Finding An IT Service Provider: Questions To Ask

By Alan Conduct|4 August 2015

Last week I explored IT outsourcing vs. in-house support, weighing up these options and also a third; combining both in-house and the additional support from a IT support provider.

This time I’m looking at what your next steps are having decided to outsource some, or all, of your IT support requirement.

Finding An IT Service Desk Provider

First off, I would suggest asking around for recommendations from business contacts, suppliers and partners. A trusted recommendation from someone who has some insight into your organisation is always a good start.

Look also for accreditation from the Service Desk Institute, this organisation audits providers to ensure high levels of service and compliance with SDI standards.

You’ll also what to ascertain what companies provide services in your area, and consider whether it is important to you to use a provider that is local to you.

10 Questions To Ask IT Support Companies

Having drawn up a shortlist of potential companies, here are some key questions to ask them before taking it any further:

  1. How large is your company? Get an idea of the size of the company. Do they have the right infrastructure to meet your needs? A larger company will have a wide spread of expertise, whereas a smaller provider is likely to offer a more bespoke and personal service. However, a one-man band will present you with the same issues as having an IT manager in-house – what if they go on holiday, what cover will you have then?
  2. What can you do for me? Ask your shortlist what they could do for you based on information you provide about your core objectives and the main issues you face. This will naturally give you an idea of whether they can do what you need, but it can also throw up some new possibilities and perhaps a different and more beneficial approach.
  3. What service levels do you offer? Emergency, pay-as-you-go, contract? Many IT service providers offer different levels of service to meet different budgets.
  4. Can you tailor your service to my organisation? A flexible approach to service levels is always a plus point as no two companies are the same, or have exactly the same requirements.
  5. What do your Service Level Agreements (SLAs) look like? Make sure that they are contractually obliged to respond in an acceptable period of time, this will help you identify the service level you require.
  6. Will I have a dedicated point of contact? You’ll want to build a strong relationship with the provider and so it helps if you have a single point of contact. This way they’ll get to know your business that much better and become part of your extended team.
  7. Do you have on and remote site options? For some organisations having dedicated IT support onsite is a necessity. This can still be a cost effective option compared to employing an IT support manager in-house, and they come with the added back up of an expert service provider.
  8. What training and development do you implement in your company? Technological advances happen overnight and therefore it is important to find a provider who keeps their employee’s training up-to-date. With this in place they will continuously improve your service too.
  9. What is and what isn’t included in the service contract? One of the benefits of outsourcing IT is being able to forecast your monthly spend, however you must be clear on what is included and what isn’t if you want to avoid any surprises.
  10. What’s your company culture like? Ideally your IT support will integrate seamlessly into your organisation and therefore you will want to find a provider you can partner with.

Finally, here’s a bonus question:

11. What else can you do for me?  A proactive partner who is able to suggest other ways to improve your systems, and find alternative IT solutions for your organisation is an asset. You might not be ready to implement their suggestions straightaway, but if you decide to in the future it makes sense to go with someone who already understands your business, existing systems and IT infrastructure.

Have you got a question you would like to ask us? Contact one of our experts.

Further Information

Outsourcing, how can it help build a better business?

A comprehensive guide on the what, when and how to outsource for your small business.

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