From managed services to cloud applications, when it comes to IT systems, today’s businesses are often spoiled for choice.
The same can be said about their choice of provider. From the big telcos to small IT shops, hundreds of companies stand ready to deliver.
With such a large array of IT partners on offer, it might seem strange to ask whether businesses can get the best service available by choosing just one. But it’s a path many are following.
The reasons your business might consider it are:
Survey mid-sized companies about the benefits of sourcing their IT needs externally and the most common answer will be ‘cost savings’.
Some of these savings flow from access to pooled resources (especially when the cloud is involved) and others stem from the increased buying power and technical knowledge of the IT provider.
By choosing a sole provider, this effect can often be magnified by deeper discounts for using multiple services.
The deeper a provider’s understanding of your business, the better the solutions they will (or should) deliver.
In addition to better-tailored services and systems, familiarity with how and why your operations work can also foster competitive advantages, with your provider able to suggest opportunities for exploiting new technologies.
Familiarity can also make for faster speeds to market, with your IT partner able to design and deploy new requirements more quickly.
The more trust you have in your provider, the more your business is able to rely on their advice and recommendations (and the less time and resources you have to invest in evaluating and assessing technologies yourself).
Of course, trust is something that must be earned over time, but if you can find a provider whose counsel you can rely on, it can be quickly built.
Change management is also something that’s often more easily achieved when a business deals with a trusted IT advisor.
More time for strategic thinking
One third of mid-sized companies will tell you that the biggest benefit of looking externally for IT services is the time it gives them to concentrate on their core business. By choosing one trusted ‘partner’ as opposed to several ‘suppliers’ this effect can be deepened further.
Choosing a provider
The obvious question, of course, is whether finding a suitable sole provider is even possible. And if it is, what type of provider should you look to partner with?
For an IT partner to be right for your business, I think the following must apply:
They must be able to deliver what you need
If what you’re looking for is a one-stop shop, then – from to business applications to voice services – the wider the array of solutions a provider can deliver, the better.
They should be vendor agnostic – meaning they can supply the software and services that best fit your needs, rather than their own vendor relationships.
What’s important, regardless of how individual services are delivered, is that there be a single point of accountability.
Your business has to count
As I’ve said elsewhere, SMEs often struggle to have their problems addressed when they are small customers of much larger enterprises.
If you want good service, you’re more likely to find it with a provider for whom your business counts. Not only will they have more motivation to deliver on their promises, they’ll also have more insight into your position, and make the effort to work with you on ways to use IT to improve your business.
Teaming up with a dedicated IT partner can have powerful long-term advantages, with sole providers often delivering higher levels of accountability and insight.
For most businesses, the challenge is finding a provider whose services and judgement they trust. But when it happens, they’ll more often than not create a potent combination.
Dave Stevens is MD, Brennan IT.
(This blog post was first published on the SmartCompany website on March 29 2012).