Habit is not a good enough reason to hang on to your IT services provider when there are so many signs that the relationship is no longer delivering value to your business.
Knowing me, knowing you
Abba got it right in their classic song about love gone wrong: ‘Breaking up is never easy . . . but I have to go.’ So when your relationship with your IT provider hits the rocks, the chances are that the signs have been obvious for a long while. It’s just that you weren’t looking. This can be a downside of outsourcing: diminishing standards of business IT support. The most important thing is to size the situation up objectively and make a strategic decision to change partners before the relationship deteriorates to a state that could seriously damage your business.
- 69% of UK businesses dropped IT suppliers in 2012 due to poor customer service.
- Service level guarantees are a vital factor when it comes to choice of partner.
- ‘A staggering number of man-hours are being wasted by UK businesses as they struggle to manage and control IT service issues.’ Taylor Rhodes, Managing Director International, Rackspace
1) It’s not me, it’s you
When you signed your IT services contract, there were probably all sorts of warm words and assurances that your partner shared your company’s vision, standards and mission. You thought you were looking at everlasting business IT support. A year or two down the line, you’re starting to wonder if they are quite as dedicated to understanding your business model. They seem to be paying more attention to larger clients. Your calls take longer to be returned. You’re doing a lot of chasing.
- The strongest sign that an IT services provider has gone off the boil is when you realise that they simply aren’t adapting to your company’s unique IT and business processes
- Don’t surrender managerial control of any aspect of your IT service model unless you can be sure that you are not going to be treated as just another profit centre by your managed services supplier – it costs a lot to bring an outsourced service back in-house!
- 40% of British IT workers lose at least one day a week trying to fix IT problems. Many of these problems should often have been addressed by the outsourced IT support facility.
2) The real price of love
When you signed that contract, the service details were there in black and white. Now you start to see unexpected charges stacking up month by month: additional licences here, capacity over-charges there. It turns out that they are entitled to charge you for anything that wasn’t stipulated in your agreement. You are on the back foot because contracts are their business – and even with the assistance of an expensive lawyer, you are likely to end up in a no-win situation. After all, you did sign on the bottom line.
- Negotiate hard before you sign any contract.
- Remember that as a customer, you are tied to the well-being of another business.
- If they are trying to squeeze more money out of you, how secure is their business in the long term?
3) When trust breaks down
Handing the management of your business applications and databases to a third party is an act of trust. Payroll, HR customer data and all kinds of confidential corporate information are likely to be flowing back and forth between your two organisations. That creates a risk, which you need to take into account when you are choosing your IT services partner. Information is your lifeblood, and if it is compromised – whether by a virus or by theft – your company’s reputation is on the line. Make sure that your data is protected and always invoke penalty clauses that kick in when security is breached due to your partner’s delivery model.
- The average annual cost of fraud and online crime to UK SMEs is £4,000 per business.
- Cybercrime costs UK SMEs £785 million every year.
- ‘No one is going to treat your company data with the care and importance that someone in-house will.’ Jack Wallen, TechRepublic.com
4) They’re just not that into you
Your outsourcing partner is motivated by profit. Fair enough. They’re a business, just like yours. But if the contract has fixed the price of your IT services and support, how can they increase their profit during the course of a long relationship? By decreasing their expenses, that’s how. And as long as they go on meeting the conditions of the contract, you are bound to keep on paying – even though there might be signs of cost reduction on their part. If you get the feeling that they care a little bit less about you, this could be the reason.
- When your network last went down, how long did it take your IT support partner to send in a technician?
- You will pay extra for any contractual changes that you request to meet changing requirements.
- ‘If the provider feels the original contract deal will not achieve that profit target, the supplier will try to achieve its goals with contract extensions, out-of-scope activities, or with delivery cost reductions.’ Wolfgang Benkel, Principal Analyst, Forrester
Breaking up is easy, after all
Don’t ignore the warning signs. When your IT services provider starts to fall short in any aspect of service delivery, it’s probably time to bring the relationship to a close – and find a supplier who can demonstrate a proper understanding of the relationship between your IT service model and your business processes. A supplier who is flexible enough to adapt their service delivery model to any changes in your business, no matter how sudden they might be.
Ask your potential partner:
- How will you innovate in the interests of our business to help us make the transition to more cost-effective managed service delivery?
- How can I be sure that your people have the skills and insight to match top-quality IT support with the goals of our business?
- How can you demonstrate your commitment to a lasting relationship that won’t deliver any financial or logistical surprises further down the line?
If they can answer all three to your satisfaction, make the change and seize the benefit.