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8 key questions to ask a prospective IT provider in the “new normal”

By August 9, 2020 August 10th, 2020 No Comments

Many businesses are looking to review their relationship with their IT provider following the experience and impact of COVID-19.

And selecting the correct IT provider to help your business is going to be key for your success. To help with the process have created a checklist of 8 key questions to ask a prospective IT provider in the “new normal” as follows:

Question 1 – How will your approach to IT support help my business?

The impact of COVID-19 has had a, more or less, consistent effect on businesses across the board – but the way that IT services providers have stepped up to help client businesses during the crisis has varied widely.

The key thing to remember as you assess their response is that technology should be an enabler for your business, not a roadblock. Whether you want to make your existing IT work harder, minimize IT downtime or get the best out of cloud-based business applications the focus needs to be on “what will this deliver for us”.

So, a highly proactive approach and the expertise needed to support your business. Not just your IT is essential.

Question 2 – How will you get my remote employee teams working together effectively?

This is a big one. And it’s probably an issue you have been wrestling with in recent months.

The impact of COVID-19 with social distancing requirements and lack of access to business premises has had an unprecedented knock-on effect in terms of providing the technology solutions needed to get remote employees working together quickly again.

The use of innovative collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams has been at the heart of our approach to enabling our customers – even prior to COVID-19. So, it was already “baked” into the way we worked. So, ask your prospective IT provider how long they have been supporting customers with this type of approach.

And the benefits of Teams itself – the core chat, meeting and messaging capability – are only the core part of the business value. The real value in Teams is when you connect it up with other tools like Microsoft Planner, your CRM and a wide variety of 3rd party applications – like Salesforce, Zoho and Sage for example.

So, ask for examples of this type of proactive use of the technology to support business customers.

Question 3 – How will you ensure my IT systems are running effectively?

This is a great question to get an initial feel for how proactive their approach to IT monitoring and supporting your business is going to be.

If their eyes glaze over at the question it might be time to move on very quickly! But at a base level, you want to hear that they are going to use remote monitoring technology to monitor the health and status of your IT infrastructure – from server monitoring to technical glitches and hacking attempts. In a COVID impacted environment, it is essential to know that -they have the capability to monitor and support you effectively at arms-length with minimal onsite visits.

This is also a great time to dig a little bit deeper into things like SLA’s, how quickly they will respond to problems and requests. And how you are able to report issues directly to them.

The other key thing here is to establish how proactive their approach is to finding and fixing problems like a potential hard-drive failure. Ideally, you want to hear they are using predictive technology that finds and remedies problems – before you are even aware there is an issue.

And before it’s all too late.

Question 4 – Can you help me with my overall IT strategy and planning?

Whatever your new supplier undertakes to do for you has to be in the context of an overall plan that is specific to your business.

However, forward-thinking providers will include advice on IT strategy as part of their service too which helps significantly with aligning business and IT strategy, accurate budgeting, feedback, and review, etc. For example, at Managed IT Experts we take a structured approach to onboarding all customers that includes:

  • Business level assessment – where we assess what it is you need to achieve from a business perspective using independent business process mapping tools and our expertise
  • Review of your existing IT infrastructure – initial assessment of your existing business software applications and systems to give a “big picture” view of the good and bad in your current set up
  • From there we create a plan specifically for your business – which includes regular Quarterly Business Reviews that provide transparency and the opportunity for feedback and review on both sides

 

Question 5 – Who exactly will be looking after my business?

It’s important to clarify before you put pen to paper exactly WHO is going to be working to support your business.

And you are going to need a well-rounded team to ensure that your IT initiatives are a success. You are going to want to be sure that you will have access to a broad team that has both Business and IT expertise and includes an Account Manager, IT Director, Operations Manager, Senior IT Engineers, and helpdesk staff.

Asking a question like this early in your evaluation process can ensure there aren’t any surprises later on when you are struggling to get responses to problems and issues.

 

Question 6 – What happens if I have a disaster recovery situation in my business?

This was an important question to be asking Pre COVID-19 but Post-COVID it becomes an essential hygiene factor in your decision-making process.

If your prospective supplier doesn’t have this capability in their services armory in the new business environment you are working in then at the very least it is a serious red “x” against their name. If not an instant decision to remove them from the review process.

Areas to probe on here are:

  • How do you help your customers prepare for unforeseen disasters and recovery situation?
  • Is this a documented process?
  • How quickly do you aim to have were them back up and running?

 

Question 7How much is this going to cost?

Now we come to one of the key questions in all of this. What does the potential bill for this look like?

An open-ended approach to solving IT issues is a recipe for disaster. For both parties in an IT support relationship! So, if your prospective supplier suggests some initial project work as a means to “getting things started and see how things go” it might be time to shut the discussion down there and then.

A professional IT provider who is using structured scoping and assessment techniques, IT strategy planning, automated monitoring and support, and regular business reviews is going to be able to provide accurate – and backed up reasoning – for any costings they are proposing.

So, make sure that you ask the difficult question here. A good IT provider will welcome it and the comfort it provides both parties.

 

Question 8How much is this going to cost?

There is also probably one more question that you should be asking which is – “Tell me about the type of work you do for customers“. This one is key.

Many IT providers will tell you what they can do for your business and lay out potential solutions for your problems. But it’s important to ask how they have solved similar problems for other customers.

As a first step, visit their website to get a feel for the kind of work they have done for other customers. Case studies and testimonials will give you a feel for a number of key things – how they work, areas of expertise, specific business issues they have addressed for customers on a consistent basis and what their customers ACTUALLY say about the work that was done.

 

We hope the checklist is helpful to you.

If we can help, then please do not hesitate to contact us for a no-obligation assessment of what your business needs right now. Including a free network detective scan and independent report which you can keep regardless of whether you choose to proceed with us or not.