5 Key Things to Lookout When Finding the Right IT Support Partner
IT Departments are increasingly turning to outsourcing using external partners to provide IT support. The main drivers are cost reductions and staff retention. However, before linking up with a Support Partner, there are some things to do. Especially in high-cost environments like London.
The first is to establish what IT Support functions you are outsourcing. In short, the objectives, financial and otherwise you want to achieve with outsourcing IT Support, and measuring progress against those objectives.In general terms what you need to know about a potential partner is:
A support agreement is different from a normal supply contract. It usually lasts over a long time, often years. You need to know they are going to be around for a while.
You need to ask the potential outsourcer if you can speak to one or more of their existing customers for a reference. Ask for a customer list and choose for yourself to stop them using their favourite client. You also need to know that they have experience in your industry. The support needs in a retail environment are different to those of a manufacturing environment.
One last point is to check if they are reliant on one large customer, and can they survive the loss of that customer.
Their Potential Cultural Fit with You
You need to know that you can work well with them. The cultural styles mist mesh. For example, if you are an accounting or legal practice, you might not feel comfortable working with an IT support company who dresses and interacts informally
IT Support people do not generally wear suits and ties. It might not be important if they are confined to a computer suite or data centre, but if they are required to move around the office, they should adopt the office dress code. Will they do that?
To have a feel for the cultural fit, you need to explore how the IT Support staff will interact with your organisation from day-to-day. You can then assess how well your people will work with their people.
Finally, find out how their organisation operates. Will they provide a dedicated account manager? You need access to the technical staff, and the head of the technical department. Regular management meetings are a must.
How are the existing IT staff to be treated? Are the staff to transfer to the IT Support partner on similar terms, will some or all going to be “let go”, or will some transfer to the outsourcer and some remain. The success of the outsourcing will depend on the commitment of the staff to it.
Another consideration in large urban centres like London with lots of job opportunities is staff retention.
Their Technical Capabilities
You must be confident that they have the qualified staff that are able to keep your systems up and running, both on a day-to-day basis and in an emergency.
Operational plans, and backup/recovery plans are essential. They also need to be part of an overall Business Continuity plan.
They need to tell you about:
- their equipment and network infrastructure,
- who they have technology partnerships with,
- who their internet service providers are and how you can use them to reach your systems and data,
- the locations of their main and backup data centres. Are they in London?
Most importantly, they must tell you how the operate their backup/restore systems and the security precautions they have in place to counter malware and other network attacks.
Ask them to tell you about potentially difficult things like client problems and how they were fixed. Ask them about their business development strategies and where they see themselves in the future. Remember this could be a long-term relationship and you need to be aware of any potential problems before you start.
If they are honest they will give you straightforward, warts and all answers.
Bottom line, what you are trying to assess here is the level of trust that you would have with a potential outsourcer. Your business relationship will be intimate, and trust and respect is key to the successful operation of the outsourced environment. If your gut feel says you don’t trust and respect them, walk away.