There are certain questions that I get asked every time I meet with a new prospect. What are the levels or flavors of service you offer? What is included in the tiers? How do you price your services? What isn’t included? How do you back up our systems? These are all part of a very important line of questions that allow a prospect to objectively measure a vendor, but they don’t tell the customer much of about what is most important, where the vendor is going. Picking a managed IT services company means adopting their momentum, innovation, ambition, integrity and ethos into a major pillar of your business, are you picking a steam engine or a bullet train? Here are the three imperative questions I wish every prospect would ask me or their IT Services Provider:
What is your five year plan?
The reason this question matters is because the trajectory of your IT provider will correlate to your own. If the provider isn’t improving, innovating and growing their capabilities rapidly, it is likely your business technology will suffer the same fate. If your IT Service provider can’t give you a concise explanation, they probably don’t have one. IT is a notoriously fragmented business, and the level of ambition amongst many providers is shockingly uninspired.
Does the provider have plans to expand? Are they going to focus on cloud solutions? What partnerships in their business do they see changing? How are they incorporating the community and environment into their business practices? What fears or risks do they have within their business model? All great questions.
What kinds of internal innovation initiatives are you implementing and how will they benefit my business?
If your IT Services vendor isn’t innovating internally, what makes you think they will do so for their customers? Every company in our industry endures the same constraints; in order to make money, they have to have a high utilization of labor. IT is a very complex business, to have lots of employees moving efficiently and securely in and out of clients environments is not easy. So what is your vendor innovating within their processes and systems that allow them to better serve you? What are they doing culturally that increases their employee retention, or allow their employees to be better trained than the competitors? And more importantly, what can you expect as a customer as the benefit of this ambition?
At Upward Technology, we have every single team member engaged at all times on an initiative that betters our company and how we serve our customers. This is ingrained in the fabric of our culture and should be treated as an indication of our values for any customer we talk to.
What is your disaster recovery plan for yourself (the vendor) and what kind of insurance do you carry?
If the answer is “well, if the big one hits, there are going to be bigger issues to deal with than your computers”…they just failed the test. This is an insightful question because every provider has a slick software solution that promises fast recovery time for their customers, but what if the city is shut down? How is your provider going to put themselves back together? This is an important question not because of the tech they may utilize, but instead it relays the forethought and careful disaster planning that the company has invested in to make sure they have you covered no matter what the circumstances. In our case, we have invested in redundant storage repositories in state-of-the-art facilities, and we have made significant investments to keep a senior engineer located in a different state, so we can provide coverage under any circumstances.
We also carry very robust insurance policies to protect our clients and ourselves from unforeseen and unexpected situations. A General Liability policy isn’t enough. Your vendor needs to have an Errors and Omissions policy and a Workplace/Employment policy to protect against discrimination, hostile work environment etc.
If you want Upward to answer these questions for you, or your current vendor didn’t impress you with their answers, please reach out to Upward today to discuss a different approach to managing technology.