It’s the change we hate to make, and we only do it out of necessity. No one out of the blue decides to switch their primary doctor, change their life insurance policy or hire a new IT team to handle your business’s valuable information data.
In the IT world (unless you’re a startup, seeking help for the first time), looking for an IT expert is an inescapable sign that something went awry. And now it’s time to find a new IT team.
I remain mystified that even astute business people fail to follow a stringent criterion for bringing in a new IT partner. Your IT team holds the combination to your digital vault and often becomes embedded in your business. You might not notice it until a crisis occurs, but they’re there in the background until, of course, you have an emergency and begin screaming for support.
The checklist for hiring a new firm isn’t complicated. However, it demands that you pay thorough attention to detail. Here are five suggestions that provide you with a reliable plan in finding that IT dream team that will respond expertly and swiftly to your IT needs.
It’s amazing how often we enter an agreement with a vendor and never ask the seemingly perfunctory and vital question: Can you give me several references? Call the references, don’t just send them an email. It’s interesting what you might learn in a chat, plus if a question pops up that you hadn’t considered, you can ask and receive an immediate answer. Ask for three references and ensure they are diverse. You don’t want the standard three references they’ve been using for years. Ask for a long-term client and a former client. If a former client speaks well of the firm, that’s a valuable sign.
Define Pricing and Future Increases
Your contract should act as a financial document. This is where you agree to price and growth. This implies an increase (or decrease) in price because of potential expansion. It also helps to avoid negotiating about this issue later.
We all know the feeling of satisfaction when you start with a new vendor or client. Honeymoon time. But sometimes the relationship heads south later, and this is where the contract becomes essential. Make sure you know where you filed the agreement, either digitally or in a drawer. (Surprising how many times companies scramble to find it.) How flexible is the contract? Did you lock yourself in for three years or is there an exit clause? Sometimes in a business relationship, it just isn’t a fit. This often happens because of expectations versus the amount of services provided for the fee. It could also be nothing more than personal chemistry. Be sure that you review all the options that have leeway for a change if needed. (I always suggest doing everything possible to please the client, but occasionally a separation is the only answer.)
About That Support, You Promised
This is where the specifics come in, not in the contract, but in practice. You must ask these questions to clarify your expectations and ensure that your IT consultant fulfills what they promised. These include:
- How will you handle support?
- Who handles the support, one individual or a team?
- How do you ensure that my tech knows (or will learn) about my business and will provide a reliable and affordable IT strategy?
- What’s the “real” response time compared with the stated one?
- Will someone really be there 24/7? We hear this frequently. Ask them what happens if you call at 10 p.m. (You might consider running a test on the response time at an off-hour or weekend.)
The Final Test
Ask the potential IT firm what makes them unique and why you should hire them. You’ll probably recognize the “pat” answer or the elevator speech. So how do you discern what’s real and what is a rehearsed reply? Ask for specifics, and don’t be afraid to request those examples from companies in your industry.
After two decades of confronting IT problems for companies of every size and across a broad swath of industries, one element still surprises me. The lack of thoroughly investigating the new IT firm remains commonplace despite the importance of digital information, which is the backbone of every company. Following these tips, focusing on the effort of an interview with a diverse set of potential vendors and concentrating on what you believe are a long-term solution is paramount to keeping your IT operation running smoothly.
If you’re ready to get started, request a consultation and we can help you identify your business needs.