The shift to remote work is here, possibly to stay. Some businesses made the transition smoothly and successfully, others experienced hiccups along with way, and some even failed miserably. Some companies made the transition solo, while others were fortunate to have help from their outsourced IT partner. While one might assume that having an IT partner guarantees a successful transition, the reality is, what makes any type of IT vender/client relationship work is communication. Whether you’re a small business or large company, whether your IT vendor manages your data or ensures a smooth move to working from home, the key is to determine how you will involve them in strategic decisions with clear objectives for the relationship. After all, they are your outsourced IT department supporting your most critical business functions.
While the following 7 tips aren’t the panacea to a successful IT partnership, they go a long way to ensuring both you and your vendor are getting the most out of your business relationship:
1. COMMUNICATE OFTEN
Keep open communication with all individuals. If working on a project, make sure there is documentation, progress tracking, and reporting. Stay involved and engaged, but do not micro manage the relationship. Create a channel for feedback and discussion. Determine acceptable communication tools; email, text, phone calls, weekly conference calls, help desk ticketing system or other.
2. BUILD THE RELATIONSHIP
Get to know your IT provider over a period of time. Give them opportunities to prove themselves. Pay attention to how they handle challenges and issues. Hold them accountable to the agreed upon work while promoting collaboration.
3. FOCUS ON TRUST
Clearly establish goals and expectations regarding deliverables, service levels, and quality. Clarity and transparency will ensure the relationship is based on mutual open communication. Help your IT provider understand that you see them as a value-add partner that will help you manage and grow your business.
4. IDENTIFY POINTS OF CONTACT
Establish a point of contact within your company who will manage the relationship. Determine the level of technical knowledge they may or may not have in understanding the overall technical services and solutions. Determine if this will impact their ability to effectively communicate with the IT service provider and communicate back to your organization.
5. ESTABLISH ISSUE RESOLUTION
Challenges will pop up. Establish a method for managing and settling disputes and correcting errors. Share expectations on service levels and responsiveness. Know if there is a cure period in your contract.
6. SET REPORTING EXPECTATIONS
Determine what types of reports and updates you expect, the level of detail, content, and the timing. Do you desire weekly, monthly, quarterly or other for information sharing. Determine if you will conduct quarterly IT and security business reviews with your IT partner. Establish how notifications and alerts will be communicated and managed for issues and concerns versus routine monitoring and maintenance.
7. ASK QUESTIONS
Ask questions and don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Your IT partner may be the technical expert, but you know your business better than anyone else. Your input and feedback are two of the most valuable resources.
Effective communication with your IT partner will yield an increase in project and service quality as well as stakeholder satisfaction for all parties.
BONUS: 4 Communication Red Flags
• Lack of listening
• Pushing own agenda
• Cannot communicate to non-technical audience
• Uses technical jargon or technical buzz words but does not answer questions
Although complaints can be early warning signs, find ways to solve problems quickly. Allow your IT partner to fix small issues before they become larger concerns.
Want more vendor management best practices? Explore our resource library to access additional tips to successful IT partnership.