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A business owner’s guide to selecting the right IT partner

How C-suite executives tasked with finding the right IT partner can avoid the virtual minefield of myriad offerings, extravagant claims and self-praise.
Read time 5min 00sec

Anyone who has seen the Shrek movies and been delighted by the character Donkey might be forgiven for thinking of him when going through the considerable process of finding the right IT company to support their business – everyone seems to be screaming “pick me”.

C-suite executives tasked with the job of finding the right IT partner usually find themselves in a virtual minefield of offerings, extravagant claims, myriad of Web sites all offering the same self-praise and more ‒ all claiming that you have come to the right place.

But have you? More importantly, if you have not, what are the long-term implications for your business in terms of retaining customer loyalty, sustainability and growth?

Obviously, budget considerations must come into the picture, but you may find the least expensive offering is not always the right fit, just as the global brand names with larger price tags may also not be the answer.

So, instead of listening to the advertising noise – ask some questions and be sure you get the right responses.

Above all, ensure they are addressing business needs. Kick off with some simple questions such as: How long have they been in business? Where is their successful customer referral list with client contact details?

Get a competitive opinion on the solutions being offered – just to guarantee you’re not being ‘over-served’.

Above all, make sure they are in the long-term partnership business and not the fast buck one.

Above all, make sure they are in the long-term partnership business and not the fast buck one. Also, for peace of mind, check out the culture of the company – is it founded on integrity, hard work and customer service? Is it likely to not only support but also to drive your growth plans? Are they capable of: understanding changing needs and listening to you, and do they have the necessary skills to innovate and provide solutions that meet your requirements?

The three categories of IT companies

It is important to understand that at a high level, IT companies can be split into three main categories:

Business software: IT companies that specialise in this arena deploy, maintain and optimise the applications that organisations typically use to perform functions such as delivering marketing material, sending proposals, invoicing and keeping track of stock. These systems are often referred to as customer resource management and enterprise resource planning systems.

Business intelligence (BI) software: These are IT companies that specialise in the development of concepts and methods aimed at improving decision-making by using fact-based support systems.

IT infrastructure: IT service providers that specialise in IT infrastructure ‒ also often referred to as IT support. These companies specialise in the deployment and management of all IT infrastructure which is the underlying computer network that is needed to power business software and BI tools.

In the modern working environment, IT infrastructure forms the backbone of any business and it is crucial to get it right as a first step to fleshing out a digital road map and avoiding the technology legacy trap.

However, take note that you can have the most advanced business software and BI tools, but if those systems are not available due to network failures, or if they are compromised, the result could be disastrous and may impact the organisation’s ability to keep its doors open.

The following insights will assist to reduce the noise and remove the wool because really there is only one issue and that comes down to the ability to focus on what you need to know to select the right IT support partner.

Getting it right

The IT sector is notorious for acronyms; buzz phrases and hype around specific new developments hailed as trailblazers one day, only to be outdated the next.

Terms such as cloud computing, big data, SaaS, AI and IOT are abundant in the marketing blurbs from most IT companies. The trick is to sift through the sales fluff and find the right fit for your business – remember it all really comes down to one thing: choosing the right IT ‘support’ partner for you.

Tips for making the right decision:

  • Select the IT support model that best serves your business. Not all suppliers have the same attitude to customer service. What you have to be careful about is your downtime due to their response time – this is a fairly typical scenario when paired with an incorrect support model.
  • Understand what your IT spend is and what you are getting for it. As obvious as this may seem, few companies have a clear picture on what they are spending and what the value proposition is for their organisation.
  • Don’t be afraid to rethink the plot – run a due diligence on what you are spending versus what you might spend with outsourcing and evaluate if a fully managed service wouldn’t be a more cost-effective and efficient model. This approach can also assist you to get a grip on escalating IT spend.
  • Work with a provider that uses proactive remote monitoring and automation to deliver maximum network uptime.
  • Select one who will reduce your management effort and who is willing to innovate with you.
  • Partner with an IT service provider that has its own network and ensure it is not simply on-selling other providers’ solutions. Moreover, to reduce turnaround times, select a company that has all the required skills in-house.
  • Ensure the service provider you select is security-focused.
Ethan Searle

Technology advisor at LanDynamix.

Ethan Searle is technology advisor at LanDynamix. Upon acquiring his Hons BCom, Marketing from the University of Johannesburg, Searle followed his passion for the fast-moving business technology arena.

He joined LanDynamix in 2017 in the capacity of technology advisor, with responsibility for guiding the company’s entrepreneurial customer base on risk mitigation, enhanced operational efficiencies and cost reduction – all of which can be achieved through technology enablement.

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