Choosing the Right IT Provider - 8 Questions to Ask
Business owners and financial executives are often responsible for managing the IT function of their company. A common way they choose to handle it is by outsourcing some or all of IT to a technology services provider. For many small and medium sized businesses, outsourcing the management of their technology helps them cut costs without sacrificing good service, reliability, and efficiency.
The problem is that most executives don’t know what qualities they are looking for when choosing people to support their infrastructure, so they end up with an arrangement that exposes them to greater risks and higher costs than it should.
There are hundreds of companies that offer IT outsourcing services, or managed IT services as it is commonly called, so how do choose the one that’s right for you? Ask the right questions.
Here are some questions you should ask when interviewing IT support companies and what you’re looking for in their answers.
1. What’s your procedure for handling support requests? What you’re trying to figure out is if they even have a procedure. Many times, when you’re not getting the results you want from IT, it’s not because your current provider isn’t smart – it’s because they don’t have the processes in place to effectively manage your technology.
2. How will the relationship be managed? The provider should assign a dedicated team lead and support staff for your business. There should also be a backup structure in place, so even in the unlikely event that your assigned team is unavailable, you can still get help.
3. What process do you have in place to keep your team accountable? Many technical issues go on for months because nobody is held accountable for resolving them. The IT provider needs to have a system to document the issues and a process for ensuring that they are solved in a reasonable amount of time.
4. How many resources do you have on staff? Are they employees or contractors? You need a team large enough to support your organization – just a couple of IT professionals probably won’t be enough to give you the service that you want. Also, the provider should employ full-time professionals, not outsourced contractors. This ensures continuity of service and enables them to quickly recognize if your issues are related to an ongoing concern in your system.
5. Are your resources dedicated to one role or do they wear multiple hats? Often, technology providers try to do everything with a small staff – help desk employees double as sales people, or CEOs double as lead engineers. This creates a situation where you need help, but your provider is busy with other tasks. You want a company that allows their employees to focus on their role.
6. What’s your role in working with my vendors? Many businesses have a long list of vendors – from application providers and copy machine vendors, to Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Each vendor represents a different person to call when something technical goes wrong in the office. Your IT support provider should become the point of contact for all technology-related concerns, and work on your behalf with the vendors to solve the issues. For example, if you keep losing Internet connectivity, your IT service provider should be the one troubleshooting your network and calling your ISP to see where the real problem lies.
7. What if I need help after hours or on the weekend? Since business owners frequently work outside of the general 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. window, you need to know if you’ll be able to get support at any hour. Someone should always be available to solve your technology troubles.
8. If I call in for support, how long will I have to wait before I can speak to an engineer? You don’t have time to wait on hold for hours, or worse, leave a message and wait for a returned phone call. On average, you should expect to speak to an experienced IT professional in less than 5 minutes.
A successful arrangement with an IT provider, whether it’s in house or outsourced, means your business can achieve its objectives without technology getting in the way.
About Courtney Casey
In an industry dominated by men, Courtney Casey, Director of Marketing for Accent Computer Solutions, Inc., is making her mark on the world of information technology. Courtney has been immersed in the IT field most of her life and has been molded into the tech savvy expert she is today. She began working for Accent while earning her Bachelor's degree from California State University, Long Beach. Known in the Inland Empire as the "Tech Girl," Courtney is a regular columnist for the region's newspaper of record, The Press-Enterprise. Her columns address topical news trends, new technology products, and offer advice on how to embrace technology or avoid common IT pitfalls.