HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR IT PARTNER
NOWADAYS, HAVING A FULLY FUNCTIONING IT DEPARTMENT IS CRITICAL BECAUSE IT INCREASES THE EFFICIENCY OF ALL PARTS OF A BUSINESS. FURTHERMORE, IT STREAMLINES OPERATIONS CONSIDERABLY BY HELPING ORGANIZATIONS CREATE, MANAGE, OPTIMIZE AND ACCESS RELEVANT INFORMATION AND BUSINESS PROCESSES. IT SKILLS CAN MAKE OR BREAK A COMPANY'S COMPETITIVENESS.
If IT is not part of your core competencies, and you have reached your limits with DIY, then it is time to outsource. To do so, however, there are several steps you must take and questions you need answered.
As a former senior procurement professional, I would even recommend you take the time to go through a Request For Proposal (RFP) process. It is time well-invested as the process enables you to identify gaps, needs, objectives and budget. It also lets you properly scan the market, interview candidates, gauge their capabilities and ultimately select and hire the right partner. You will identify the operational processes you need to put in place in order to measure their performance. Because IT impacts all functions within your organization, it is essential that all relevant teams are on the same page.
An RFP document will briefly present your company and the purpose of the RFP. In addition, it will clearly describe your needs, objectives and the results you want to achieve. It will present a set of targeted questionnaires for the vendors so that you can assess their capabilities and see if they match your needs.
IDENTIFY YOUR NEEDS, OBJECTIVES AND RESULTS
An IT partner is like an extended team you want to incorporate into your business to help it grow. Have a clear idea of your needs because you will have to explain them so that the IT partner can provide the results you are expecting. To identify your needs, go through the following exercise with your relevant teams to ensure you are aligned and do not miss any relevant data:
Take inventory of your company: what are its strengths? What is it lacking?
What are your goals?
What are the tangible results you want to achieve?
What are the tasks you need to outsource? Assess the tactical vs. strategic part and prioritize.
IDENTIFY YOUR BUDGET AND THE SELECTION CRITERIA
Your budget will determine the type and length of the partnership, as well as the scope of projects you can afford to outsource.
The criteria would include, but is not be limited to, the following:
Technical and delivery capabilities
SLAS commitment vs. what you expect
Support and maintenance service (once the projects are delivered)
Customer references, referrals, case studies
Team assignment: who are they and where are they based? On-shore, near-shore or off-shore? Their seniority, experience and location will help you evaluate the pricing levels Do they have to subcontract? If so, get full transparency of the subcontractors and ensure your IT partner is your sole contact who will take full responsibility for the deliverables
Examine the content of the future sourcing contract: obligations of both parties, IP, and all relevant commercial and legal requirements
Cultural fit and mutual understanding: do they adhere to the CSR policies your company lives by? Do they understand your requirements?
IDENTIFY PROSPECTIVE IT VENDORS
Make a list of possible IT vendors and investigate them beforehand
Some may be listed on the Dun & Bradstreet database. If your company has access to it, perform a search on their financial solvency
Once you have identified all these points, you can invite the most qualified candidates for an in-depth screening and evaluation.
CLOUD SERVICE PROVIDER OR MANAGED SERVICES PROVIDER: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
Of the many different service providers on the market, cloud service providers (CSP) and managed services providers (MSP) stand out as two that most businesses struggle to distinguish and understand. So, what is the difference between them?
Essentially, an MSP can be a CSP, but a CSP can never be an MSP.
CSPS typically offer the following type of hosted solutions: desktop as a service, infrastructure as a service, platform as a service and software as a service. Examples include Amazon Workspaces (AWS), Dropbox, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure. MSPS can deliver all of the above services, as well as a higher level of IT support: authentication, data backup, recovery and security, disaster recovery and business continuity, malicious software/virus solutions, network connectivity, monitoring and security, and systems management. MSPS are typically local, regional and/or national providers of general managed IT services.
Many businesses end up choosing CSPS over MSPS because they are often seen as being the less expensive option. However, we have to keep in mind that hosting a business's IT resources and managing a business's IT resources are “two different pairs of shoes,” as they say in German. This means that a business should carefully analyze the pros and cons offered by both approaches, as the seemingly cheaper solution could end up being quite a costly experience, especially if the business does not have the in-house IT competencies necessary to migrate and manage its IT resources in the first place.
So, if your business is trying to decide between a CSP and a more holistic MSP, it is crucial that you first take time to define what you want to achieve and which of the two choices will benefit your business.