Switching IT providers can be a daunting prospect, in fact, many businesses put up with poor service as they feel the move would be disruptive. In reality and from our experience businesses benefit hugely from a move and often remark they should have done it sooner.
Knowing what to look for is key when you're looking to switch IT support providers, there are many reasons for making a move and we could have made this article twice or three times as long but here's our top 10.
Reason to Switch 1: There's no push on strategy.
Every business is a technology business and technology is the business. The use of technology is no longer an option, it's a must have to remain competitive. Covid 19 has made that all too apparent and shown that technology is ingrained in work practices, innovative customer service and enabling desired business outcomes.
Not having any IT Strategic outlook and simply relying on a copy 'n' paste approach of redeploying the same but newer ICT Infrastructure is not going to serve the modern business world. For example, evaluating how the cloud as a platform can positively impact your business to be able to adapt to changes in the marketplace or to scale as and when you need it to meet demand is an essential step.
It is therefore vital that your IT partner is having this discussion with you and driving innovative change that is aligned to your business.
Reason to Switch 2: Poor communication.
One of the most frustrating experiences, when you raise an issue with a support company, is a lack of communication and updates. The fault is problematic enough, so when you know someone is working on the issue, it can reduce the stress associated.
However, when you hear silence, you begin to question whether the matter is being taken seriously, if it is being prioritised or if work has even begun to resolve the fault. The result is significant frustration, loss of trust and inevitably the road to an unhealthy partnership.
We all know the pain of having to deal with mobile phone and internet service providers. You call, log an issue and the promise of a callback is made by the operator. I’m sure you will agree that the instances of an actual call back at the agreed time are very remote. When it does occur it’s a delight and you want to keep the details of that person so any future issues can be logged with them. Why? Trust!
With technology underpinning most, if not everything we do in business, it’s essential that your IT Support partner understands your business so it can operate at its full potential. What might have been a minor issue in the past is today's major issue in this modern workplace so ensure you select an IT Partner, not just an IT Support Company.
What does good look like?
- Acknowledgement of issues as soon as they arise.
- Clarity on the priority of the issue so expectations are set and agreed.
- Regular updates on changes and work being carried out, should be in a central location so you have easy access to the updates.
- Sticking to timelines and agreed actions, notifying you if something impacts that timeline.
- Share in your successes and be upfront in failure.
Reason to Switch 3: They don't take Cyber Security seriously.
Doesn't every IT company take IT Security seriously?
Unfortunately not all do. What if you discovered that your IT company didn’t have the basics in place to protect your data and systems from Cyber Security breaches and the resulting financial and operational impacts and reputational damage?
What if they were compromised? Would your business be impacted and also potentially compromised?
Remember the IT support company has full admin rights to your business, so it’s only reasonable you should have assurance as to their IT security measures.
There is a legal responsibility (general data protection regulation) to protect personal data with appropriate security measures that reduces the risk from increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks.
So how do you identify if your provider takes Cyber Security seriously?
- They have a recognised Cyber Security certification that’s internationally recognised and up to date.
- They push you on implementing controls and processes to protect your business - not everything needs to be a purchase of expensive Cyber Security products. The basics that are often overlooked are free!
- They have enforced Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) in your business and are uncompromising in its enforcement.
- They have unique individual accounts for each member of staff who has access to your systems and data. These are secured by MFA and audited regularly.
- They keep you up to date regularly (at least monthly) on the critical patching status and Anti-Virus compliance in your business.
- They are continually at the forefront of Cyber Security news, training and cyber attacks.
- They are Proactive in identifying Cyber Security risks with Threat Hunting.
- They have sufficient cyber insurance and professional indemnity.
- They have agreed with you, an approver process, so only authorised personnel in your business can make changes to your IT systems and data.
- All credentials required to access your business are held in a secure vault, encrypted and restricted to only those who require access (least privilege)with full auditing.
- They are passionate about IT Disaster Recovery and not just Backups. They make it mandatory that your data is protected and don’t take risks with your data.
