New technologies challenge even the most innovative businesses to adapt every day. Boundless analytics, new customer engagement models, IoT (Internet of Things) devices, and even artificial intelligence: more complex systems and expectations become the new normal faster than most can imagine. But when you're so busy catching up, how can you find the information technology partner best suited to help your unique business navigate this transformational time?
Beyond the basic questions—"What kinds of services do you provide?" or "Are you on-site or cloud-based?"—it's critical to choose a provider based not just on what they do today, but how they are prepared for the future. Ideally you find a partner who is able to make your goals their own, as the number of issues your own IT team will need to deal with grows exponentially, from cybersecurity to application development..
If you're ready to bring an IT partner on to help manage your business's infrastructure, here are ten essential questions you need to ask any prospective collaborator:
- What strengths separate your company from your competitors? Are there any new technologies you feel especially well-positioned to implement and utilize?
- What kinds of improvements are you planning for your service and which do you consider the most important?
- Do you work frequently with companies like ours? If so, can you provide us with references and use case documentation of successful deployments tailored to our industry's needs?
- How do you determine what services will best meet the specific requirements of our industry and what kinds of results have you achieved? Are there alternatives to the popular resources that you would recommend?
- How will you communicate with our company and what kind of response time can we expect?
- How do you monitor our service and escalate issues during or after standard business hours? Can we rely on you in a pinch?
- Do you include uptime and service level guarantees in your contract? If so, how do you calculate them and what is your billing procedure?
- What are your security protocols and do you assign different levels of security to different types of tools and data?
- Do you conduct security audits? If so, are they done internally or by a third party, and how often? Can you share the results of your most recent audit?
- What is your backup process and what aspects of the procedure do you expect us to handle ourselves?
So, maybe those were more than ten questions, but we consider each of them vital to achieving successful business outcomes in the Digital Age. It can be difficult for even seasoned professionals to answer all of these questions without warning, so it's best to ask during the RFP process, or provide them to the partners you're considering and they can tailor their presentation to your needs. Invite members from across your team to assess the answers that apply to their areas of expertise and ask for details if necessary.
Choosing the right IT provider is an important decision that could have long-term ramifications for your business. If a provider is unable or unwilling to answer these questions, you may want to reconsider the partnership, but if the answers you receive satisfy your needs, there's only one question left to ask: "How do we get started?"
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