The right advice at the right time is critical to the success of any business. Connecting with the Right IT Partner is crucial in ensuring the IT aspects of the business do not become areas of risk.
Microsoft has a great saying, "You don't know what you don't know." You are not expected to know and keep up with all the latest in the IT space, which is why you engage a trusted advisor to support you.
To that end, the following 4 R's will help you to either review, grow or find a new IT Partner.
Much like engaging a landscaper, you need to have a general vision in mind of what you are looking to achieve - knowing what your business will ‘be’ versus what it ‘is’. Some helpful points for you to be Ready before reaching out to potential partners:
- Create a wish list of how you would like to work
- Prepare a list of questions you require answers for
- Make a list of concerns you need advice on
- Seek input from employees to further hone your questions & concerns
- Look to the wider industry and note your gaps
Step 2 is to Research potential IT Partners by interviewing them. Aspects to look for include:
- Awards or industry recognition show commitment to bettering their business
- Vendor certifications e.g. Microsoft Silver or Gold Partner status shows dedication and willingness to invest in their business, their people and technical growth.
- Staff certifications, and also ask how they motivate their staff
- Do they have a business plan? Can they share aspects of it with you?
- When were they established?
- Financial stability including debts, investors, growth plans
- Industry experience relevant to you
- Ask for references
A strong IT Partner Relationship can be the difference between success and failure. Like any relationship in life, communication is key.
- Involve them in your internal quarterly, half-yearly or annual reviews.
- Be open with them about growth goals or expansion plans
- Pay your bills on time, and I say that in respect to any supplier. Goodwill and un-written benefits are often realised by doing this
- Provide adequate lead times. Remember they have multiple deadlines they need to uphold
- Visit them at their office. It’s a great way to see how they operate, and for you to meet their staff
Just like an employee, you need to put checks and measures in place to ensure your IT Partner is delivering on their promises, and your business is growing with the Right strategic advice and support:
- Are they constantly re-engineering their business to maximise their growth?
- Are they innovating in their market, and considered leaders?
- Is snr mgmt. accessible, responsive and attuned to your needs?
- Do they understand your industry and your business plans?
- Are their procedures improving, and are you seeing improved service?
- When you address concerns, how do they react, and how do they handle them?
- Do they solicit your feedback, and respond accordingly?
Finding The Right IT Partner is just like finding The Right employee - it takes time. When you find the right partner, the relationship, like any other, will require effort, patience and an open line of communication. A healthy relationship will provide you with a strategic IT Partner who knows you personally, knows your business and where you are heading. You will be able to trust them, and have faith in knowing they will always be there for you.