Choosing an IT provider can be a daunting task. It’s like finding a partner for marriage! Okay, not quite, but still is a very important decision in your business.
Technology can make a tremendous difference in your business in terms of efficiency, productivity, automation, and various other aspects. The right technology partner will grow with your business and provide you with spot on advice, every time.
So how do you make sure that you’ve covered all the IT aspects of your business and that the decision you are making is the right one?
In this article I’ll share with you the key areas to probe when looking for a new IT partner.
- Research and Development
New product evaluation comes to the top of the list. An IT provider needs to know exactly what technologies are available out in the marketplace. This helps them deliver the right solutions to the problems their clientele is facing. They will also put in the time and effort to test, implement, and know what new technologies can benefit your business.
Response time is critical when it comes to IT issues. IT is now a requirement in any business, and everyone expects prompt service, when there is an IT issue> No matter how big or small, IT issues cause business interruption. It is important for providers to have a written (and proven) SLA times they will abide by when providing support.
Pricing is an important factor for small businesses to consider when choosing a provider. However, while price is important, it shouldn’t be considered the MOST important factor. Look at the value they provide instead. Good IT providers will include aspects like, regular strategic meetings, regular site visits, monthly reporting, and other small value adds that make a difference; and more importantly show maturity in a company.
This is the era of cloud computing; it has become more of a commodity than a specialised service. A good IT provider will know the range of cloud services available and be able to replace your in-house server with a cloud service.
- Range of services
The more experienced IT providers are able to offer you a more complete service that includes all IT services under the same roof. This will generally include, IT support, website hosting, phone system, internet, and email solutions. It is important that at the very least they are able to offer these services without having to rely on another provider. When another provider is involved, even if your IT provider is good, you still rely on the 3rd party to resolve your issues.
Every workplace has a customised software or at least one application that is specific to their organisation, it could be SAP, MYOB, CMS; any application that requires a database to operate. It is usually the IT provider that will support the database, the underlying infrastructure, and more importantly be the first point of contact for your team. IT providers form partnerships with software companies and train their engineers in the software so they can solve the issues without wasting time escalating the problem to the software vendor. It also helps them keep up to date with new features and upgrades that are about to take place.
When an IT provider matures, all their systems, policies and procedures are formalised. There is a set process for every scenario in every department. During the sales process look for documents that spell out the service level agreements, onboarding processes, and how they conduct their support. When all the procedures, terms, and conditions are spelt out at the beginning of the process, it is a sign of a mature company.
- Helpdesk management system
Most micro and small IT support companies aren’t able to afford a management system and end up using a generic and free CRM that needs to be customised further to fit their business model. More experienced organisations realise that they need to implement an industry specific software solution that is highly customised to run their business. This ensures the highest level of efficiency in support, billing, and the accounts processes.
- Sales turn around time
If processes are locked down and staff work load is managed well, sales turnaround time should be quick. Most good IT companies will have a list of services that they offer and can simply pick the products from their catalogue and quote you on services. If it takes them weeks to get back to you, it shows they’re run off their feet
Level of professionalism is important in any business. The phone manner, marketing material, dress, emails, and any other form of communication is a representation of how the company behaves in their office. Professionalism in their workplace culture is important when it comes to support as this is the team that’s going to resolve issues in your company in a timely and professional manner.