When shopping for a shirt, most people laugh at a “one size fits all” label because they know it’s simply not true. You’re guaranteed to get something that is more likely “one size annoys most”. The same is true for the IT industry.
Many IT firms loudly proclaim they can help you no matter what your needs are and that they specialize in everything including HP, Cisco, Juniper, Microsoft, VMWare, Cloud, wireless, phones, security, EMR/HER, ERP, PCI, HIPAA, SOX and on and on. Their website is loaded with manufacturer logo’s stating they know it all. Guess what, it’s simply not true. One size does not fit all.
So how do you get around this? Easy. Spend time asking your potential IT provider about their skill sets. Have they actually worked in your industry? Do they understand its dynamics? Don’t fall for the references trap either, while they are important, it’s only a small part of the story (who is going to give you a bad reference anyhow?). Here are a few things to ask while deciding where to spend your IT budget:
- How well do you know my industry?
You should be told they have X clients for Y years, understand line of business software and know the basic internal processes involved in your business. For example KME doesn’t support legal firms. It’s simply not our specialty, but if you are a manufacturer or healthcare provider we know your language.
- What technology do you specialize in?
Any good MSP can provide general Windows and end user support, but if you have specific needs such as IP Telephony, Cloud, security or compliance needs like HIPAA, does your potential IT firm understand what they really need to do? For example, with HIPAA ask for their BAA (business associate agreement) and examine if it’s fair to both sides. One sided agreements don’t work and your new provider should know that. Additionally if you are a HP only shop, don’t accept someone who says they are experts at Cisco as “it’s about the same”. While basic networking isn’t a problem, you want a vendor who has deep, specific product experience as well as a strong manufacturer connection so you can get roadmaps, better pricing, etc.
Ask how long they have been supporting a specific technology you are looking for to better your firm. While everyone, including KME, has to start somewhere, you don’t want a critical roll-out to be among their first installs. We at KME are IP Telephony experts having started installing it since 1998. When we tell a client we know this market and capabilities, we can very easily back that claim.
- How do you partner?
Great IT firms know their abilities, but they also know how to properly augment them. Ask your prospective IT partner how they go about making sure you will be covered if a new need arises which they are not expert in. They should quickly be able to demonstrate they have a network of trusted partners they will work with and manage on your behalf, to help you on unforeseen needs. KME does this with Microsoft CRM. While we can install and help you incorporate the Microsoft technology stack into your business, we are not experts with CRM. But we know who is and will help you define the need, scope the project and manage it to completion through an excellent partner who specializes in only CRM.
A great IT partner is clear about what they can and cannot do. It’s a mark they have obtained a professional maturity level, letting you know they will become a trusted resource.
Have questions? Disagree? We want to hear it!