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What to avoid and what to look for when choosing an IT vendor

Vikki Durden, head of operations at UK IT Service advises on what to look for and what to avoid as an IT vendor

As UK businesses look to navigate out of the coronavirus pandemic, 98 percent of owners believe technology will play a major role in economic recovery.

However, for businesses looking to reap the rewards of fit-for-purpose tech, it is important to make the most of their investment.

Those partnering with IT vendors to maximise efficiency and flexibility and negotiate a cost-effective retainer, must look for certain attributes – and avoid others – when hiring.

The business comes first
With so many businesses relying on their IT network to keep their whole operation running smoothly, the smallest error can be costly.

So, it is vital businesses have access to dedicated professionals with knowledge of their IT environment, who can minimise the impact of this downtime – whether in-house or contracted.

For those working with third-party vendors, it can be tempting to simply opt for the cheapest price plan. However, this can often cost businesses more long-term.

The potentially slow response times and rigidity of cheaper providers can see internal projects impacted and even lost custom from website downtime. While choosing a more flexible provider may mean greater investment up-front, they prove their worth by keeping business’ IT environments running smoothly around-the-clock.

This adaptability is not just desirable in a crisis, either. IT updates and digital transformation projects often result in system downtime while they are rolled out. However, working with businesses which offer flexibility in contract terms and operating hours means you can call on them for support as needed.

For example, by implementing key IT updates outside of business hours, vendors minimise disruption to employees.

Quality communication
Communication is key to a successful working partnership. Luckily, communication credentials can often be vetted in the pitching stage. Those who take a long time to respond or act unprofessionally while competing for business are unlikely to raise their standards once hired.

Transparency is also important when it comes to managing expectations, setting timelines and agreeing on KPIs. Those who simply agree to everything in the pitch, while ambitious, are likely to prove costly down the line when they fail to meet targets.

Welcoming open discussions allows vendors to propose realistic objectives and raise concerns from the start. There is then room to negotiate on deliverables and define a mutually beneficial contract.

Some businesses value a local presence too, allowing regular meetings and even hosting their IT professional in the office. This can boost efficiency when working through complex, collaborative projects.

Keeping you secure and compliant
While we tend to focus solely on the advantages of IT for businesses – in speed, automation and efficiency – it also exposes firms to complex challenges.

Not only are online networks at risk of damaging cyberattacks but there are also fines at stake for failing to comply with data regulations. However, while these pose a complicated and time-consuming challenge for internal IT directors, they prove light work for specialist providers.

Outsourcing to a dedicated IT team saves on the time and cost of tackling these tasks in-house, as they provide access to the knowledge and skills to overcome the latest cybersecurity threats and comply with data laws.

Request case studies and client testimonials from potential vendors in the pitching stage. These provide honest reflections of day-to-day account management credentials and how vendors handle long-term security and compliance tasks.

A long-term partnership
Third-party IT providers are often seen as a short-term fix, with businesses turning to them to get out of a specific mess. However, more firms are recognising the rewards on offer for partnering with a provider long-term.

Not only does outsourcing IT give them access to a wider team of dedicated professionals – with the ability to scale resources as needed – but they can even work with them on innovative and forward-thinking projects. It equips previously limited businesses with the IT firepower to go toe-to-toe with larger competitors.

Businesses should identify vendors with a track record for delivering transformative projects like IT audits, cloud migration and designing comprehensive IT roadmaps.

Quiz potential providers on what they see as the business’ IT weak points and how they would address and innovate them. This will reveal whether they are progressive and push boundaries or are passive and simply follow instructions.

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