When it comes to finding contractors to outsource certain parts of your supply chain or business support, there are plenty that are fairly interchangeable. Sure, you might not want to change, but if you had to, it wouldn’t take your business completely off the tracks.
The thing is, IT support isn’t like this – if you suddenly pull the plug on an IT support company, you could find your business grinding to a complete halt very quickly.
The reason’s all down to how deeply intertwined technology and business have become. Even businesses who do 99% of their work offline depend on phones, email, book-keeping, and a host of other digital services – and if they’re not supported, you can find yourself unable to trader very quickly.
The Dangers of Being Unsupported
So, what would happen if you experienced IT problems? Whether those problems are because you’re without IT support or you’re transitioning between support providers, the answer is generally the same:
Downtime is any period where you cannot access systems that are fundamental to the running of your business. In the worst cases, this can be accessing financial systems or customer relationship management tools – but even if it just means you’re forced to slow your business because you lose a secondary system, it’s still an unnecessary inconvenience.
Downtime costs businesses serious amounts of money. In fact, it’s suggested that downtime costs an average of $100,000 for every lost hour due to IT service outages. While this might seem like an unrealistic amount of money for small businesses, there’s still a financial impact – and few businesses could stand haemorrhaging even $500 every hour until a problem is resolved.
The question is, how can you work with IT support to make sure you’re never exposed?
Finding the Right IT Support Provider
There are tens of thousands of IT support providers around the world who would happily take your business and help you run your IT. Of course, each offers something different – while some will offer basic helpdesk services, other, more sophisticated services are the kind of companies you could turn to for an alternative to managing large scale systems upgrades in-house.
The kind of support you need will depend on your level of in-house knowledge and your business model – but one thing remains the same; for continuation of service delivery, you’ll want to make sure your relationship is based on very solid ground.
To do so, your questions for any potential provider should cover the following information:
Can they keep up with your growth plans?
Growth is likely to be on every companies to-do list – in fact, it’s usually the factor that – when boiled back – underpins every action of every day.
For some companies growth will be slow – but for others, growth can happen overnight – whether that’s because of an unprecedented success with an advertising campaign, a viral product that captures the world’s imagination, or simply because an innovative product or service gains the traction it needs to propel the company forward.
The question – can the business you’re working with adapt a quickly as you need them to?
Don’t be afraid to ask about your potential IT provider’s ability to keep up if your most ambitious growth plans come to fruition. After all, even the largest companies in the world today had small roots initially – and there’s nothing to say the next Facebook, Google, or Amazon isn’t currently starting up in a garage or small office right now.
Do they speak your language?
IT has its own language – and, it’s possible your business does too. The worst kind of business-to-business relationships are the ones where each respective party refuses to adapt to work with professionals from the other side of the fence.
Now, there is some give and take with this. It might be that your workforce needs to learn a few basics that relate to new systems that your provider requires you to have in place – but generally, the most give needs to come from the provider itself.
Your providers support provision needs to be able to work with the people who are going to be calling. It’s highly unlikely that they’re going to be software technicians or service engineers – so they need to have deft communication skills to ensure a smooth transition between layperson and expert.
Talk to a provider about their communication and what they can expect from your team. This could be the difference between great communication and a great relationship – or problems that define your experience with the provider.
Have they got experience with companies like yours?
Every company is different – and it’s not unreasonable to expect any provider you like the look of to adapt their working practices to suit your needs.
The thing is, this isn’t always possible – and a company that’s spent countless years working with media companies won’t necessarily be able to immediately adapt to the needs to an engineering company – for example.
With this in mind, you’ll want to talk to your provider about the companies they’ve worked with up to this point, and consider whether those companies are going to be a good fit with yours. Now, this isn’t to say they need to have worked with businesses in your exact sector – but do the firms they’ve worked with share some working practices or structure with your company? Have they worked with businesses of a similar size to yours?
This is a good time to think about reaching out and talking to the businesses they’ve worked with previously. Talk to them about communication, charges, their working agreements, and so forth. In much the same way you’d look for references from companies who a potential employee had worked for before, it’s a good idea to talk to current/previous partners about the experience they’ve had too.
Our connected world makes this kind of task a lot easier too. Look at professional networks and reviews – and don’t be afraid to write emails and make connections on professional networking platforms to get your information either.