How to Choose an IT Service and Support Provider

Choosing an IT service and support provider can be a daunting prospect. With so many players in the market, the choice is bewildering, and there are so many factors to consider. We’ve created this guide to help you identify the most important factors to consider when choosing a partner for your IT service and support.

Business focus

We mention this first because it’s the most important factor by far. Do you feel that this IT service and support provider really understands your business? Do they know how you work, how customers find you and how you meet their needs? Have they really got a handle on your internal processes?

You should be able to talk to your IT service and support provider in purely business terms. In other words, you should be able to explain the issues you face, or the outcomes you want to achieve, without even referring to software, hardware or specific technologies. IT Consultancy Your IT service and support partner should be able to build a bridge between your expressed needs and the technical details of their solution, and explain their proposal in terms that you can easily understand.

Cultural fit

There’s more to business focus than just the nuts and bolts of operational detail. Cultural factors are important too. Will this IT service and support provider fit in?

Remember, members of this IT service and support team will be visiting your premises, dealing with your staff and possibly training them in how to use new software and hardware. New IT systems bring changes, and change is something that many people find difficult. You’re looking for people who can offer the right level of tactful, patient IT support, regardless of how technically literate your team is.

Quality of proposals

If you’re considering investing in IT, or an ongoing IT service and support contract, you’ll want your potential provider to submit a written proposal outlining the approach they recommend. As you review it, here are some questions to consider:

· Is the proposal readable? Has the supplier made an effort to express their ideas in plain English, so that you can understand it as a general business person? Have technical terms been explained, or can you easily request an explanation from the supplier?

· Are the prices clear? Are you confident that the price you see is the price you’ll pay for your IT service and support, with no hidden extras?

· Can you compare? Has the IT service and support provider made it easy for you to compare like with like and confirm that their price is competitive?

· Are the third-party brands included in the proposal reassuring? Is the IT service and support provider proposing well-known, leading IT brands, or proprietary solutions you’ve never heard of?

· Does it feel tailored? Do you get a sense that the supplier has genuinely tried to build a solution around the IT service and support needs of your business, or are they trying to push you towards the products they favour?

Price and value

Obviously, price is a factor in your choice of IT service and support partner. Obtain proposals from a few suppliers and compare prices between them by all means – but do make sure you are comparing like with like. If prices differ, look carefully at what is actually being offered. You need to get to the heart of the business value offered by each proposal, which usually means looking beyond the price and understanding exactly what will be delivered, and how it will support your business.

As the old saying goes: ‘buy on price, buy twice’. Nowhere is this more true than in the area of IT service and support, where choosing a solution that doesn’t meet your needs, or isn’t futureproof, can lead to significant costs further down the line.

Breadth of expertise

IT service and support is a broad church, encompassing a range of areas including networks, servers, email, mobile communications, backup, remote support, data storage, accounting and operational support, VoIP telephone systems and more. The key point to consider is whether a supplier can offer you IT service and support in every area that’s relevant to your business – now, and in the future.

Attempting to buy IT service and support on price, or to focus on one area of their business when choosing suppliers, can lead to awkward multi-supplier arrangements when requirements change or develop. (To be fair, a multi-vendor environment is sometimes unavoidable, for example in situations where a company has committed to a particular software package and its users are completely familiar with it.) So as far as possible, aim to ‘future-proof’ your IT service and support arrangement by striking up a relationship with an IT service and support provider who can meet all the needs you can foresee. And if you do have legacy arrangements in place, opt for a IT service and support partner who can demonstrate the skills and understanding required to deal with it.