As outsourcing IT has become more the norm you must remain vigilant that your IT service provider understands your needs, goals, and is actually performing the services they sold you. It is not uncommon for us to pick up a new client after a previous vendor did not live up to expectations. Unfortunately, it’s usually after a data breach or a major data loss. Just as you balance your business checking each month and meet with your banker or financial advisor at regular intervals, you must pay just as much attention to your technology.
Before engaging with an IT vendor you must clearly define your needs and goals. You may be savvy enough to have this information on your own but a professional company will be able to walk you through the evaluation process and present their ideas and solutions in terminology that makes sense to you. The intricacies of IT are complicated but the overall concepts are not – especially when addressing your business needs and goals. The same holds true for your equipment, you must have a firm grasp on what you already own and what you need to purchase in order to make a given solution work for your business.
When deciding who to do business with consider the following:
- Where are they located? Visit their office.
- Who will actually be answering the phone? How about afterhours and on the weekend?
- Who is actually responsible for the management of your account?
- How are issues tracked and what process is in place to ensure your issues are fully resolved?
- Ask for references. Preferably someone in your same industry, size and stage of growth.
- Role play how incident response and recovery actually occurs.
- Ask how they will address increases / decreases in your company size.
- Be sure that the proposal they present clearly outlines their service level agreement (SLA – response times, etc.) and their technology standards. Be sure they also clearly define their expectations of you.
- Ask about frequency of reporting and what metrics you can expect.
- What type of insurance do they have? At a minimum they should have professional liability and errors and omissions.
There are many things to consider but each component is as important as the next. If the service provider you’re talking to seems annoyed by your questions, brushes them off or even worse, confuses you with their answers; walk away. No one will ever care about your business as much as you do so you must be diligent in finding an IT solutions provider that completely understands and respects your business. That’s what trusted business partners do.