You probably don’t know, what you don’t know about IT. Does that make sense?
I think that’s a fair assumption for me to make.
And why should you concern yourself with the latest tech news, software, and support updates? You’re too busy doing what you do best.
You probably already read your industry magazines, blogs, visit trade shows, go to conferences, and attend training… you’re an expert in your field. That’s what experts do. You certainly don’t have the time to do all of that for your IT too.
Would you expect your clients to know as much about your area of expertise as you do? Of course not. That’s why they hire you, isn’t it?
The same goes for us.
We totally immerse ourselves in the highly technical, high speed, rapidly changing world of technology. We genuinely love it and pride ourselves on having a level of expertise that most people don’t.
You’d be shocked how many people consider themselves IT experts, simply because they know their way around computers. However, in reality, great IT support companies operate on a completely different level – with better knowledge, tools, and systems.
The biggest problem when it comes to IT support is that it’s an unregulated industry. There’s no governing body that people have to pass through to be allowed to call themselves an IT support company. No industry standard that has to be met. No guidelines on how the business must operate.
Just about anybody… literally anybody… can set themselves up and say they’re an IT support company.
This is why we say you should be highly sceptical of all IT support companies.
Without asking the right questions, you simply don’t know if you’re putting your trust – and the security of your business data – in the hands of a reputable, honest company… or someone working alone out of a bedroom in his parents’ house. A bedroom warrior as we like to call those guys.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with bedroom warriors. Everyone has to start somewhere, and if you’re a one man band with minimal IT requirements, that could be the most cost effective solution for you.
However. If you own or manage an established, growing business, with staff and more than one computer, you’ll need more than one person working from their bedroom can provide.
So how do you avoid choosing the wrong IT support company?
Firstly, look for solidity. You need to check they have the right qualifications, accreditation, and experience. Remember, it’s an unregulated industry, so you really need to do the legwork if you want to end up with the best possible IT partner.
Next, you ask them some difficult questions.
You don’t want to see your potential new IT partner squirm, but you do want to make sure that they are going to deliver what you need. And asking difficult questions is the only way to be sure that you’re making the right choice.
ASK THEM: “How quickly will problems be fixed?”
Obviously, this one will depend on the scale of the problem, but you need to know timeframes based on severity. How long will it take your proposed IT support partner to acknowledge your issue in the first place? How long do they expect it’ll take to get someone working on the problem?
Look at different scenarios. If you can’t access your software, how long should it take to get you logged in. How long could it take to get your business up and running if you suffer a ransomware attack?
You also need to understand the approach your potential new partner will take. Do they have processes and procedures they stick to when issues arise, or are they winging it? Can they tell you about the worst problem they’ve encountered and how they dealt with it?
Remember, it’s not the problem that you’re judging them on, but rather how they responded to it. This can tell you a lot about their professionalism, knowledge, and ability to remain calm in a crisis.
ASK THEM: “What do you do proactively, to make sure my team have fewer interruptions?”
Downtime is a business killer.
You’ll have seen it for yourself at some point, either in your own business or one you were working for. The internet goes down, for example, and people can’t access the software they need to do their jobs. The office descends into chaos. Even those who aren’t reliant on the internet stop doing what they’re doing. The coffee machine goes into overdrive. Everyone forgets about their job for a while and makes the most of an unofficial break.
But then when things are up and running again, people don’t immediately get back to business. Conversations are finished, systems are rebooted, everyone needs to regain their focus. And that often takes even more time. So what should have been a 15 minute interruption loses you 90 minutes of work.
And that’s if it’s a minor problem.
So what can your proposed IT support partner do to minimise this downtime?
Will they be working away in the background, making the necessary checks to ensure that the majority of these little blips don’t arise? Can they assure you that most updates and maintenance will be carried out outside of working hours?
Do they have any other solutions that will mean your business maintains productivity while essential work is taking place?
ASK THEM: “Tell me about the specific people who’ll be looking after us.”
Though it’s a really important question, many businesses overlook this side of things when it comes to working with a partner.
It’s really good to know about the actual people you’ll be working with. The people behind the business.
How does your proposed IT support partner assign your Support Team, for example? Does your Support Team have an area of sector expertise? Do they match you on how your personalities may work together? Or do you simply get assigned to the person with the smallest workload?
Will you always be speaking to the same person? What happens if that person is on holiday or ill? Who will be doing your strategic IT reviews and building your technology roadmap? Who do you talk to if you’re not happy?
This question is a great way for you to get to know more about the company you’re hoping to work with. But it’s also a great way for you to figure out if their people are the right match for yours
ASK THEM: “Can you explain something deeply technical to me?”
With this question, I’m not suggesting that you actually try to learn the ins and outs of building an IT infrastructure from the ground up. Rather, it demonstrates your potential IT support partner’s ability to explain things to you in English; not tech-speak.
Can they explain a really complicated, technical process to you in a way that you can understand? Do they get frustrated if you ask too many questions? Do they brush you off with ‘you don’t need to know the technicalities of that’?
It’s vital, if you are partnering with someone, that you can communicate with each other clearly, without any confusion or breakdown.
It also demonstrates their ability to educate you.
ASK THEM: “How will you keep on top of the constant changes in my business?”
It’s no secret that successful businesses deal with a lot of change. From adding new staff members, to tweaking the product or service you offer, it’s likely that your business is forever changing things. It’s the way we grow.
In fact, your business probably looks very different now to how it looked 12 months ago (even without the pandemic-related changes).
So how would your proposed IT support partner cope with that? How much do they need to know about these changes? Will it affect what they’re doing for you?
It should. Let’s remind ourselves that you’re looking for a partner here, not just another supplier. It’s part of their role to be able to make recommendations based on how you’re working. To suggest better software to use, a smoother network, more appropriate security.
If they can’t keep track of how many people are working for you, or the ways you deliver your service, how can they suggest ways to grow, improve – and especially, stay secure?
Look for a new partner that takes an active interest in the changes happening within your business. Perhaps even arrange regular catch-up sessions to ensure they’re on top of everything that’s going on.
There are lots of other questions that you should be asking, but I feel these are the 5 that will tell you the most about your potential partner.