If you are unable to gain clarity on the above, is your current IT Company the one you want to be responsible for keeping your business safe from the exponential growth of cyber crime?
Reason to Switch 4: It’s not our problem!
“We don't support that, sorry!”
If a problem relates to your technology then it’s the IT Company’s issue. Yes there might be some exceptions where the software is supported by a third party or relies on a custom software development platform, bespoke to a dedicated supplier. However, the response should be “how can we help you?”
An IT Partner would take an interest in your business and how technology is being used. Often the IT Partner can get to the bottom of an issue with the third party faster than you could simply because they speak the same language. Your involvement might be required if it impacts your use of the application or system or where it relates to a specific business function, but they can do the heavy lifting so you can spend time on growing your business.
A partner spends time researching new ways to improve productivity, drive efficiencies, reduce the risk of cyber-attacks and improve your overall use of technology whether that’s on-premise or in the Cloud.
We all wear different styles and sizes of shoes, each business even if they are in the same industry or niche will have differing uses of technology even if the underlying infrastructure and platforms are the same.
Every business has a unique set of equipment, software, people, processes and goals, therefore do you want a cookie-cutter approach to IT or a bespoke service aligned to your challenges and goals?
Reason to Switch 5: It's taking too long to resolve issues.
There are times where an issue can take time to resolve whether that’s due to complexity or if the issue is inconsistent and very difficult to replicate. Thankfully, these are rare so having issues resolved quickly and aligned to a Service Level Agreement (SLA) should be the norm.
However, if the small issues are taking days to resolve or they continue to reoccur and this is impacting your business, this needs to be addressed.
Some companies that have come on-board with us have had issues for years that they learned to live with because they had become conditioned to poor service and unreliability, they thought it was the norm. After a few short weeks of working with us, the issues are fully resolved, whether that’s through some investment or just our team has the experience and knowledge to resolve the issues.
Ultimately, technology goes wrong from time to time (otherwise we wouldn’t be in business!) or your IT doesn’t always perform the way we want it to, when this happens, do you want a lackadaisical approach or a professional team of people committed to your business at your side?
Reason to Switch 6: They never accept responsibility.
We all make mistakes, we’re human after all. Working with an IT Partner is a shared responsibility. They manage your ICT infrastructure whether that’s on-premise as servers or in the Cloud. The client needs to ensure they invest in up to date and relevant systems to support and protect the business. The partner must deploy and maintain the systems in line with best practices. So it is therefore vital that both businesses understand their responsibility for each side of the agreement.
Where this goes wrong is when the IT provider or Client misunderstand or disagree on the responsibilities causing an incompatibility in expectations. This then results in a loss of trust, leading to the inevitable breakdown of the relationship.
Some of the worst examples of this are when an issue is reported to the IT Company, only to be told that it’s their fault, even when they followed the advice from the IT support company!
When something does go wrong and mistakes are made (it happens to the best of us) you want honesty and transparency, be up front and deal with it to make it right. If you see that behaviour, you’re with the right partner (just make sure it’s not happening regularly, then you might have a different issue).
At the end of the day Technology is no longer just a productivity tool to help us through the day's tasks, Technology is the business and the business is the technology.
Making the right choice in an IT partner is crucial and asking how an IT Provider deals with incidents that don't go right is an essential question. If you get the response “we don’t have any issues”, mark that as a red flag. I’d much prefer to hear about a company’s process to deal with issues when they arise and how they use it as an learning tool for the business.
Reason to Switch 7: They speak another language.
Every industry has their own language and if you're not in that niche, then it can be challenging to understand the detail. For example, we’re an IT Partner not Accountants so we rely on specialists in that field to guide us and ensure all our filings are completed on-time and accurately. We could invest significant time and money to fully educate ourselves and become experts but that would be a distraction to the business.
It’s the same with technology, you appoint a Specialist IT Partner to help support your day to day but also guide you in making the right decisions, aligning your technology to meet the company goals. What’s vital here, is making it easy to understand and digestible in everyday business language.
