As an IT service provider, we’re obviously big fans of outsourcing when you need IT expertise and support, but it would feel a little one-sided to only write blogs that sing the praises of the benefits, without touching on the watch-outs and pitfalls that come with choosing the wrong IT service provider.

Not all IT service providers are created equal, so it’s important clients know these watch-outs so they can avoid choosing a partner that’s likely to fall short of the mark.

There are challenges in finding the perfect vendor for any service, but with our expert tips, a good match, smooth transition and full understanding of the services you can expect are perfectly achievable.

Here are some of the biggest risks and mistakes we’ve seen businesses make in the past, and how to avoid them.

Not enough attention is given to the core business function

Knowing what makes sense to outsource and getting good advice, if you’re not sure, is vital. In some industries, functionality goes beyond customer satisfaction and can have serious legal implications.

Healthcare authorities, for example, need to keep and protect confidential patient records. From an expertise perspective, they should seek help from an IT professional to create an IT infrastructure and cyber security network that supports them sufficiently. If the service provider can’t do this, they should not be taken on.

The service provider doesn’t take time to assess the situation, understand the IT needs or offer solutions at the start of the process

A ‘one size fits all’ solution isn’t possible for unique businesses, so question vendors who suggest pre-packed solutions for everything.  

We’re not saying it won’t work, but it’s impossible to cover every business need with an off-the-shelf product or service, so ask questions to make sure it does what you need it to.

The worst-case scenario is that you go to the effort of outsourcing and end up with IT support that gives the vendor an easy ride and you a mediocre service.

Look for recommendations on where the transition takes you on day one and how that can improve in 30 days, six months, one year, etc, to tie in with your IT roadmap.

The client chooses the service provider based on price alone

Price is obviously a key consideration when outsourcing any business function. However, if you spend too much time thinking about where you can trim the costs, you could miss more important elements, such as choosing a partner with a well-defined IT service delivery model, proven strategies and complementary or built-in services.

Your success relies on choosing a reputable expert and low-cost providers tend to be low on the experience and service delivery spectrum too.

The balancing act is getting the standard of service right, at a cost that’s sustainable for the business, and quality IT services can be affordable even for small businesses. Don’t jump in until you’ve explored all the options and you’re confident you’ve got the best of both worlds.

Ambiguity around how payment is structured

This comes down to what you agree up front, so it’s vital you know exactly what you’re buying. For example, you could sign up to a people-based rate, meaning you’re charged a flat fee each month to have x number of engineers act as your virtual CIO or your IT support desk, or you could have a dedicated amount of support time allocated to your business – whether you use it or not.

You could also be on a demand-based rate that looks at what you’ve used each month and charges the business accordingly.

Not every provider will offer all of these options, but at the very least, if you understand what you’ve agreed to, you can make the best use of your service and you’ll never feel short changed.

Failing to agree service level agreements

Business needs vary and change over time. Seasonality, new product development, consumer sentiment, trends and a million other things can drive business traffic up or down.  

You want reassurance you’ll get consistency no matter what, so talk about SLAs early on, to make sure everyone is on the same page. The same thing applies to any software licenses your service provider offers you. Be sure that upgrades are included in the costs up-front, so you are not left with any nasty surprises when billing time comes around.  

Not running with a single point of contact service model

Using a virtual CIO allows IT issues to be centralised and managed with more efficiency and control. Each job is recorded, categorised and tracked end-to-end by a ticket management system, with all actions documented, until a suitable solution has been reached.

The big benefits of this model are continuity and reduced cost of ownership, making it a no-brainer for businesses with higher IT dependencies.

Not agreeing the data and analysis requirements up-front

Good data can be business-changing, so it makes sense to:

  • Agree its importance up-front
  • Work out what level of analysis you need
  • Know how information will be shared
  • Know how often you can expect reports or dashboards and
  • Understand how you’ll action improvements based on the information gathered

Knowing what’s possible and whether any element comes at additional cost, before you sign on the dotted line, is key.

Entering into a long-term contract too readily

We’d all like to believe in love at first site, but no matter how impressive your service provider seems to be, as with meeting your partner, you shouldn’t really agree to a long-term relationship on the first date. Contracts that lock clients in tend to come with stiff penalties if you decide you want out early. A reputable provider may be open to a trial period, should welcome ongoing feedback on how things are going and questions about their performance, and should be happy to negotiate rates based on the option to end the contract at an earlier date, if you need to.  

Pigeonholing your service

Outsource providers can support businesses in so many ways, whether they’re remote, based on site, or offering a combination of troubleshooting services as they’re required.

It’s worth talking through the options and how they’re charged before you sign a contract, so you understand what it would cost to dial the service up if you grow and find you need more support.

Not understanding the true cost of your IT support

Having and sticking to your IT budget is one thing, but understanding the real cost and benefits of the IT strategy you employ is so much more. For example, knowing what it takes to equip a full-time, office-based employee versus having a remote working employee who uses their own device.

The cost of machine management, downtime, partners and providers all add up and could make the budget you think you’re working to a fraction of the true cost.  

With confident figures comes more confident decision making, so it’s important to stay on top of all IT outgoings.

As you can see, there are quite a few pitfalls out there, but when you do find the right outsourced IT service provider for you, you will see just how beneficial they can be for your business.

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