What you definitely don’t want is more things to worry about – like whether your users are struggling with IT issues, or whether your intellectual properly or client data is secure. Bringing on the overhead of an internal IT manager probably isn’t on the business plan yet, so where do you turn? It’s situations like this where outsourcing to the right IT support provider makes sense.  

But note the bold text there – it’s not accidental. With so many of us out there, it’s easy to see IT support companies like ours as a commodity. If we keep the lights on, stay on top of patches and respond to user requests, does it really matter who you choose? Well, while we have come across companies happy to work on that basis, it’s an outdated way of thinking:  The pace of change now is so fast for even the most basic business IT setups that maintaining ‘Business As Usual’ is no longer enough.

And whether you want to think about it or not, your IT now underpins every aspect of your business, directly impacting your ability to service your clients, keep your employees happy, and improve your bottom line. Selecting how it’s supported and by whom is a critically important decision. 

But how do you go about making that decision if you don’t have IT experience yourselves?  Speaking among ourselves and with our clients, we feel there are two sets of considerations every business should explore when choosing an IT provider, let’s call them “hard” and “soft”:

Starting with the “hard” stuff – the technical capabilities that really should be non-negotiable: 

Are they geographically close enough to you to provide the on-site support you need?  Even in the world of remote working, there are still certain tasks that just need manual intervention. Particularly so in a hybrid working context: If your in-office systems are less reliable than their home networks, persuading your staff to come to the office at all soon becomes difficult. 

Can they work with ALL your IT systems?  Young businesses often have fragmented IT, whether that’s a mix of Macs and Windows machines, Cisco and VMWare, or legacy applications that hold critical information.  Whatever the mix, you can’t afford to have gaps in your support agreement, and you don’t need the hassle of multiple providers. 

Are they tied to specific vendors?  There may be perfectly good reasons for a support provider focusing their relationship on a particular vendor, but from a customer perspective, you need to understand the full picture:  Can you be sure you’re getting the best solution for you, or for them?  Are you missing out on useful functionality because your provider doesn’t work with that application?  Partnering with a vendor-agnostic support provider removes such concerns 

Will you be billed just for what you use, or for a pre-defined suite of services that may be unnecessary?  Most growing businesses are understandably keen on keeping expenses tight, so wasting money on unused services seems silly. 

Do they have credentials? Having the right letters after your name doesn’t guarantee competence, but in our eyes, it at least provides some evidence of professional pride and continuous development.  The pace of change in business IT is breakneck, and staying on top of the latest tools, threats and best practices is key.

The softer stuff

As we mentioned though, ensuring your IT support provider stands up from a technical perspective is half the battle (and it should really be a given), but what’s arguably as important, particularly in the early stages of your company, are some of those qualities that aren’t measured by an accreditation or an SLA. Ultimately, you’re entrusting this company’s ability to do business to a third party – shouldn’t there be some form of connection? 

Do they understand your business?   

Simply understanding your technology isn’t enough to provide brilliant IT support. Understanding it within the context of the business, how the company depends on a specific system, and the implications of any changes made is where the real difference can be made. A support partner who can understand that a user within a knowledge-based or creative business, will have a different use case and different priorities to one in software engineering or retail, is a partner that will probably find the best solution to any problem, and provide the right guidance when it comes to future IT strategy. 

Is there a cultural fit? 

You may not want to become best friends with your new IT provider, but when you and your team are likely to be coming into regular contact with any supplier – in person or remotely, it’s important they share a similar understanding of the world. We often see this resulting in more first-time fixes, more collaborative problem sharing, and ultimately more satisfied end users. Just as you would factor in “fit” when it comes to internal recruitment, so the same should apply when outsourcing.  

Are they reactive or proactive? 

As we briefly considered at earlier in this post, you don’t want to sit around thinking about your IT., Equally, you don’t want to spend time managing your IT service provider.  It’s important that you can trust them not just to do the basics, and fix what needs fixing, but to look ahead and advise on what the company needs now, 6 months from now, or whenever you’re expecting to hit that next level on your growth journey.  And a provider who can question the status quo, knows – and can apply to your business – latest best practice, provides a sounding board, and appreciates the trajectory you have in mind for the business is worth their weight in gold. 

Choose wisely, and spend time to talk 

Now, having written all the above, can we promise we’re the right fit for you?  Well, no, actually we can’t.  Yes, we are vendor-agnostic and comfortable working with all sorts of systems. We have credentials coming out of ears and if you’re based in central London, we’re close enough to provide sift on-site response.  And if you operate in the creative or knowledge-based industries – PR, Marketing, Architecture, or related fields, then we probably understand your pains and priorities. But are we a good cultural fit? That’s for you to judge.  

The best way of making that judgement though is probably for us to talk. Whether that’s remotely or – dare we say it – face-to-face over a coffee, we’d love to discuss your issues. 

Drop us a line by using the form on our contact page, or call us on 0203 535 0680 and we’ll set something up.