Unfortunately IT companies too often use acronyms and words you haven’t heard before, and before long, you’re thinking about lunch! What’s worse is that even if you do grasp everything, it’s most likely going to have changed in a couple of weeks.
So what should you look out for? A partner that speaks plain English and explains the business benefits of any technology so you can evaluate the potential return on investment or impact any changes will have.
Effective communication is essential to a healthy relationship. Your IT partner is the expert but they don't need to bamboozle you every time you have a conversation. You should come away from a conversation knowing exactly what has been said, agreed to and the impact it will have on your business. The IT Partner's job is to make it look easy and straightforward.
Reason to Switch 8: You’re not being educated.
Now there is no need to go out and buy some IT books just yet! However, you should be learning about the technologies that exist that can make your business more productive, grow and become more efficient. You should also be aware of the appropriate Cyber Security measures and the tactics involved in tackling cybercrime.
- Are you using the Microsoft 365 suite to its full potential? Are you still emailing files to each other rather than coauthoring the same document in real-time?
- Are your staff still using temperamental remote access software to connect to the office while working from home?
- Are your systems slow when working from home?
- Are your staff unable to use the office phone system from home?
- Are you losing business intelligence while working remotely?
- Are you unable to quantify what each staff member is doing while working from home?
- Is staff morale suffering while you can’t be in the office?
- Do you have the basic tools and configurations required to prevent a cyber-attack and keep cybercriminals at bay?
- Are your staff part of a continual education program?
If your IT company brushes off involving you in the IT strategy or plans and simply says “we’ll worry about that”, that would be an instant red flag. I mentioned previously that managed services is a shared responsibility and therefore both parties must be in sync.
A basic familiarity with how your IT ecosystem is functioning is critical as it will only assist you in making informed decisions that will positively impact your business.
Reason to Switch 9: The answer is always new Hardware!
We have seen this countless times where any issue is met with “oh, you need new hardware”. In reality, yes, it’s vital that your IT Infrastructure is supported and under warranty however without a long-term plan you could remain in an ad-hoc cycle without being guided to more appropriate and modern solutions.
We like shiny new things but that can also result in the fundamental pillars of a reliable, efficient secure and productive IT eco-system being overlooked. It is now more important than ever to ensure the basics are done and done correctly. Before agreeing to costly replacement equipment ask the question “is there another way”, “should we be looking any anything else” and “are there any features or functionalities that we haven’t deployed that could assist us in being more efficient or secure”?
There might be real benefits and cost savings to exploring a transition to the cloud rather than just replacing servers. Now, if you’re having to ask these questions there is potentially a lack of alignment and depending on the answers you may need to look elsewhere. However, ensuring your current investment is fully utilised before purchasing anything new is critical.
A benefit of a great IT Partner is that they will create a roadmap with a budget and work through this with you at regular intervals. This avoids surprises and enables your business to budget expenditure over a multi-year cycle.
Reason to Switch 10: They are too small now.
This is more common than you think. A small business starts out with an independent contractor or a break/fix provider that looks after some of the issues as they arise. However as your business grows, what was once a suitable relationship ends up being more a frustration.
Your staff count has grown and the IT provider is not available to deal with the minor issues that impact staff productivity. They struggle to manage support requests and nothing is documented properly. The access to knowledge is not there and what you want to implement is simply too large for the tiny IT shop. Your IT Security is not being managed and the business is facing unnecessary risks as a result.
The hard part is knowing when to make the change, especially as the IT person might have been with you since the start.
It’s important to remain focused on the business and if:
- Your day to day support tickets are not being prioritised as you would like
- Or you're not being guided on how to manage your IT investment and new technology
- Or you need to be compliant with Cyber Security standards….
it might be time to find a new IT support partner.
The IT contractor probably already knows and as you have grown, you might not be their ideal client any longer, thus it could be negatively impacting them. In the vast majority of instances, the fear of moving to a new IT partner has been greater than the actual transition. No decent company wants to be in deep water and most will understand and be thankful.
In today's modern business economy, technology must be placed at the heart of your business growth strategy and your partner must understand this. Why you need an IT Strategy