Thinking about outsourcing your IT Services?

Thinking about outsourcing your IT? Here are some questions you need to ask during your due diligence:

Outsourcing your company’s IT services is a great way to save money, increase efficiency and even gain competitive advantages, but it is not something to be taken lightly. Change can be challenging - the right IT partner can help you to minimize this pain and dramatically improve your business. The wrong one can turn your world upside down.

Due diligence in selecting an IT Partner is more than just seeing a pretty website, you need to know the firm, the principal(s) and the process. Have you clearly defined your expectations? Once you have your expectations, then you can begin to interview prospective partners and determine if they can meet your expectations and are a good fit for your culture.

The right questions will help you dig deep into the candidate firms. Take the time to get the answers you need to make the right choice. Below are some questions that will help to facilitate that discussion.

1. How many clients do you currently serve? How many systems do you manage? In this case, the more clients and the more systems should be an indication of an organization that has its systems and processes in place and working well.

2. How many technicians do you have and how do you support clients across your technical staff? Here again you are looking for a clearly defined process that will allow you to reach the person who knows your systems within a clearly defined turnaround expectation.

3. How long have you been in business? Even though the systems change over time, experience is still the best teacher

4. Do you outsource any tasks to other companies? The field of technology is broad and deep. It is common for most IT firms to outsource some aspects of their offerings to a third party. Make sure you understand what aspects, and whether it meets your expectations. For instance, it is commonplace to outsource SPAM filtering to a third party, but do you want your help desk outsourced?

5. How do you handle projects? How do you define ‘out of scope’? What is included in the monthly fee? At VPSG our Fixed Fee IT Services covers everything needed to keep your technology working. If you need something new installed, we will provide you with a proposal that includes the cost of any hardware and software as well as the labor to install. Once this new system is installed, it will be added to the monthly Fixed Fee agreement.

6. How do you handle support? Will we have a single point of contact for support? Consistency is important for your employees. You want to make sure that the person on the phone knows you and your technology needs. Forming a relationship is critical to a successful engagement, and having a different person each time on the phone or onsite makes it more difficult to build that solid relationship.

7. How do you document and protect my client information? Having this information available to you is critical. You will want it for planning and budgeting info and more importantly, there should be no secrets between you and your IT partner – it’s your data and your passwords.

8. Can we see a copy of your contract? An experienced IT partner realizes that the goal of the engagement and their role as your partner is to help you, BUT it’s also their business and therefore has many legal implications. Make sure the contract documents are thorough and cover issues such as liability, confidentiality, and termination.

9. What is your SLA – Service Level Agreement? How does the support process work? Back in the technology stone-age (the 90’s and the early 00’s) support was simple. Something broke, you paged a tech and they would get to your office as soon as possible. Today, we can conduct 90% or more of our support remotely without having to leave our office. With Managed Services, the less you see us means the better job we are doing (and the more profitable our agreement is). Expectations are also significantly different – make sure your IT provider understands yours and is capable of meeting them. A good Technology Partner will provide you with their SLA and turn-around times.

10. How will your IT Partner communicate with you? With your staff? Is there a documented process in place to bring your organization on board? Do they require a single point of contact or can anyone call them? How do you open a support ticket? How do you check on the status of a support ticket? How will they communicate with the ticket contact during the support incident? What are their expectation of your staff as part of the support process? Is there documentation you can provide to your staff on how to get support? What is the escalation procedure if the technician can’t resolve the issue? Can they provide you with metrics that support their SLA?

11. Will they be your partner? Or just a vendor? IT and technology play a critical role in your business (otherwise why would you be reading this far down?). If the organization you are working with cannot meet your strategic business technology needs, in addition to your day to day tactical support needs, then they are not a partner - they are a vendor. Are you looking for a vendor or a partner? Are you willing to make the investment to get the right partner?

We would love it if all our new prospective partners asked these and other questions. After all, the initial meetings should be conversations and not just lectures. We are learning about each other and asking the right questions helps build the foundation for the relationship. Clearly defining what your needs and expectations are, as well as clearly understanding how the IT Services firm will engage with you is critical to a successful long term relationship.