Many of the customers we forge relationships with have never utilized a service the way Upward provides it, in that they have never hired a company that acts as an entire department of their own. We often observe prospects buying process to be awkward, unfocused and poorly aligned with what they really need for their business. We see customers send out dense RFP’s, build matrixes and grill us on pricing options, rather than asking meaningful questions on how we complement their business objectives. And while we completely understand that customers will lean on a two-dimensional buying process for other services, price versus feature, hiring an IT partner is wholly different. Why? Because you are selecting a long-term extension of your own team, it’s more of a hiring decision than an outsourcing decision.
At best, the managed services provider can be a catalyst for change, driving your business to higher profits and saving you from catastrophic cyber risks; at worst, they can cost a lot of money seeking poorly defined outcomes and leave you behind where you started and vulnerable to outsized risks. It’s an important decision. Here are 7 critical steps to hiring a great managed IT service provider for your company.
Create your Pro Forma & 3-year plan first, budget for IT
Usually, companies start with strategic direction and let the numbers wag the dog. In this case, we recommend looking at the financial plan for the company and seeing if there is anything substantial built in for technology. The industry rule of thumb is that 2-4% of revenue should go back into technology. If you don’t currently have IT budgeted anywhere close to that, or perhaps budgeted at all, it’s time to do some soul searching. Do you want to grow the business? Are your competitors likely developing digital innovations in how they provide customer value? Do you have no idea if the technology you have today is going to work and scale with you over the next few years? If you answered yes to any of these questions, consider expanding the budget to a normalized range. It’s one of the best investments you can make (if you pick the right partner!).
Define, with the entire management team (and potentially all staff members), exactly how technology should align with your business goals.
Prior to engaging vendors, take the time to develop clear strategic alignment for technology in your company. Often your best advice will come from unexpected places.
Frame the discussion in terms of outcomes. Technology:
- Could help us increase this.
- Could help us decrease this
- Should be automating a mundane part of “X” role
- Is what our competitors use to do this better than us for their customers
- Can help us avoid a security event like our competitor
Go back and retool your Pro Forma based on what you’ve heard
If there was a lot of feedback, and technology presented your business with considerable upside, perhaps it should get more resources.
Write this all down and turn these statements or hypothesis into questions you can ask the vendors.
“We are interested in decreasing X. Mrs. IT Vendor, tell us about a client you work with who you have been able to decrease X with”
“Tell us how the technology you will use to support us will help us to become a better organization?”
Delegate, but only if you mean it.
We often see business owners who are “half-in” on technology, they engage and participate in parts of it and ignore the rest. If you have completed steps 1 -4 thoroughly, this can be okay. If you are not fully committed to giving up control and strategic management of this key function, then you are not ready to delegate. We see many companies who have a very difficult time picking vendors, and deciding on strategy because the leader at the top is only half engaged, treating it like another telco or software decision. The decision is truly akin to hiring a key employee. Don’t be the wizard behind the curtain. If you think IT is strategically important, put your money and time where your mouth is and participate.
Visit the potential vendor’s offices, meet the entire staff
This vendor will work with every member of your staff, work alongside you during times of extreme duress, oversee the protection of all your intellectual property, design competitive strategies that are critical to outmaneuvering competitors and maintain every file, picture, application, printer, record, and device that supports you servicing your clients. Go meet them and see how and where they work.
Does their office feel like a place you might like to work? Are you a creative or relationship driven group, and is their office devoid of any personality and inspiration? Listen to that.
Pick your 5-year relationship
We see many clients who see this decision as an experiment as they figure out and grow into what they know they eventually need, this is a mistake. You can’t afford the lost time while you tread water, this is a relationship that needs to drive long-term results. Don’t pick a vendor just based on who you need today, pick the vendor who is going where you are going. Interview the vendor on their 5-year plans. Are they forward thinking, inspired in their mission, what do they see coming around the corner for their business, what keeps them awake at night, how do they hire? In short, who do they want to be? Like everything else, the vendor’s response should resonate and align with your vision, after all, they are going to be part of your team.
If you can follow these steps and make this decision count, you can find the vendor that can drive exceptional results for your business for years. If you are ready to start evaluating a new relationship with an IT vendor, contact Upward Technology to begin a different discussion.