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Your questions answered: The most important factor in finding the right technology support partner

Anyone bringing in an IT company wants to know that they’re in the safest of hands and working with reputable, reliable people.

That’s a challenge because most businesses can quickly feel out of their depth when assessing tech partners, from the moment the ‘IT’ label is applied. IT is often seen as all-encompassing, covering business issues from data protection and cybersecurity, to being critical to operations. On the whole, however, IT is just an enabler or supporting player.

All too often a business decision maker will think that, because they have to talk about IT, they need to deeply understand it too. That’s a total misconception, and can set you off on the wrong foot.

Think of it this way: if you’re a professional of some kind, people come to you as an expert in your field. Clients tell you their issue and in turn, you give them appropriate advice. Working with an IT provider should be just the same. IT is naturally confusing, but you’re not expected to be the expert here. The right IT partner will give you expert advice and guidance so you don’t need to know all the ins and outs.

To get the most from that advice, you need rapport – a relationship.

Putting the work in on both sides

The key to successful working relationships is trust. A valuable partnership is one with people who want to make a tangible difference to your business, not just troubleshooting or support.

As with any relationship, from time to time mistakes will be made. We’re all human. It’s inevitable. In a good relationship, you should experience fewer mistakes, less often and less badly, and mistakes should always be owned and put right.

It’s about how you handle things when the going gets tough and you need to have difficult conversations. Relationships require you to put that work in to get the most out of them, which shouldn’t be draining – you just need to be on the same page, aligned.

It’s also important to recognise when a relationship is wrong. Sure, it may have worked for a while, but at some point it may no longer be what you need or your business requirements have changed. It’s time to go your separate ways.

What a good IT relationship looks like

Your IT support relationship is integral to your business. Whether you’re in manufacturing or in post-production, if the IT stops working, everything grounds to a halt. It follows, therefore, that your IT support partners are crucial to how your business runs, grows and is successful. It’s about far more than technology.

The right IT partner will invest time in getting to know your business, as well as all the technical systems, hardware, devices, cabling, and so on. They’ll ask questions like ‘if your business was running well, what would that look like?’ or ‘What do you want to achieve this year?’, ‘What challenges are you facing?’ and ‘What problems are you trying to solve?’

Together, you’ll create a roadmap designed to solve issues you’ve identified. It’s something that’s been built into our business and is seen as a best in class behaviour. Businesses evolve over time and technology is constantly changing so we should keep having these conversations. It’s not a static target. Data protection and cybersecurity advice is changing all the time, along with best practices. What was right three years ago no longer makes sense. You need someone who’s going to invest their time and effort in your business, and the relationship needs to be two-way to work best.

As a result of this process, you should find there are no surprises. You should have an agreed plan that spans at least a year, aligning your IT strategy to your business goals.

When it all goes wrong

The wrong IT partner will act very differently. They’re not as concerned about a deep relationship. They may quote a cheap price upfront, which isn’t bespoke to your business. They aren’t going to invest in you and your business growth. Chances are, it’s going to be a reactive, transactional relationship.

That will translate into business impact, right from the get-go. When you switch to a new IT partner, there’s quite a lot they should take care of in terms of the onboarding process and due diligence. When this isn’t done on the solid foundation of an integrated business partnership, you can find yourself going in reverse, feeling the drain, and ultimately realising this isn’t what you wanted.

The true cost of a relationship like this goes beyond finances. When you don’t have well managed technology, things get disrupted all too regularly. That can have knock-on effects on staff productivity and morale, as well as profitability.

When you’ve got it right

Believe it or not, IT can be enjoyable. You’ll have a good business relationship, productive staff who feel well equipped to do their work, and a team on the other end of the phone who are working to your business goals and are bright individuals.

Looking for an IT provider right now? The best advice we can give is to take your time. The right IT provider will invest themselves in getting to know your business. Put the work in upfront to get a much better, longer lasting relationship.