Let’s face it: IT support has become more and more commoditized. More than likely, there are a handful of technology support companies within a stone throw from your business. What separates one from the next? As a business leader, how do you choose which support company best supports the needs of your business? How do you establish rapport with your provider?
There is no single answer to any of these questions. Most of the answers to these questions may come in the form of a referral from a business associate or having done business or worked with someone in the support company before.
You will want to work with an IT provider who will be your Trusted Business Advisor. Someone who will be there to guide you in the decision-making process of how you manage the technology in your business.
Before bringing in various vendors to interview, consider the multiple IT support models, what model your business currently falls under, and what model your business would be best aligned to.
What is your IT model?
Insource, outsource, or hybrid, these are the three basic variants of the IT support model. Your business will fall into one of these three models or a combination of the three. The correct vendor will help bring your support model into alignment with your business to provide the maximum efficiency between cost and value. It is possible to change models depending on various circumstances of your business. Do you currently have in-house IT support? Do your team need back line support rather than outsourcing all of your IT support to lower your total technology spend?
An important aspect to consider when partnering with an IT provider is: as a business owner, what is the most important factor in your decision-making process? Are you focused entirely about cost? Or is true value also important? There is a difference between the two. There is an intersect where cost and value meet and from there, they stray further from each other. Many times Investing a little more than the cheapest alternative will yield a better end result. While the cheaper option may sound good at the time, this choice may end up costing you more in the long run.
Value consciousness occurs when someone comes to the realization that not all IT vendors are created equal. Yes, each vendor should be able to fix a desktop, server, or address network issues (though not all seem to deliver). Most of the time these are the only items a business owner is worried about, and how fast will my issues be resolved.
Any IT vendor should be able to perform all of the above functions in a timely fashion. Yet, the real question should be how does your IT vendor of choice ensure quality.
You should ask several questions, such as:
- Have they invested in their own infrastructure and personnel (and can they quickly explain their own internal strategy)?
- Do they provide true strategical planning services that goes beyond telling you when to replace hardware?
- Have they formally defined its best practices?
- Have they written down their best practices (and can they show them to you)?
- Do they have a formal process to implement, audit, analyze, and continuously improve upon these best practices specifically for your account?
- Have they formally and literally defined what proactive and preventative means in both strategical and tactical terms?
- Do they have a financial and business management background sufficient to be qualified to provide strategical planning services?
Get a Referral
When in doubt, take referrals from other business leaders in your industry who have developed good working relationships with their IT providers. You can also find IT providers who have a niche in your industry such as manufacturing, distribution, or office environments. Each provider will have their own take on how your environment should be configured to best suit your needs and provide your business with the ideal cost vs. value.
While there are a plethora of options when choosing an IT provider, it is does not have to be an overwhelming experience. Getting referrals from other business partners about who they recommend based up on their direct experiences. Limit the number of vendors you interview so they don’t all tend to blend in together. Develop a rapport with prospective vendors by asking engaging questions about their management process, how they run their business, their culture, and core values; then determine which fall more closely into alignment with yours (or what you want yours to be). Find an IT provider who is willing to be a trusted business advisor and who understands your core business operations.
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