Business IT decisions are a big deal, which means you want to get it right the first time. Whether you represent a brand-new startup or you've been in the game a while and your company is just ready for a change, choosing a new IT vendor is a decision you'll want to make in equal parts on merit, culture, and personality. Here's what to look for and how to find it.
See How Diversified and Forward-Thinking They Are
We'll talk about actual credentials in a moment, but first thing's first: does the company you're looking at support a wide variety of technologies and brands, or only one or two? Do they provide other managed services you might want to branch out with in the future, or do they just do one or two things well? What can they say about where their company and industry will be in five or 10 years from now? Can they grow and change with you?
Find Out If Their Culture Matches Yours
What does it mean to be "mission-driven"? It means different things to different organizations, but the modern mission-driven company is one which combines finding new ways to innovate for clients with an additional layer of corporate citizenship — be it a push for sustainability or ethical sourcing, or a pledge to give back time or money to the community. Research from Deloitte indicates that companies with a strong sense of a distinct and shared mission are 30% more innovative than their rivals as well as 40% more successful in retaining talent.
If you're like most companies looking for vendors for IT or communication services, or anything else, you want to find a partner with staying power that you can rely on through the course of a long-term partnership. So see what their culture is like. Based on their work environment, sense of corporate identity, and rate of turnover, how likely is it that you'll have a new account manager to bring up to speed within a fortnight? This can be a crowded marketplace, so take a moment for a closer look at the companies that make your shortlist.
Judge Their Communication Skills
As you're shopping for IT vendors, you'll probably have a lot of companies leap out at you for various reasons. And at any point along their respective "sales funnels," you'll have more "data" of your own on how the companies out there tend to communicate with their clients. Assuming you haven't signed any contracts yet, have your contacts with the company so far been:
- Prompt — as in no email or phone call unreturned within 24 hours?
- Knowledgeable — as in your point of contact knows the products inside and out, and delivers competent and complete advice?
- Respectful — of boundaries, budgets, and company vision? Are they working to solve your problems cost-effectively, or are they already hounding you with other products and upgrades that seem to introduce new problems rather than solve them?
As you're working towards a final decision, get a sense of each company's transparency and accessibility. IT services need to be virtually error-free, available around the clock and have service teams always available to restore functionality in the event something goes wrong. Before price even enters the picture, you'll probably have a good sense of how humanistic, or not, each vendor is in their customer relationships.
Ask Who Vouches for Them
There are several ways to go about this, and reading reviews online and seeing who ranks first in search engine results is just the first step. Make sure you ask for references — current and former clients — to interview. Any IT company worth dealing with should be happy to provide them.
When you get in touch with a vendor's references, you can ask IT questions to your heart's content. But also try to find out about ways they go further, such as hosting events or putting on demos or webinars to improve their clients' understanding of the technologies and services. Do they visit regularly? Send cards and chocolates during the holidays? Give discounts or special treatment to long-term customers? Get the whole picture by seeing who's willing to vouch for this company.
Learn More About Their Awards and Certifications
From there, you can find out which kinds of industry recognition and awards this company has received and which certifications they work to maintain. To make things easier, you can find roundups of the most sought-after certification types in IT today, including AWS, Cisco and Microsoft Solutions Experts; Certified Ethical Hackers; and Global Information Assurance Certifications.
These certifications can be useful trust signals when you're looking for a company with the expertise to be a partner for managed services and other IT products. Another signal is whether your IT vendor can promise fixed prices and predictable billing. You're looking for a managed services partner to remove worries from your shoulders — not add to them, and especially not add complications to your budgeting.
Bu by looking at a company based on its success stories, experience, credentials, and on how well they've built a sturdy and forward-thinking culture of their own, you can ensure you're making the right choice.