How to Grade the IT Partners You’re Evaluating – Why You Shouldn’t Compare Just On Price
Why Comparing IT Providers on Price Alone is a Huge Business Mistake!
Not all IT partners or IT support companies are created equal. They will all have different ways of working that effectively impact the type of relationship they are going to have with you. There will be differences in the prices they charge you, but you need to understand that the level of service you receive can vary widely.
These providers are more than happy to sell you block hour contracts, provide you with one-off project work without having any prior engagement with you. They sell piecemeal services (e.g. just provide you with antivirus or backup) or offer support to pretty much anyone who gets in touch with them.
These providers are great for very small businesses (less than 5 employees), startups and businesses where budgets for IT are very limited. This type of provider might suit you if your business and its technology are still in the formative stages. Your business may not be looking to invest significantly in technology to overcome challenges because you’re not really aware of what those challenges are yet, or what they’re likely to be over the coming years.
Problems with these providers:
Sometimes, these providers will be a “one man band” and they’ll struggle to keep on top of all of their work.
These providers may have good general IT skills, but because they take on anyone and everyone they can as a client, they have to try to understand hundreds of different industries. Such as different types of companies, and countless different types of hardware and software.
These providers are often less operationally mature, so they may lack the internal systems and processes to ensure that all requests are dealt with efficiently in a timely manner. With this, communication can be an issue with your support ticket and engineer.
Be careful engaging with this type of provider. It may seem great at first because costs are low and they’re happy to submit to your demands. If you don’t want to buy backup or advanced security solutions, they probably won’t push it on you. They spend most of their time reacting to problems and putting out fires – so they’ll be happy to try to remove viruses from your systems. They could avoid you getting them in the first place if they were more proactive.
These providers have likely been in business for longer and may have evolved out of one of the other types of provider.
These businesses are likely to be highly selective in the types of companies they work with. For example, they may market themselves towards a narrow group of industries (or maybe just one!), they may only work with companies of a certain size (even turning down bigger clients).
These companies are more operationally mature, and they have realised that they can make more money and provide a better service if they become highly specialised towards a certain type of company. They will also likely have more internal systems and processes that help them to efficiently deal with their workload.
As they work with a select group of companies, they work with the same technology, infrastructure, and software regularly, and become extremely good at supporting it. They get to know a specific type of company really well, including common challenges they face. These type of providers have practiced the art of finding the right technology solutions to solve these problems.
These providers tend to take more of a consultative and proactive approach to supporting your business. They expect you to understand that if there are no IT problems, it means they’re doing a good job, not that you don’t need their services! If you’re looking for more of a business relationship and someone to give advice on how to tackle business challenges with technology, this should be your partner of choice.
These partners will likely refuse to work on a block hour or ad-hoc basis. They will be uninterested in providing project services or selling piecemeal services to businesses who are not already customers. There will be one model or package that they provide, and it will likely be provided for a fixed monthly recurring amount (often based on the number of employees you have.)
These partners are likely to appear expensive at first. They definitely see IT as an investment, not a cost, and they may refuse to work with you if you push back on recommendations such as investing in reliable backup or a secure firewall. However, this additional cost is nothing compared to the time your company will save by avoiding cyber security incidents and being able to easily restore data if an unavoidable disaster happens. The end result will be to develop a 3-year IT strategy that will keep your business secure and productive.