When you begin a new IT partnership, what does the start of that relationship look like? How do you avoid future frustrations by building a solid foundation?
While the timeframe and exact definition may vary between IT providers, onboarding is generally the first 30 days of a new IT partnership between provider and client.
Solid onboarding can build a respectful, knowledgeable partnership, but slapdash onboarding can create additional issues and frustrations.
For over 25 years, WEBIT Services has helped hundreds of clients build IT strategies and utilize technology to their advantage.
By reading this article, you will learn five important steps needed for successful onboarding.
5 Phases of IT onboarding
These stages may vary in steps, name, and description between IT providers. However, the overall goal should be the same across all providers: gather and document information to serve the client better.
In addition, no two onboarding situations are identical. Some clients may be changing IT providers. Others may have never had a provider before. Finally, some clients may have an internal IT specialist that must now partner with the new IT provider.
In each of these situations, a quality IT provider will do its best to learn the client's expectations and boundaries to create a smooth service transition.
1. Meet the team
Every new client has different needs, expectations, and struggles.
The first stage in onboarding allows the client and IT provider team to get to know each other.
Initially, sales will pass on any knowledge of the client to the IT team. This will include the client's current IT frustrations communicated to the sales representative. This way, the IT team does not blindly enter their first client meeting.
After the sales representative has passed on their knowledge, the IT team will meet with the client to verify expectations and needs. This meeting will discuss the following:
- Introductions for the client, vCIO, and field technicians.
- What the onboarding process will look like.
- Establish timelines for onboarding.
- Review what the team learned from sales and allow the client to make additional comments.
- How to contact the helpdesk and support.
The meeting goal is to get to know the client, team members, set expectations, and prevent assumptions. Everything must be clearly communicated.
2. Information gathering
Information gathering is a vital step in the onboarding process. The new provider collects and reviews documentation and information on the client's IT system.
If a client is changing providers, the new IT provider will ask the previous provider for information on the client's IT system. This will include knowledge like passwords, the status of the system backups, and how the different technologies work together in this IT system.
Afterward, the new provider will test the validity of this data. For example, do the passwords still work? Are the tools listed by the previous provider still current?
This information must be verified and updated so the new IT team has accurate, current data to better perform their jobs. An inaccurate picture of the IT system would lead to ineffective service.
For example, how can the new provider access tools and accounts if the old provider passes on a list of passwords that are no longer used? How can the new provider quickly and effectively serve the client if they have unusable data?
Once the data is processed and onboarding is complete, the previous provider's access to the client's IT system will be removed.
3. Risk assessment
A risk assessment examines an IT system's existing risks and is an essential step in onboarding. It alerts the new provider and client on trouble spots within the system.
These risks may be as simple as security patch updates or system updates. Small risks do not interrupt onboarding and are quickly corrected or added to the IT roadmap.
However, if a significant security risk is found, onboarding will halt until resolved. For example, this situation may be active malware or security breach. In these situations, a massive risk is active and threatening the client. Therefore, onboarding cannot proceed until the threat is resolved.
Without a risk assessment, the client and the IT provider are exposed to unnecessary risk.
Every step of the onboarding process must be documented along the way. This sets up other IT team members for success.
With proper documentation, all IT team members will know the client and their system for swift customer service and effective problem-solving. No helpdesk representative or technician answers a call blindly.
Without records of a client and their IT system, support has no reference point to serve the client. For example, a user may contact the helpdesk only to be asked, "Who is this? What's your system like? Are you sure?"
If the relationship between a client and provider is truly a partnership, then both parties know the other. This builds trust and faster service.
Without trust, users may feel driven to find their own IT solutions, exposing your system to unintentional and preventable risks.
5. Add new tools or projects
Once onboarding is complete, the IT provider can add new tools or begin on projects.
New technology should not be added until onboarding is complete. There is too much data to uncover and learn during the initial onboarding process to add to the additional complications of projects or new technology.
In addition, an IT provider cannot make accurate recommendations or changes if they don't know your system or environment.
Before a quality provider adds new things to a client's system, they want to learn the current system, situations, and needs. Then, once established, the new provider can recommend system improvements or dive into new IT projects.
If an IT provider proposes onboarding and simultaneous IT projects, it may be a sign that the provider is inexperienced or not documenting the system as it should be. This can lead to frustrations later on.
Next steps for a successful IT onboarding
While onboarding may look different for each client or IT provider, quality IT providers use onboarding as a vital reconnaissance process. They use it to explore and learn about their clients and IT systems.
Without this knowledge, IT team members cannot serve their clients effectively.
Five goals in a successful onboard experience should include:
- Meet the team and the client to get to know each other and establish expectations.
- Review and update essential system information.
- Run a risk assessment to find and address IT risks.
- Document everything for future service.
- Wait until the end of onboarding to add new tools or IT projects.
If your IT provider rushes or ignores these steps, there will be additional frustration, lost time, and a lack of trust.
A lack of documentation is a significant service red flag. Without documentation, the support team won't know who you are as a client and your system. This leads to slower resolutions and unnecessary errors.
When interviewing new IT providers, ask them, "What will the first thirty days with your team look like?"
If the sales representative cannot articulate what onboarding looks like or why it matters, it's a sign that the sales team isn't plugged into the reality of the support team. You're looking for an educated answer that understands why onboarding is essential to this partnership.
WEBIT Services has been performing risk assessments, creating incident response plans, and enacting IT strategies for satisfied clients for over 25 years.
If you're looking for a new IT provider, book a free 30-minute assessment to see how WEBIT services can help.
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