IT providers often describe their relationships with their clients as “partnerships.” But how do you know if your IT partnership is helping your business? Is it saving you money, time, and frustration?
Or is your partnership increasing your stress and draining your budget dry?
A good partnership will not only save you frustration, but, in the long run, it can help save money and protect your business from ill-fitting IT investments by using a customized IT strategy.
A poor partnership will increase stress and spending and will be unable to meet your IT needs.
So how can you tell if your IT partnership is effective? We’ve put together six questions to help you determine if your partnership is helping or hurting your business.
For over 25 years, WEBIT Services has helped hundreds of clients. During that time, it has helped its clients build IT strategies and utilize technology to their advantage.
By the end of this article, you will have six questions to help you evaluate your IT partnership, why these questions matter, and the next steps after answering the questions for yourself.
6 Questions to determine the effectiveness of your IT partnership
Here are six questions to help you better assess the quality of your IT partnership.
1. Is your server room neat and orderly?
As superficial as this question initially sounds, a visual inspection can tell you a lot about the care and quality of your IT partnership.
A server room or IT storage room should be neat and orderly. If the room is carefully set up, the provider likely makes the same effort in cybersecurity, IT processes, and IT strategy.
A well-organized IT space displays the professionalism of a quality provider.
On the other hand, a disorganized IT space shows a lack of care and attention to detail. For an IT provider, sloppy spaces often indicate sloppy processes.
Beware if your provider only offers to clean the space (and the mess they made) for an additional charge! This is a red flag! A quality provider will not charge fees for server room cleaning and maintenance.
Your provider should include a server room evaluation and setup as part of your onboarding process. They should also inspect and maintain it during scheduled on-site visits.
What to look for in your server room:
- Cords are neatly organized and grouped with no tangles and should be situated so that they appear similar in length.
- Hardware and supplies are neatly organized.
- The floor is clean with no clutter.
- The room is set to a cool temperature so the servers do not overheat.
- The room has a false floor (also known as a “raised floor” or “access floor”) to help keep servers cool and to help organize wires and other hardware.
2. Does your provider follow your IT roadmap?
Your IT roadmap is a key part of your IT strategy. This living document helps dictate how and when you should invest in your company’s technology.
Your IT roadmap keeps records of hardware, software, and processes and your organization’s vision of its future.
The roadmap helps bring business and IT strategies together so technology can help you reach your short-term and long-term goals.
If your IT investments bring in a poor return on investment (ROI), this could be due to poor planning.
Poor planning could result from miscommunicating about budget, goals, and expectations.
You should be able to speak with your provider and IT strategist (also known as a vCIO) to discuss your goals, IT assets, IT resources, and expectations.
All this information will be foundational in your IT roadmap.
If your IT provider isn’t regularly discussing your goals, expectations, and IT roadmap, this could indicate an ineffective partnership.
3. Do you have SMART quarterly goals?
SMART is an acronym for “Specific,” “Measurable,” “Achievable,” “Realistic,” and “Timely” goals. Essentially, do you have clearly defined and realistic goals for your IT service and strategy each quarter?
For example, a SMART goal would not be, “Make my technology more effective soon.” This is too vague.
However, you could say, “Make my technology more effective by evaluating where we can apply automatic systems as opposed to manual systems by next quarter.” This is a more specific, achievable goal.
An effective IT partner will have quarterly meetings to discuss past achieved SMART goals and create new ones for the following quarter. As a result, your IT provider should be fulfilling its quarterly assignments.
If your provider is not achieving its quarterly goals, particularly if this happens more than two quarters in a row, it may be time to re-evaluate the goals, partnership, or both.
It’s possible that the goals are not SMART; therefore, they are difficult or impossible to achieve due to unrealistic expectations or a lack of communication.
On the other hand, if the expectations are clear, reasonable, and executable, it may be a poor reflection on the provider and the systems they have in place.
A quality provider will not only meet their quarterly goals but help you build the goals by asking clarifying questions, making suggestions, and communicating realistic budgets and systems to bring these goals to life.
4. How often do you have unplanned meetings with your IT provider?
After onboarding, ideally, only 25% or less of your meetings with your IT provider or vCIO should be unplanned.
