10 Essential Questions You Must Ask Your Prospective Managed IT Service Provider
Companies looking to find a suitable managed IT service provider need to understand the importance of good research before they sign a contract.
External IT operations would have access to all manners of sensitive data, and without careful evaluation, companies could put themselves at significant risk and financial loss if the IT provider cannot deliver what’s been asked or if they don’t adhere to the correct practices.
Prospective IT management companies should also welcome clients’ queries and be ready for questions about their business as a whole, their technical abilities and service offerings. After all, an outsourced managed IT provider would be an extension of a customer’s team, and they would be working closely together on an aligned goal, so it’s imperative - much like any relationship - to know what you’re getting into and whether you’re both compatible.
We have put together ten of the more critical questions that you should ask any potential managed IT service provider before you take them on.
- What levels of service can you provide to support my business?
Depending on your company, you will have particular requirements when it comes to service levels, and it’s important that an IT management provider can accommodate these. When your staff need to contact the provider, how can they do so, and what is the experience like? Is the provider accessible via a service desk, a portal, or an app, and is customer support on hand 24/7 in case of any emergencies? While companies are often looking for a slick, omnichannel experience, many still want the ability to pick up the phone and speak to someone, so it’s important to ensure you’re getting what you want.
- Is your IT management service agile enough to flex with my changing business needs?Your IT service provider must always be capable of supporting your business on its journey. For example, it’s important to ensure that when your business grows, your provider can flex with you and continue to support you at full capacity - even if that’s expanding into other countries or territories if that is part of your business plan. Alternatively, if a service provider itself becomes larger, is it still able to allocate the same amount of time and care into your account? Ultimately, when selecting a managed IT service, you should ask, “Is the provider big enough to cope but still small enough to care about me?”
- How are you embracing emerging trends, such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) to simplify and drive efficiency?
Technology and trends are constantly evolving, and much like for business, it’s critical to stay ahead and learn how to evolve with them. Many managed IT companies miss a trick when it comes to keeping abreast of all the modern technological advancements. For example, the adoption of AI to improve processes, delivery and drive efficiency is an incredibly cost-effective option. Issues can be rectified automatically as soon as they arise, and emerging trends can be better and more quickly understood.
Ensure that you select a managed IT service team who recognise the importance of maintaining a forward-thinking, robust company that doesn’t hinder its customers’ businesses, rather facilitates their growth. Portals, for example, are an attractive piece of technology for customers as they can visit and view what their service provider is doing conveniently and in realtime.
- With more and more employees now working from home, how can you ensure that the people working on my account are remaining secure and productive?
85% of us are now working from home, whatever industry we’re in, so it’s understandable to question whether you would be getting the same levels of service from the IT operatives on your account. As a client, you need to know that your business will be taken care of in the same way and with the same - or higher - levels of security. With 1 in 3 cyber attacks now being related to people working from home, much emphasis has been placed on how to keep employees safe while they work remotely. If those levels of security are not there, you could be opening up your business infrastructure to considerable risk.
- Do you have a robust disaster recovery and business continuity plan?
In these ever-changing times, it’s even more critical to ensure that your potential IT service provider has a robust plan in place should something catastrophic happen to them. It is key to establish whether the impact on your own business would be minimal and what the service provider would be doing to get back up and running as quickly and effectively as possible. In an alternative situation, were a natural disaster to hit multiple businesses, including the provider themselves, they would need to ensure that their business continuity plan involved helping clients to recover also.
- Do you offer flexible financial models?
Depending on your circumstances - especially during times of economic uncertainty - you may wish to take advantage of any flexible finance options that service providers are offering. It could be more beneficial for you to pay monthly and spread the costs out, or potentially you’d prefer to pay the fees upfront so that you can keep track of the finances easier when budget has already been spent. An IT provider may also offer Capex, Opex or ‘As a Service’ options, so it’s important to ask the question early to see where you stand.
- Will we always have the same dedicated team or account manager?
Building a longstanding relationship with you should be a top priority for any prospective IT service provider. A dedicated team or account manager will understand your business fully and be proactive in working with you to facilitate your business plans and growth. During the course of their contract with you, your supplier should maintain consistency of approach and seek to keep a regular team on any given account. This will continue to build trust with you, but it will also save both companies money, time and expertise.
- What geographical and industry-specific experience do you have that supports my business?
When selecting a managed IT provider, you should always establish whether they have experience working with other customers within your industry and location. They should also be able to supply case studies or evidence of this experience to demonstrate their skills and also to give you good expectations of the service levels you will receive. After all, there is no good reason to approach any IT providers who solely work in the UK if your business operates across Europe.
- Do you hold the correct certifications for my business requirements, and are your engineers OEM accredited?
The importance of this question may vary from business to business, but it’s essential to check and verify any credentials that prospective IT service providers claim to have. Company certifications may likely include ISO 27001 for information security, ISO 45001 for health and safety, and even ISO 14001 for environmental management. Ask to see evidence of these as well as any accreditations of engineers who will be working on your account.
- What are the terms of your service level agreement (SLA)?
It’s essential to establish an understanding between the service provider and yourselves exactly what work is going to be carried out and when. This is when a service level agreement (SLA) comes in useful. An SLA is a contract between you and the provider that outlines all expected services, metrics to measure those services, and potential penalties if those metrics are not met. Although providers usually have standard SLAs, it’s important to ensure the terms are in your best interest and should always be seen as a starting point for negotiations. For example, what are the provider’s promised support request response times? Some companies may have as standard a two-hour response window to protect themselves, which would not be in your best interest. Make sure you discuss and adjust any terms that you deem a potential issue.
A&O IT Group provides a comprehensive service that offers our clients flexibility, scalability and support where they most need it. Our services range from remote service desk support, chat functions, dedicated on-site engineers, IT asset inventory audits and forensic cybersecurity data breath-testing. We are specialists in global reach with local service for large and mid-sized businesses, and our dedicated partners allow us to be on hand 24/7, globally.