Choosing your business IT partner can be a stressful decision. What factors let you know that you’ve made the right choice? Are you certain they have the relevant skills and experience to fully support the IT side of your business? Is the price they quoted you reasonable?
Many service-based providers shroud their services in techy jargon and industry buzzwords (surely the target audience isn’t fully across the ins and outs of the current IT landscape, or they wouldn’t need a business IT partner to begin with!). This can leave you uncertain about what, in fact, a business is offering yours. It can mean dwindling confidence in engaging a business IT partner. It can often feel like someone is trying to take advantage of gaps in your knowledge.
Our aim in this blog is to break down what factors should make you realise you should collaborate with a business IT partner and how to know who is the right fit for your business. Of course, it makes sense to look for a partner with a wealth of IT knowledge and experience behind them. Someone with evidence that they know what they’re doing. But that’s not all you need to look out for. There are several other traits that will determine whether they’re going to be the right choice for you.
A Willingness To Learn About Your Business
No one would expect a business IT organisation to understand the priorities and complexities of every single industry and service. However, we firmly believe that any business IT company worth its salt should have an absolute willingness to learn.
What matters to your business? What are your priorities, your goals, your pressure points, and your concerns? If your business IT partner doesn’t understand how your business works, how can they be expected to offer appropriate suggestions and solutions?
All the technical skills in the world will only get you so far. Once your business IT partner understands your business, they understand what solutions you require to increase your business performance.
By clear communication, we mean a few things. The right business IT partner should be able to explain problems and solutions to you without resorting to technical jargon. Being able to present information to you without the relevant background is an invaluable skill in an IT service provider. First and foremost, it tells you that they themselves have a comprehensive understanding of the topic. Secondly, it indicates that they also respect your ability to learn and aren’t attempting to pull the wool over your eyes.
Clear communication is also transparent communication. Your business IT partner should be able to clearly outline their service process to you. How will they approach your cyber security? How will they create solutions to your IT problems? And most importantly, what sort of communication do they provide in terms of progress updates for ongoing projects and resolutions?
The last thing you want is radio silence for days or weeks on end, with no clue how your very expensive or complicated project is being handled.
Your chosen business IT partner no doubt receives multiple queries and has multiple projects on the go at the same time. However, they should have a clear-cut process for:
a) prioritising which issues or tickets need to be handled first
b) determining a reasonable time frame.
Will they assign a dedicated account manager to your business to ensure your needs are being met (with the appropriate course of action) in a timely manner?
Time management and job prioritisation are valuable skills. Skilful prioritisation doesn’t mean you constantly get to be a queue-jumper, though. It might feel like they should drop whatever they’re doing and work on the latest issue you’ve raised. But, you’ll actually receive far more value for your money and time if you allow them to prioritise jobs by importance. That way, you know if they’re working on someone urgent for your business, they won’t slack off on the job because another client has a non-urgent request.
In the course of your relationship with your business IT partner, they will likely be responsible for your data security. You want someone with the integrity to take the utmost care and respect for protecting your data. As a general rule, your business IT partner is not in the habit of scouring through your database to view all your private information. However, perhaps they may need to talk you through a remote TeamViewer session to resolve a local issue on your computer. There should be no question of your support partner reading through any confidential information on your system.
But how could you possibly know if your business IT partner has that integrity and trustworthiness? Of course, if you’ve never worked with them before, it’s difficult to know. But there are some ways to get a decent idea. Some IT service providers will showcase existing clients that utilise their services. Healthcare or finance industry-based businesses usually rely heavily on top-notch data security, so these are always a good sign. Your business IT partner should also be able to provide you with a clear outline of exactly what measures they take to protect your data, and their protocol for interacting with your sensitive information.
Attention to Detail
A critical skill in any business partner is attention to detail. Regardless of the project or severity of the issue, your business IT partner should have an excellent eye for detail. Nothing should slip through the cracks. IT, in particular, can suffer from seemingly minor slip-ups. Whether its missing a configuration setting within your cyber security set up or misjudging the scope of a project, these details can absolutely have crucial impacts on the productivity of your business.
