Don’t “vive la révolution”: Choosing the right IT service provider for your needs
Wed 5 Apr 2023
In this opinion piece, Thomas Naylor explores the critical role that IT service providers play in today’s business landscape and the challenges organizations face in selecting the right provider.
As businesses increasingly rely on technology for their operations, finding a reliable and efficient IT service provider is more important than ever. Navigating the complexities of user experience, cybersecurity, and compliance, companies must carefully assess potential IT partners to ensure a fruitful collaboration.
This article delves into the key factors to consider when evaluating IT service providers, offering insights on both quantitative and qualitative indicators, as well as the importance of understanding a provider’s journey and mission.
By equipping readers with a comprehensive guide for choosing the right IT service provider, Thomas Naylor aims to empower businesses to make informed decisions and foster successful relationships with their technology partners.
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The state of play
How happy are your users with your company’s IT service provider? From my experience, the answer can vary:
“Yes, they see the IT service provider as brilliant: absolute rockstars!” (There are IT service providers that fit this description.)
“They are pretty happy, but not overly impressed.”
“Massively unhappy, but they put up with it.”
“Very angry. Close to revolution. I’m afraid to even talk to my users.”
Identifying the Root Causes of IT Service Issues
The user experience, however, is just one facet of IT service management. The IT service provider is often not to blame for an unhappy user.
There are significant issues that occur within virtually every major IT technology vendor, from the global vendors like Microsoft, Google, AWS, down to the smaller providers. However, from the user’s perspective, it is the IT service provider who is at fault.
Training of users and supporting users through the difficult change journeys is essential: a good training program is a collaborative effort between client and service provider. Alternatively, poor user experience can be due to failings in internal policy or a lack of sufficient and timely feedback to the IT Service Provider. This can cause the relationship to degrade, and the service to suffer.
The Role of Cyber Security and Compliance in IT Services
Plus, you have the ongoing threat of cyber crime, which requires that delicate balance of locking down your environment, but still enabling users to be able to easily do everything they need to make the business flourish.
There are the onerous requirements around compliance: processes such as identity and access management (IAM) must be done correctly, be evidenced, and the IT service provider be obliged to follow the steps and processes of the client company. Cyber security standards such as or aligned with ISO27001 represent a procurement ‘must have’. If a key service provider faces an IT melt down due to a cyber attack, then this impacts right the way up the supply chain. An outsourced IT service provider being accredited to the correct standards reduces this risk.
On one hand, the irony is that as technology progresses in leaps and bounds, the ease and depth of services that can be provided improves, and the capability to set up services that perform without issue is more achievable. On the other hand, the increased complexity of environments, and multiplicity of technology service platforms and providers, creates ever more opportunities for things to go wrong.
Choosing the Right IT Service Provider for Your Needs
Good change control is essential. A strong relationship with a capable IT service provider is also key.
Have you ever looked for an IT Service provider and found it challenging to find the right company for your needs? You are not alone.
The first challenge is finding the list of companies. The second is trying to establish which ones are good, versus the ones that have mostly excellent branding, fantastic PR and sales teams, but do not invest in delivery, so once you are handed over to business as usual, things get pretty grim.
Taking a step back: Understanding the IT Service Provider Journey
It is, perhaps, worth taking a step back and understanding the journey of the IT service provider.
A company can start because the leadership team were skilled and qualified by delivering IT services to a large company as an in-house team, and then spun off as an independent service provider. If an internal team can be seen to deliver competitive advantage, and strong enough to become an external revenue generator, then they represent a strong option. An example would be a manufacturing organisation focusing on their core offerings and wanting to reduce IT spend, and yet exploit the value of their internal IT team by positioning the team as an IT services company that then operates independently.
Alternatively, an IT Services company can also start because the leadership team identifies problems in existing service providers and can see the journey to doing it differently and better. Examples of problems that providers suffer from can include not moving off legacy end-of-life technology, poor implementation of new service support technologies, inefficient or cumbersome administration, lack of tight smart service management reporting. If an IT Services Company has adopted or developed leading edge technology and processes, they will be able to provide you with a higher service at a cheaper cost.
By understanding the journey of your potential new IT service provider and the direction they are going in the future, you can closely align with their values and mission.
Qualitative and Quantitative Indicators
There are also the generic quantitative indicators of growth, profitability, client turnover, relative spend by staff role (e.g. sales versus tech), range of services provided, staff credentials and qualifications, and employee retention. These objective facts and figures will provide a strong insight into how good a company is at delivering a consistent service.
And then there are the qualitative indicators, including how structured their approach is to managing and continuously improving service, their corporate ethos, the culture and spirit within the organisation, the strength of their selected the tech stack (e.g. the service management platforms they work with, how well is it implemented), and indeed the aforementioned journey: why was the company started, and how did they build their team?
There is a lot to consider when selecting the right IT service provider that quells your revolution. It is worth spending the time assessing the qualitative and quantitative indicators, and above all, understanding how a company provides the service differently and better.
And here is a bonus consideration: a good relationship requires teamwork. The best companies will often choose who they supply to, so they don’t always pay for the marketing razzmatazz, and consequently they never appear on your radar to consider. Finding that first list of good providers is key.
About the Author
Thomas Naylor is the Founder of hifo.co, a B2B portal for finding the right company for your needs. Thomas has worked for 25 years in IT, including digital transformation, CIO advisory, cyber assurance, and IT due diligence services for both SMEs and global organisations.
If you have an opinion you’d like to share, please contact our Editor, Stuart Crowley, at [email protected].
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