6 Questions to Ask Before Selecting a Professional IT Services Partner
In today’s technology landscape, the days of DIY IT departments are gone. No IT department can singlehandedly juggle the myriad challenges involved in managing and aligning an organization’s IT needs to business outcomes. From security concerns to cloud transitions to mobility to implementations and updates – there is simply too much to keep up. The challenge is finding the right technology partner.
As anyone who has embarked on a large-scale technology project can tell you: it’s hard to find skilled, reliable help! Months into your integration, scope has increased, project managers have changed, and you’re wondering what the real cost will be. Ineffectual service is not limited to the technology industry—they’re everywhere. On the other hand, diligent help with deep expertise and great project management are not only available – it can guide you to the best decisions, keep you on time, and save budget. A good IT services partner is truly priceless!
Here are some tips to keep in mind as you go through the selection process.
- Get all your ducks in a row. Before you even start looking for a professional IT services partner you need a crystal-clear idea of the project, its scope, the end goals, and what success looks like. Get your key stakeholders together to weigh in on this and create a written plan with clear objectives and goals. Record your plan. Revise and refine the scope until it is exactly what you want. The more detailed you can be, the better. You’ll need all this information later, and the right partner will help you improve the plan.
- Ask around. Word of mouth is one of the best tools around. Ask colleagues at firms with similar challenges who they used. A reference from a colleague that you respect is often revealing. Reach out to the manufacturer of the product(s) you will implement for example, HPE, Commvault or Veeam. This will reveal their most trusted partners, who have invested in their higher level technology certifications and equally important have a successful implementation methodology. Dive deeper! Was the work completed on time and on (or under) budget? Did they provide a timeline and stick to it? How was their support? Attentive? Consistent?
- Don’t be swayed by price. Price is rarely an indicator of performance. You’re not looking for the cheapest deal. You want quality and you want value at a fair price, which usually leaves you somewhere in the middle of the pack. Watch out for the highest bid, which may indicate an inflated staff and extra bureaucratic red tape. Beware of the lowest bid, which may indicate a lack of experience or a limited skill set.
- Ask Questions. Conduct a vendor assessment to identify whether a vendor’s skills, customer service, and experience match your needs. Learn about the company. How long has it been around? Is it financially stable? This is not the time to hire a newbie. Follow up on their references and case studies. Check up on their certifications and technical knowledge – are they minimal or at a high level? Do they have the staff to handle the project? Are they familiar with your set of particulars, such as compliance?
- Pay attention. In the selection process, a good, professional IT services firm should be asking YOU questions. These questions reveal how knowledgeable they are about your industry, your project and how well they have done their homework. Do they understand your business needs and goals and the outcomes you need and why? Did they even bother to ask? Are they looking to map technology to your goals, or wedge in the technology they want to sell? Are they providing meaningful choices? Do they have ideas? This is where that document in #1 comes in. If/when an integrator asks, you’ll have all the specifics of your project at the ready.
- Ask about support services and a warranty. A true partner will walk you through the entire process, with support staff ready to jump onboard if necessary. A solid support contract can be an added protection and a bit of a confidence boost. If a company doesn’t believe in their product and services enough to offer a full solution, that should be a red flag.
Finding the right partner is a task that requires time and dedication. Prepare. Research. Ask the right questions. Due diligence is really the secret. Can you afford NOT to do your homework? In the end, the reward—a true technology partner—makes it worth the effort. And once you have a trusted IT partner, your relationship will span many projects into the future.