Meet with your potential business IT partner and interview them as you would any other similar candidate. They should be able to demonstrate exactly how they have this essential trait with reference to current, ongoing, or previous work they have completed.
Resourcefulness and Creativity
Resourcefulness is a characteristic of creativity. Your business IT partner should have the ability to find solutions to your problems while working within a budget and the available resources. That’s not to say they should be able to create something from nothing. But they should have an ability to think outside the box and be flexible—solving problems and creating solutions is an invaluable skill that will serve your business well.
A good indicator here would be to work with a business IT partner who has experience within your industry. This way, they’ll be familiar with what works and what solutions to utilise. A partner with this trait would also be able to point you towards a project or problem that they solved in an unexpected way. They should also be across the current regulations and guidelines, especially relating to cyber security, such as the Essential Eight.
Problem solvers and creatives inevitably have an intellectual curiosity when it comes to problem solving. This is a desirable trait in your business IT partner. Working in the IT industry means you don’t get to simply draw on the knowledge you learned fifteen years ago and leave it at that. A successful IT professional is a lifelong learner, ideally. They are inevitably always pursuing a new certification or keeping abreast of the latest research and technology in IT and cyber security.
IT professionals should be innately interested in new developments in their field and keep up with the advances in technology that can ultimately benefit your business. Feel free to ask them what they believe are the best emerging technologies, or what global or national trends do they see in IT or cyber security today. From the current knowledge of your partner, you should be able to learn how your business sits in the current IT landscape and the best ways to get your business moving forward.
Patience and Calm
IT issues can often be unexpected and urgent. In stressful situations such as these, you need a business IT partner who is not likely to panic. Rather, they should calmly oversee the resolution. Remaining calm in the wake of any IT emergency means they are less likely to miss anything, which also draws back on that other very important trait of attention to detail.
Conversely, not every problem will have an obvious solution. Your IT provider will need the patience to review potential solutions. Sometimes, these solutions require multiple attempts before they are fully implemented successfully. They could need an obscure or complicated configuration that takes time to get right.
Likewise, they may need to deal with a frustrating third-party (such as an ISP) in order to complete a task. Therefore, your business IT partner should have a calm and patient personality. This helps them maintain composure during these frustrating moments and, ultimately, welcome these challenges as an opportunity for learning.
This may go without saying, but we’ll address it anyway because it’s an important factor. A major trait you need in your business IT partner is reliability. Your IT service provider should ideally respond promptly to any queries or tickets you raise, even if it’s just a matter of telling you that they’re working on it.
Essentially, you need to be able to depend on them in an emergency, as this is when their services matter most. If you call, do you get put into a sluggish queue? Do you have to go through a frustrating L1 customer service representative who insists on asking “Did you try turning it off and on again?” before putting you through to an IT technician? This isn’t the kind of response you want from your IT business partner in the case of an emergency.
Request information about your IT provider’s SLA (service level agreement). A great sign is when they have a proven track record that they deliver well within expected time frames.
A Cyber Security Focus
Cyber security should be a core focus of your business IT partner. If you’ve spent any time on our site, you’ll know that we’re obsessed with cyber security. We feel it’s with good reason, though, with threats morphing daily and targeting small to medium businesses just like yours and ours. Cyber security resilience and preparedness is a feature that will ultimately keep any business alive (and thriving).
If your IT provider doesn’t immediately come to you with a plan or discussion about cyber security, then be wary. Cyber security is the very thing that will protect your data, reduce your risk of attack, and keep your clients’ confidence in your services. For reference, skim our checklist on cyber security to determine if you need to do something about your cyber security.
Along with our in-depth knowledge and technical skill, Stanfield IT makes it a goal to always engage our clients professionally and we aim to exceed expectations. Contact us to find out how our Business IT Services can help your business.