Technology is constantly evolving. Information technology systems and tools are continually entering the market and changing the way we conduct business. From better communication with our customers to driving more efficient operational processes to finding the highest quality leads and beyond, for any business to be able to compete, it must ensure its IT is in good order and can allow it to keep up with or even gain a competitive advantage over others in the same industry.
To be sure, there are plenty of companies that handle their IT in-house. Generally, these are very large firms that have the expertise and financial resources to develop internal IT teams. However, as most small and medium businesses are forced to figure out ways to do more with less, outsourcing IT is the right choice for many different reasons.
For the most part, outsourcing IT costs less than bringing on new hires. Aside from salary and benefits, think about the time and money spent on recruiting and onboarding. Then what happens if that new hire decides to leave shortly after joining your company? You’re back where you started.
Top IT providers know that they need to be familiar with the latest tools and solutions, and, as such, they stay in step with modern trends. Having to keep an internal team trained up on the newest products and systems takes a great deal of time, and continuing education is generally not free.
Another reason small- and mid-sized companies often seek outside help for their IT is because they have a lot of other work that needs to be done to keep the business moving. In today’s economic environment, even a few hours of downtime can be devastating for a company. Finding ways to fix technical issues when staff could otherwise be working on critical business objectives can be a significant waste of resources. An IT partner can remain focused on your systems while the rest of the business stays running as usual.
Let the Search Begin
The first thing your IT firm should do is ensure you’re easily found around the web. Make sure your business profile is part of relevant IT services marketplaces, and certainly have a Google My Business profile. Once that’s done, it’s important to understand why another business might be interested in farming out their IT.
Generally speaking, a business looking to outsource IT is doing so for a relatively small number of reasons. Either the business is growing at a rate where they’ve decided it’s just not practical to try to keep up internally, or its technology is outdated enough that it’s starting to negatively affect performance and the bottom line.
So what are the key considerations companies will examine when vetting IT providers? Well, it of course depends on their current and perhaps future needs (break-fix model vs. managed IT services), but there’s certainly a foundation that IT organizations must be able to speak to.
Hardware & Software Skills
The core component of information technology, any service provider in the space has to demonstrate a track record of success with hardware procurement and maintenance as well as software development and integration. Is the provider a PC-only shop, or does it also have experience with Apple/Mac products? What about phone systems, printers, VPNs, etc.? IT starts with the tools of the trade, and providers must be prepared to talk the talk and walk the walk as it relates to equipment and programs.
If a business is looking for outside help with IT, there will likely be significant changes to how work is done. It doesn’t have to be a complex change to be confusing, especially for employees who have done something the same way for years. Businesses want an IT partner that can help with change management. IT firms that provide initial training and ongoing support and take that burden off internal teams — such as HR or that one guy who’s “really good with computers”— are extremely attractive.
Risk Mitigation & Security
Of course, a crucial measure of an IT provider’s credibility is around the topic of security. Nothing is ever 100% secure, but IT providers have to get as close to it as possible. Customer data and private business information must stay out of the wrong hands, and the cat-and-mouse game that IT professionals have with bad actors leaves little room for error. Businesses seeking IT services will want to know how you handle downtime (will there be 24-hour support?) and what you do to protect against attacks. They’ll also want to know your thoughts on the pros and cons of onsite vs. offsite server location as it applies to their business. And finally, how do you prepare and test for disaster recovery, and how have you handled the real thing in the past?
The Right Team for the Job
What it all means is that your IT firm must be equipped with the leading-edge skills and solutions that can unequivocally help the business seeking your services. Remember, your success depends on their success, so being there every step of the way — from initial audit to goal defining to execution to upkeep — is critical in developing longstanding and mutually beneficial relationships.