on how notices and other communications should be sent, as well as any applicable deadlines for responding to such notices.

Miscellaneous Items

These are just some of the items that are necessary to mention in an MSA. 

  • Details on applicable taxes.
  • Insurance requirements;.
  • Support and testing of the product after production.
  • Limitations of liability.
  • Data protection disclosure.
  • Non-compete or non-solicitation clauses.
  • Force majeure clauses.
  • Procedures for amending documents.
  • Or any other miscellaneous items.

Depending on your specific situation, you may need to include additional clauses or details.

What are the Most Common Disputes and Risks With a Master Service Agreement?

MSA disputes can arise for a variety of reasons, failure to meet deadlines, lack of quality control, or inadequate services are among them. It’s important to ensure that the MSA is clear and comprehensive so that both parties understand their obligations and responsibilities.

The most common risks with an MSA are:

  • Unclear or incomplete terms and conditions. If the MSA is not clear or comprehensive, it can lead to misunderstandings and disputes.
  • Poorly drafted clauses. Such clauses can result in confusion and disagreements between the parties.
  • Lack of enforcement. If there are no provisions for enforcing the agreement, then it may be difficult to resolve disputes.
  • Failure to meet deadlines. If the MSA does not clearly outline deadlines for the service completion, it can lead to delays and missed opportunities.
  • Lack of quality control. In case your Master Service Agreement does not specify quality standards, it can be difficult to ensure that services are being provided as expected.
  • Complexity. MSAs can be complex documents and require careful consideration to ensure that all the participants understand their obligations.
  • A long time of negotiation. Negotiating a Master Service Agreement can be a long and arduous process. It’s important to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that all terms and conditions are clearly outlined. This will help reduce the risk of disputes or misunderstandings down the line.
  • Uncertainty with termination. How will the termination of an MSA affect any work already done under an SOW?

Where Can You Use a Master Service Agreement?

MSAs are most commonly used in B2B (business-to-business) relationships. They can be signed in any situation where two companies enter into a long-term agreement. This can be a vendor/supplier relationship or a service provider/client relationship. It could include services such as software development, IT support, consulting, or even outsourcing agreements.

What is the Difference Between a Contract, an Agreement, and a Master Service Agreement?

A contract is a legally binding document outlining the conditions of an agreement between two parties. It is usually used for one-time transactions or short-term agreements.An agreement is a less formal document than a contract, and it can be used for any type of arrangement between companies. It does not need to be legally binding, but it should still outline the expectations and responsibilities of both parties.A master service agreement is a more comprehensive document. It covers all aspects of the relationship between two companies, including services, delivery dates, pricing, quality requirements, and more. It is legally binding and must be carefully viewed by the participants before signing.

A service level agreement (SLA), for example, is a contract that describes the services to be provided and expected performance levels. Any penalties or remedies if these performance levels are not met are also included. SLAs are commonly used in business relationships, such as between a service provider and their customer.

Service Level Agreements (SLAs) vary for different MSPs. The main service level agreement should address issues such as compliance with rules, basic response time in case of unforeseen circumstances, etc.

MSA: The Foundation for Good Business Relations

If you’re entering into a long-term agreement with another company, make sure to have an MSA in place. It will help ensure that the contractors understand their roles and can work together effectively.

Note that an MSA needs to be reviewed and updated. It works for the relationship between two companies, that’s why the terms of the agreement should be regularly reconsidered. This will help ensure that both parties are always on the same page.

Finally, it’s important to remember that an MSA is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Every business relationship is unique and so treat them as such. Make sure to customize your MSA to fit the specific needs of your company and its partner.

Who Offers the MSA Service Agreement?

Typically, the company offering the services will provide the MSA. This is because they are best suited to understand their own services and what is required to deliver them. The other party can then review and negotiate any terms that they don’t agree with before signing.

Another practice is outsourcing vendors (software developers) to write MSAs for software development projects and then deliver them to clients for approval. The software industry does this since companies specialize in the specifics, peculiarities, and nuances of the project.

Master Service Agreement Template – What Must be Included?

An MSA should have all the necessary details of the agreement, including services provided, payment terms, delivery dates, and any other relevant information. It has also to contain a dispute resolution clause to help resolve the issues that may set in.

Overall, an MSA is an important contractual tool that can help ensure the successful collaboration of partners. With this document, both parties will clearly understand their roles and responsibilities.