If you decide that contracting for IT services is the right solution in your situation, you still have one more decision to make: which provider? You want a company that’s exactly the right match for your particular needs. And to find one, you need to ask the following questions. The answers will help you determine the best fit for your current requirements, establish whether a provider can scale to meet your future needs, and evaluate response times and other performance metrics.
“How long have you been in business?”
It may sound like an obvious question. But while it’s never a bad idea to go with an established business that’s proven its value over time, it’s also important to be sure that the business has evolved to adapt to changes in IT services – such as cloud computing, to name just one recent example. Ask potential providers how they stay on top of trends, how they’ve adapted to industry changes and how they’ve helped clients navigate technology shifts.
“Do you serve many companies like mine?”
For example, if you run a professional services firm, such as an accounting firm or a law firm, ask how many clients the provider serves in your industry. Then go beyond that to look at the types of businesses, not just types of industries. For example, is your company a growing start-up? If so, does the provider have the ability to scale to meet your needs as they evolve and change?
“How many systems engineers do you have?”
This question is important because it goes to how quickly a provider can respond when you need support. But it’s not the only thing – or even the most important thing – you need to ask to determine whether you’ll receive the level of service you need. Ask providers to show you records of average response times. Ask them if they have SLAs to guarantee the response times they promise. Find out if they’re willing to openly share information about you about their current staffing situation and their forecasts for future demands and hiring.
“What are your core values?”
This may or may not be important to you. But a company’s values are the foundation on which employees perform and conduct themselves. If they’re at odds with your company’s values, the firm may not be a good fit for you. Don’t hesitate to ask about the company’s core values (and about their culture, which more often than not reflects those values), as the answer can tell you a lot about how well you’ll mesh.
“How flexible are your contract terms?”
Fortunately, IT services is one of those areas where you can very quickly start to see improvements resulting from the actions your provider takes. That means you’ll know in short order whether they’re performing up to expectations. And if they’re not, you want it to be easy to change or cancel your managed services plan. A good provider won’t lock you into a long, ironclad contract; they’ll want their performance to motivate you to stay with them. Ask if the provider wants you to sign a long-term contract, or requires lots of advance notice to cancel your agreement. If so, there’s likely no advantage to you of going with them.
“Can we tour your office?”
By visiting different IT services providers’ offices, you can see how they compare with regard to everything from business style and culture to staffing and other resources. You may discover by observing the company at work in their own environment that they don’t have nearly the number of people you imagined would be needed to deliver the service levels they’re promising, or that there’s a reason their costs are unusually low – and the savings aren’t worth it. Ask for an office visit that includes meeting with potential team members you’ll be working with – and be wary if the answer is no. Turn the tables, too: Ask the provider to visit your offices, even if they’ll be working for you remotely. The answer will help you gauge their commitment to your business.
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Bill McCharen, COO
Our goal for this blog is to answer the questions you ask. If you have any questions about managed services or any other topic please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about IT subscribe to our blog.