When you’re running a small business, finding a vendor partner to meet all your IT needs can be close to impossible. There are now more providers and understanding the difference can feel impossible. Above all, you need one that understands your type of business and its unique needs, and that puts your best interests before all else. This is especially important today, as cyber threats are growing at an alarming pace, and businesses of all sizes are vulnerable. To find the right IT vendor partner, look for clear evidence of these 5 qualities.
When looking for an IT partner, the first step is to do an internal spend analysis to understand the cost associated with your specific IT system and security needs, then set your budget based on the results. A good IT vendor will understand the various best practices related to your needs (today and in the future) and will identify and/or develop the right solutions – within your budget. If a potential vendor suggests a budget higher than you can afford, don’t hesitate to ask questions about their recommendations: Why do we need this? What are some lower-cost alternatives that deliver the same results? It’s important that your IT partner respect your budget, but understand that they may identify needs that you haven’t planned for.
Today, network security is of utmost importance, as cyber crimes are occurring to businesses of all sizes – not just big ones – in every industry. The solutions required to mitigate your risks will undoubtedly require changes to your internal processes, and this will put stress on your people. A good IT vendor will help you manage the change (in other words, help people understand and embrace the changes) rather than opt to avoid putting needed protocols in place. Your partner should also be able to demonstrate a well-articulated, robust and ongoing process when it comes to existing and emerging security threats. Only with this kind of vigilance can you have confidence that your systems are being appropriately protected at all times.
You have numerous vendor relationships, and contracts with each of them: providers of your internet service providers, printers, software, phone systems and others. Managing all of their contracts can be difficult and time-consuming. Look at the contracts of the IT partners you’re considering: Are they easy to understand? Are the terms fair and in line with competitors’? Are the deliverables clearly spelled out? What recourse do you have in case you’re not getting what you contracted for? A contract is binding and therefore must be something you’re comfortable with from the first day of your relationship forward.
The best IT partners have a “people first” mindset – one that’s focused on the quality of its staff and on clients’ satisfaction. It’s important that an IT firm has a full complement of skilled employees at all times, ready and able to take on any kind of challenge; without them, the IT firm’s clients won’t be well-served. It’s also imperative that a partner is constantly thinking about its clients – how well their systems are performing, about upcoming software and hardware needs, about the latest in risk mitigation tools and processes, about looming threats and more. This kind of focus isn’t something that’s outlined in a contract – it’s at the very heart of the organization’s culture, so ask questions to determine whether or not the leadership of the company is setting the right expectations of its people.
An Innovation Mindset
57% of consumers say it’s essential for companies they purchase from to be innovative, so ensuring your IT vendor is qualified and experienced enough to provide solutions that will help give your organization a competitive advantage – within your budget – is key. When meeting with prospective partners, ask them to describe how they develop solutions, and about the steps they take to ensure that their people are held accountable for staying on top of industry trends and new products.
There are quality IT vendor partners eager to contribute to your organization’s success and do “whatever it takes” to ensure the security of your data – you just have to look. Following these guidelines will help you identify the right partner for your needs and pave the way for a satisfying and productive long-term relationship.