How to Choose an Outsourced IT Provider

You are presented with a dilemma because you don’t know what you don’t know. How can you possibly choose an IT provider and understand not only what they are offering but more importantly, if they are competent? In a previous post, I discussed the benefits of using an IT consulting company in some capacity and went so far as to suggest the use of IT consulting even if you currently have an in-house IT staff. The benefits are there, however I won’t detail them as it goes beyond the scope of this article. Once you have decided, like so many other businesses, to embrace outsourcing, how do you choose a quality company that can nurture your fledgling business all the way through the painful growth stages and into a mature, established company?

Abraham Lincoln was quoted in saying, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” If you subscribe to the notion that picking an IT company is like picking a restaurant or a replacement light bulb, you should rethink your position. IT companies are not all alike in providing value. Some key differences include: employee education, tools and partnerships, technology focus, and service level agreements. If you are thinking I forgot price, I didn’t. Price should not be considered one of the major deciding factors when choosing a consulting firm. In actuality, price should only be considered a tie- breaker.

Having worked in IT all of my adult life, I have seen the most “elite” and expensive providers fall short on even the most basic tasks. These providers inflate price to convey a false sense of expertise. They have a few senior techs that work on the big projects and dole out newly certified and hardly experienced technicians to their smaller clients. Conversely, if you are shopping around for the best “deal” or are used to taking advantage of your nephew’s $30/hr moonlighting support and find it gut wrenching to see the going rate for a competent IT company, you may also be doomed. In this scenario, let’s face it, you usually get what you pay for (or don’t pay for).

Ironically, when our company takes over accounts once managed by these individuals, the client finds there overall cost is comparable or even below what they were paying. Why, you ask? Having an incompetent or inexperienced IT professional means twice as many hours to fix the same problem. Don’t pay for someone to learn on your dime.

Like with any vendor you choose to partner with, there are certain intangible factors that play into your decision such as company reputation, personality and values, and maybe even community involvement. When deciding on an IT company, you should also consider getting answers to the following questions:

  • Am I assigned an Account Manager or a Tech my company can become familiar with?
  • If I am impressed you are a big company with many clients, does that mean I will get to enjoy the benefits of a large staff or will I be herded through a call tree and a lengthy process to satisfy my needs?
  • Do you track and maintain my IT records? If so, do you willingly and easily transfer that knowledge to me in case we have to part ways?
  • Will my critical projects and in-depth troubleshooting needs be handled by your most experienced and educated staff or should I expect a new tech school graduate or equivalent?
  • If your service is not as advertised or you don’t meet my expectations, can I cancel our agreement at any time?

If your IT provider is fully competent and has your best interests at heart, there will be no problem providing a reasonable answer to the above questions. I have found there are few companies committed enough to be a true partner and treat your company like it was their own. At Alliance, we give our clients the knowledge and tools to be more independent. We like solving problems, but we are happiest when there are no problems to solve. Being a partner means we understand our clients’ business and goals. We don’t shy away from making suggestions on technology needs for their growing demands or transitioning their mobile sales staff to a cloud solution. We are not beholden to any vendor or product, our philosophy is to find the best solution no matter the direction it might lead us.

Your business intuition has navigated you this far with your venture so don’t ignore it when searching for an IT provider. Use the above questions as a guide to demand more poignant answers about some of the insider subtleties of an IT consulting firm. What you don’t know can hurt you!

Want more information? Contact me, Jared Peno, directly at Alliance Technologies, LLC


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