You may be thinking about hiring an information technology vendor to manage and support your business computer system. Maybe you have grown tired of doing the work yourself, or maybe the vendor you now have isn't satisfactory. Here are seven characteristics to look for in your technology support partner:
1. Technical expertise
Of course, your IT partner must have a sufficient level of expertise to recognize and resolve problems on your system. Certifications and experience demonstrate that your partner has a basic understanding of the concepts and applications necessary for solid support. As a test, your prospective partner should be able to spend up to thirty minutes reviewing your system and give you a solid explanation of the condition of your system and maybe a recommended improvement or two.
2. Strong communication skills
You may not need to know the details of everything your vendor does on your system, but you do need to know the overall condition of your network and what expectations to set for the future. It won't help if your partner has a vast knowledge of all things technical, but hasn't the ability to explain the technology in terms that you can understand. Communicating effectively can mean the difference between frustration because an issue is not resolved immediately and understanding all of your options in addressing a system problem.
3. Shares your perspective
Most likely you don't have an unlimited budget for technology for your company. You need a partner who recognizes this fact and recommends solutions that will enhance your system, while keeping your costs manageable. Sometimes, you need to make choices based upon factors other than technology, and a partner who shares your perspective will know how to balance the need for an optimal solution with your available resources. There are times when your IT partner must be creative to help you achieve your objective without insisting that you invest in the latest and greatest solution.
4. Keeps one eye on the horizon
Technology is constantly evolving, with new technologies appearing almost daily. Not all of those will be relevant for your business, or at least may not be relevant today. A good IT partner watches these emerging technologies and recommends them if and when the timing is right for you.
5. A partner, rather than a contractor
Every system experiences failure at some point. It is only during the emergency or major failure that you will see how good your IT partner really is. Do they share with you the same urgency to restore your operation? Will they spend whatever time is necessary to get your system functional again? Are they looking to place blame, or do they focus on the problem at hand? Once you're system is operational again, do they present their analysis along with recommendations or do they just advise you to hope and pray it does not happen again? Or worse, are they overextended and must rush to their next emergency?
6. An observant troubleshooter
Though your IT partner may have years of experience, no one knows everything about everything. There will be times when your vendor is stumped. Successful troubleshooting is a combination of determining the real cause of the problem and applying the correct solution. Many an hour has been spent solving a symptom, rather than a cause. The best way to determine if your IT vendor is an observant troubleshooter is to contact their local references. Maybe not every reference has a story to tell, but if your partner is proud of his work, you will have the opportunity to speak to at least one customer who has seen your IT partner in action during a crisis.
7. Willing to support all of your technology
You don't want to manage multiple vendors for each piece of your system. That takes additional time and effort and can lead to a disjointed support solution as the server vendor blames the telephone vendor, who blames the programmer, who blames … you get the idea. Look for a vendor who is able to support all of your critical operations, including communications, computer networks, and software programming. If you have support contracts for specific software or equipment already in place, your IT vendor should be willing to work directly with each provider on your behalf.
Does your IT vendor measure up? If so, congratulations – you've found a good partner for your business. If not, contact us. We would love to show you the difference between an IT vendor and a strategic partner. We manage your computers – so you can manage your business.