Many businesses share consumer sentiment and are hesitant about investing money now, in the ‘new normal’. However, investment in key areas of technology and innovation may actually help businesses thrive in the long and short-term – cutting costs and improving efficiency.
For those considering switching IT service provider in these uncertain times, a smooth transition is a must.
Pros and cons
The idea of switching IT service provider, saving money and gaining access to a wealth of knowledge from a new team of professionals is enough to turn the heads of key decision-makers.
However, it is crucial businesses weigh up the pros and cons of any major business decision. This includes looking at the existing IT environment and reviewing where it excels and falls short.
For example, businesses may look to switch provider for a more cost-effective plan but end up losing out on the advantages of their current provider, who may offer more flexible working hours or contract terms.
It is important to understand the key drivers of success for your business. If the budget is non-negotiable, it makes sense to switch. However, it may be possible to achieve the best of both worlds – switching the bulk of project work to the new, more affordable provider, while remaining with the existing vendor on an ad-hoc basis.
If something goes wrong or an unexpected problem arises, their flexibility and responsiveness will help minimise downtime and disruption.
Make a list of the key priorities in an IT provider. These will often include cost, contract restrictions, customer service standards, flexibility and even proximity, for those who value a local presence.
Once a primary IT provider is chosen, who ticks the key boxes, it may be a case of negotiating over some of these other deliverables and even working with multiple vendors to reap the full range of rewards on offer.
Review in-house performance
For many businesses, the idea of outsourcing IT will be an entirely new one. They prefer to keep IT in-house, thanks to the benefits of getting a speedy and reliable response to issues.
However, it is simply unaffordable for many SMEs to employ a dedicated IT team – covering salaries, onboarding costs, benefits and more. Especially with outsourcing becoming a more accessible solution and vendors becoming a more integrated part of the team.
IT is notoriously inconsistent, with demand peaking, before employees experience lengthy periods of downtime. For those with limited IT demand or who have invested heavily in IT recently, capacity may not justify full-time employees.
Instead, outsourcing with a dedicated provider offers the potential to scale resources as and when needed.
It is not simply a case of in-house versus outsourcing, though, and the two approaches can work together to drive growth while keeping costs down.
Businesses may employ an IT Director to build out their IT infrastructure and make daily employee tasks simple and secure while working with a vendor on a freelance basis when unexpected issues arise.
Not only does this save on the costs of employing additional full-time employees to fulfil these tasks but it improves productivity among employees who have a clear schedule to fill with progressive and forward-thinking tasks, rather than constantly fighting fires.
What to look for in a new provider
Switching to a new IT provider represents an opportunity to revolutionise business operations – improving speed and convenience for employees and even freeing up budget to be reallocated within the business.
However, to reap the rewards of the partnership, businesses must seek a vendor which goes beyond just offering basic IT packages.
Previously, IT outsourcing was simply seen as a short-term solution, with businesses seeking assistance with one-off projects. However, businesses are realising the potential for partnering with IT providers in the long-term.
SMEs get access to specialist knowledge and capacity beyond their salary budget. So, why only harness these resources for simply patching bugs or fixing errors?
Businesses can work with vendors on long-term strategic projects, like building out their entire IT infrastructure and roadmapping for progression.
Ambitious SMEs seek vendors who share their drive and demonstrate a proactive approach to growing their IT environment, rather than just reacting to issues when called upon.
Plus, working with a team of dedicated IT Directors gives SMEs access to the skills and knowledge needed to make light work of projects which may have previously drained in-house resources.
Modern IT compliance demands are ever-changing and can see in-house IT teams lose days of project time in researching and implementing the latest techniques.
However, outsourcing these tasks to reputable IT providers sees these changes implemented in a fraction of the time, cutting costs and freeing up employees to focus on their main responsibilities.
Making the switch
Communication is the key to an effortless transition to a new provider. The business and its new provider must be on the same page, not only on project work undertaken but in how, where, and when it is completed.
This includes agreeing on working hours – for example, the provider may agree to roll out major updates or new technologies outside of the business’ operating hours, to minimise disruption to employees and downtime for customers.
Also, agreeing on contract terms like minimum hours and additional ad-hoc rates allows businesses to prioritise key projects and invest extra budget as and when needed.
Businesses should initiate contact between the new provider and those currently managing its IT environment. If this is another agency, they should arrange a call between the two vendors to discuss ongoing and unfinished project work.
For those with in-house IT professionals, dividing project work is key for speed and efficiency. Each team should have ownership over their projects – not only does this encourage consistency within tasks but it also avoids the disruption associated with sign-off.
Maintaining regular communication is important throughout the relationship. Weekly calls with providers allow businesses to address issues early, prioritise key tasks based on employee feedback and adjust timelines and budgets according to ongoing vendor advice.