The risky business of changing IT service providers

The risky business of changing IT service providers

You’ve no doubt heard the maxim that the only constant in the IT industry is change.

Today many businesses are facing problems with how they implement, support and innovate with technology in their business. The issue is that there is a high cost to having a team of technically capable people who are up to date with technology to a point where they support innovation in your business. It is now a primary concern to ensure you remain at the forefront of your industry as clients will not wait for your relatively slow systems to catch up.

Vendors want to sell you applications and devices to help you innovate but they lack a holistic view of your business. This leads to the dilemma of maintaining an in-house team or outsourcing the function to external providers. In either direction there are risks and costs.

I was discussing this with a friend today and mentioned how frequently I see people who need to change IT providers to get better business outcomes and better value from the money they spend on IT services. His comment should not have surprised me but it did. He said, “People see the risk of change as being bigger than the potential benefits or the cost of continuing with a poor service model.”

It does not matter how you are spending the money today. If there is a better way to get results it is now time to consider the pros and cons of a change. Only then can you begin thinking about the methodology of the changeover. Eventually you must change and procrastinating is putting you further behind.

Signs you need to change support provisions:

  • Your IT team is either too busy/under-resourced or under-skilled or is often idle and costing you money.
  • Long-term technical problems keep repeating
  • Small technical issues are not getting resolved in a timely manner
  • You can’t get hold of the support people when you need them
  • Support efforts are reactive, causing down time, pain and poor solutions due to Band-Aid approach
  • Your non IT staff spend their work hours fixing their own IT problems
  • Your senior staff are distracted by IT problems
  • IT issues are dominating board meetings but not getting resolved
  • There are opportunities to improve productivity with different IT solutions but plans are not progressing
  • The people you have access to lack the training or skills to solve the problems you have
  • You feel you are spending enough but the results are not being reached
  • You have no documentation of your environment
  • You have no/poor reporting of IT issues
  • You lack a technology roadmap that you can plan from.

Advantages of changing to the right support solution:

  • When you have the right support team IT issues are resolved quickly, letting your staff return to productive work
  • When you have a technology road map done by providers who know your business, your people and your current systems, you can budget for the inevitable upgrades and do them in a progressive way
  • When you have breadth and depth in your support problems have solutions
  • When you have access to the right people innovative ideas can lead to action
  • Improved productivity across the organisation can significantly reduce costs, improve competitive stance in the market and improve profit
  • When you have access to the right people they become your trusted advisor and can help you innovate faster with trusted advice.

So the pros are about improved ability to resolve problems and innovate. This reduces the cost of running your business and also reduces the risk of missing the boat when technology changes your industry.

The cons are that it can be very hard to select the right technologies and technology partners and poor choices are expensive and potentially catastrophic for your business.

So how do you move?

This will depend on what the right move is. Are you changing from one outsourced service to another or changing over internal staff or partially outsourcing or moving from outsourced to in house?

Possibly the best way to approach this is with some logical steps:

  • Identify the capabilities gap
  • Identify the resources required to fill the gap
  • If it is core business, build the skills in house; if it is none core, outsource it.

For example, if you need to upgrade from a Windows 2003 server to a Windows 2012 server you could train your internal staff to perform the task or for a fraction of the cost and time you could outsource the project. Training staff is important but training them for a task they will do once is inefficient. Getting the job done and handing the day-to-day maintenance back to your in-house team can work very well.

If your in-house support team has not been trained in the past few years the cost of bringing them up to speed may be too much. If you are outsourced to an organisation that has stagnated and stopped training its staff you could hire an internal person who is up to date or you could find a new provider who has stayed current and has policies in place for staff to stay current.

Changing providers in a poorly documented environment presents another set of challenges around loss of knowledge. Typically this is over-stressed and is less of an issue than non-technical managers suspect. Discovery is part of the tool kit for a good operator as it forms part of business development. Find a team with a track record of smooth client transitions and you will be in safer hands.

There is nothing easy about finding the right service solution and the IT industry with its lack of regulation has done itself a disservice; to be blunt, it is hard to trust an IT salesperson. So seeking referrals makes a lot of sense.

David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that is known for Business IT that makes sense. How can we help?


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