Quality IT Service
This article highlights some important factors to consider in your search for quality IT services. The content focus is on IT business services and IT operations which apply to the selection of an IT Consultant and/or an IT Managed Services Provider (MSP).
Businesses contract the services of an IT MSP or an IT consultant to accomplish a variety of objectives. They may use a consultant or an MSP in the capacity of project consultancy to provide system analysis, strategic direction, or system design and installation. Or, they may use an MSP to provide ongoing services such as network monitoring, IT help desk, etc. Regardless of the type of service you require, you should make an informed decision on which Consultant or MSP to hire. Read on for 5 tips to help you prepare to find the right IT Consultant and/or IT MSP.
Seek Strategic Advice
Most IT MSPs can provide routine services such as network monitoring and help desk services. Fewer of them can provide quality IT consultant services. An even smaller subset of IT MSPs can provide quality advice for business and IT strategy.
Do you desire your IT Managed Services Provider to perform as an IT partner, with a vested interest in the success of your business? If so, you need to understand the candidate MSP’s capacity to provide quality strategic advice. Below we list a few specific topics to discuss with your (potential) IT MSP. You can read about these topics in more detail from the previous CIS posts highlighted below.
CIS Blog Post: How and Why IT Should Support Business Strategy Development key points:
- Collaboration: Effective business and IT strategies should align to promote collaboration between internal departments and between your business and your customers. Collaboration promotes continuous process improvement and also improves production efficiency and profitability. A qualified IT Consultant or IT MSP should have no problem describing for you how to various elements of an IT system promote collaboration.
- Knowledge: To help you develop sound business and IT strategy, an IT MSP or IT Consultant needs to understand your business. This includes a solid understanding of your business workflow as well as current industry knowledge of accounting, finance, and IT operations.
The CIS blog post ‘10 Signs That Your Company Needs an IT Strategy’ can help you determine if your business and IT strategies can benefit from a review and/or upgrade.
Assess Relevancy of the Candidate’s Experience
Relevant experience is key to your (prospective) IT MSP’s or IT Contractor’s ability to help you develop, implement and monitor your business and IT systems. To investigate this aspect of IT services, we need to define relevancy and understand how to best investigate the issue.
Relevancy: When we search for the best in any domain, we commonly search for SMEs (Subject Matter Experts). The SME’s typically focuses on a specific or narrow range of interest(s). The SMEs have relevancy when their areas of focus align with your specific needs. We can judge an SME with having relevant experience based on how well their experience base matches your specific business and operational environment.
Consider, for example, the case of a manufacturer seeking an IT Consultant or IT MSP to upgrade an IT system and provide monitoring and maintenance services. The manufacturer should seek services of a provider who has significant experience developing, implementing and maintaining IT systems for manufacturing. The list below can help you investigate a candidate’s experience to determine relevancy
- Ask the candidate to show you case histories where they have delivered projects and services you need to meet your business objectives.
- Ask the candidate how they overcame obstacles to deliver projects successfully.
- Ask the candidate for their assessment of your specific business and IT challenges
- Ask the candidate the primary ways they can help you address their specific business and IT challenges
In the next section, we briefly discuss the importance of verifying the IT Managed Service Provider’s experience by checking their reputation.
Verify Candidate’s Reputation for Delivery
Any company can claim competency and delivery of results. You need to follow up and verify the IT Consultant or IT MSP’s performance by checking the company’s reputation. You can check a company’s reputation in a variety of ways. If the candidate has significant industry experience, their reputation (good, bad, indifferent) should not be hard to learn.
- Contact references provided by the candidate, and consider asking for client references that the candidate did not offer. Ask for references from companies that the candidate claims they helped overcome challenges similar to what you currently face.
- Request a list of the candidate’s clientele. Search out some of them on industry forums and request feedback on the candidate’s performance.
CIS recently published a blog titled ‘Are You Getting Quality Customer Service from Your MSP’. The post provides some discussion to help you assess the level of service you should expect from an IT Managed Services Provider. You may find it useful for outlining a discussion to frame the reputation of a candidate IT MSP. You can also use this approach to assess the service you receive from your current MSP.
Verify and Ensure Resource Availability
You need to understand that your candidate IT Consultant’s or IT MSP’s available resources. Can they deliver your projects and/or routine services in a timely manner and to the quality standards you need? Although you can verify the resources an organization can apply to your needs, those resources can change over time. Defining an SLA (Service Level Agreement) with your service provider is the first step to clarifying service expectations between you and your service provider. The SLA should be inclusive of service performance metrics. Below we list a few performance metrics to consider adding to your SLA.
- System downtime
- Device downtime
- Problem resolution time (consider different minimum response/resolution time depending on classification such as critical, urgent, routine, etc.)
- Project delivery time (consider delivery times for each stage of a project, i.e. definition, development, installation, testing, training)
Use Value vs Cost to Define Your IT Consultant or IT MSP Needs
Frequently, business owners set objectives to limit the cost of IT systems and define IT budgets accordingly. While cost control is a worthy objective, a focus on value provides a better basis for making IT investment decisions. A well designed IT system can help your business grow in terms of production volume and profitability. Thus, you should appraise an IT investment in the same way you would appraise other business investments: by considering the ROI (Return on Investment).
Returns on a good IT investment may include:
- Increased Production Efficiency: A strategically designed IT system helps streamline IT operations, production operations, administrative operations, and logistics. Streamlining these operations leads to improved production efficiency.
- Employee Engagement and Motivation: Good employees find motivation in producing at a high level and meeting their individual and business objectives. Working with well-designed and operating systems helps employees achieve these goals, which tends to keep them motivated and engaged. Of course, employee motivation and engagement results in improved production efficiency and greater profits.
- Reduction in Downtime: Optimally designed IT systems result in downtime reduction, primarily because of the streamlining of operations.
These returns may be generated by (for example):
- Automating Processes
- Streamlining Data Flow
- Improving Communications
A qualified IT Consultant or IT Managed Service Provider should readily explain to you specifically how they could help you realize these benefits in your business.