On the other hand, if 50% or more of your meetings are unplanned, it may be time to take a closer look at your IT strategy and services.
During onboarding and the first 90 days of your relationship with a new IT provider, you may have frequent unplanned meetings. This is expected as your provider learns your IT system, assets, and expectations.
After onboarding, unexpected complications or meetings should decrease dramatically.
An exception to this would be a dramatic system change or transition. For example, this may be a massive system upgrade, moving office, or other significant changes to your organization and technology.
A quality provider will be honest and upfront about the “bumpiness” of onboarding and transitions. It will also be working on smoothing processes so that complications are decreasing rather than increasing over time.
If this is not the case for your organization, this could signify an ineffective IT partnership. Frequent unplanned meetings may indicate a breakdown in communication, expectations, or services.
5. How do your employees feel about using technology and the IT helpdesk?
Talk to the employees using technology and the helpdesk to see if they feel the IT partnership is effective.
Of course, employees must also feel that they can openly share constructive feedback without fear of reprisal. If not, this question will not be helpful.
If they are in an environment and IT partnership where they share concerns freely, employees can offer helpful feedback when evaluating the effectiveness of the IT partnership.
Do your employees feel comfortable and at ease using the office’s technology and reaching out to the IT helpdesk? Do they feel the helpdesk is responsive and helpful?
Employees will find your IT provider accessible and helpful in a quality partnership. They should also feel that technology helps them do their jobs well and that updates and improvements increase productivity.
In a poor partnership, employees may find the provider unhelpful or slow to respond and that technology impedes their productivity. This may be due to a poor technology match, slow equipment, glitchy software, or confusing processes.
If your employees are uncomfortable with the technology or helpdesk, this warrants a serious conversation with your provider regarding communication, expectations, strategy, hardware, software, and processes.
Your IT provider and technology should simplify your employees’ tasks and decrease frustration. However, the IT partnership is not accomplishing a crucial goal if it increases task difficulty and stress.
6. What are your service expectations, and are those being met?
Every business and IT partnership is different. However, your IT provider’s services should align with your company’s needs and expectations.
Some organizations mainly want a helpdesk to address IT questions and concerns. Others will want to focus on creating effective IT strategies. So what do you want from your IT provider, and is it meeting those expectations?
All quality, proactive IT providers share the same goal: creating an IT environment for clients with as few problems as possible. In addition, they want to anticipate concerns and offer solutions before the concern becomes a crisis.
For some clients, this goal is perfectly acceptable. “Just make using technology as stress-free as possible.”
For other clients, they’ll want to dive beyond technology use. They want technology to give their business an edge and advantage. But, again, this takes an IT provider adept with IT strategy and more than just a helpdesk.
Look at your relationship with your IT provider and ask yourself, “What are my expectations for this relationship? How do I want to use technology? And is this partnership helping me reach these goals?”
Next steps for evaluating your IT partnership
Evaluating the value a partnership brings is never simple.
When examining an IT partnership, you may feel you should have a list of hardware and software utilized. For example, “If a provider brings clients Computer X, they’re doing an excellent job.”
Unfortunately, that kind of criteria doesn’t work because businesses are different with different needs. Computer X may work great for one client, but will it work for you? This is where good IT strategy comes in.
Quality IT providers understand that every business is unique and has different IT needs, goals, budgets, and expectations. Good IT strategy and processes will help you figure out the best technology for YOU.
In this article, we gave you six questions to help you determine if your IT partnership is effective. They were:
- Is your server room neat and orderly?
- Does your provider follow your IT roadmap?
- Do you have SMART quarterly goals?
- How often do you have unplanned meetings with your provider?
- How do your employees feel about using technology and the IT helpdesk?
- What are your service expectations, and are they being met?
If you answered these questions positively, congratulations! You are in a quality IT partnership that is helping your business use technology effectively.
If you were disappointed in your answers, your IT partnership might not be helping your business. In this case, it may be time to re-evaluate your current relationship or pursue a new IT provider who can help meet your needs.
For over 25 years, WEBIT Services has helped hundreds of clients build successful IT strategies and processes while utilizing effective technology.
If you are looking for a new IT provider, schedule a free 30-minute consultation to see how WEBIT can help.
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