Which is Better A Small Or Large IT Provider? (Pros & Cons)
You’ve decided that your IT needs help. It doesn’t matter whether you have an on-site IT staff or not. Your IT needs help and you’ve decided to start evaluating your options. One of the things you may be wondering is whether you should partner with a small or large IT provider?
As someone who works for an IT provider, you might assume that I have a vested interest in writing this article. Whether the IT provider I work for is big or small, it will undoubtedly sway my opinion, right? Well actually, no. Let me explain.
At Kelser we are confident that we provide a full complement of managed IT services that keep the infrastructures of our customers safe, available, and efficient. But….we also know that managed IT isn’t right for everyone. And, we know that large and small IT providers both have advantages and disadvantages.
So, what this article WON’T do is recommend only one category, large or small, because the truth is that they both have something to offer.
This article WILL provide an unbiased explanation of the pros and cons of each option. This will give you the knowledge and information you need to make the right IT decision for your organization.
Small IT Providers
As with anything in life, there are pros and cons to working with a small IT provider.
Some of the positive aspects of working with a small IT provider are:
1. Personalized Service
As long as the IT provider is big enough to handle the complexities associated with your IT infrastructure, don’t discount the advantages of a smaller organization that may be able to provide important personalized service.
A smaller IT organization could mean that you see the same people returning to your site. As a result, the provider’s staff member becomes a trusted extension of your business.
Familiarity with the subtle nuances of your infrastructure could make it possible for the IT provider to more quickly diagnose and resolve issues.
If personal service is important to you, check the organization’s staff turnover rate. The last thing you want to do is sign on with a small provider expecting personalized service only to find out that their staff turns over so often that you are dealing with a new person every time you call.
There may be benefits to be gained from a smaller IT provider that is located near your business. Depending on the nature and the age of your infrastructure, the ability to quickly come on-site may be an advantage for your business.
Be sure to ask how often you can expect the IT provider to come to your site and for what purpose. A true partner should meet with you regularly (outside of service calls) to ensure that you have what you need, not only for today but to position you for future success as well.
Smaller organizations often can be more agile and responsive, both in terms of accommodating customer requests and in responding to emergency situations.
For example, if a piece of hardware fails, a smaller organization may provide a loaner (often without added charge) just to get you up and running until your new hardware arrives. Find out how the IT providers you are interviewing would handle a similar scenario.
4. Customer Service
Smaller organizations are often known for providing exceptional customer service.
The last thing a small IT provider staff member wants is to be approached by an unhappy customer when they are out to dinner. They will likely go the extra mile knowing that they will be seeing you around town.
Ask the provider how they handle service. What happens if you need service after hours or on a weekend? Do they charge by the call? Do they outsource any or all of their service work?
Among the negatives that you may encounter with a smaller IT provider are:
If you partner with a smaller IT provider, make sure they have the skills on staff to meet the needs of your organization.
If the provider offers access to IT experts (like a virtual chief information officer, service delivery manager, technical alignment manager, and/or technical solutions architect) understand exactly what services (and how many hours) are included in your contract.
2. Fewer Partner Organizations
Smaller organizations may work with a more limited group of OEM suppliers than larger organizations. If you are looking to explore unlimited IT equipment options, a smaller provider may not be the right option for you.
Find out who the provider is affiliated with and whether you can request other options as well.
3. Staff Turnover
While staff turnover can be an issue for any IT provider you hire, it can be more evident and detrimental when you partner with a smaller organization.
To be effective long-term, your IT partner needs to have the ability to grow with your business. Some small IT organizations struggle with this part of the equation.
Make sure your partner has experience helping other organizations maximize their IT to reach their business growth goals. Ask for examples.
Large IT Providers
Large IT providers offer similar advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to know what to look for.
Listed below are some of the pros of working with a large IT provider:
1. Broad Skills
One of the advantages of a large IT provider is that they often have the resources to employ a large workforce that has a variety of skills. This can provide an advantage when solving complex technical issues for their customers.
Keep in mind that many providers tout the size of their staff. Make sure you understand the breakout of technical and support staff. Just because the staff is big doesn’t guarantee that you will have a better experience.
2. Documented Processes
A large IT provider may have documented processes and procedures that can provide a strong framework for customers who may be looking to implement a similar structure within their organization. Make sure to ask if this is something the provider can help you achieve.
Understand your options about using these experts and any associated costs. Even if you have to pay for the service, though, the cost will likely be cheaper than adding these experts to your payroll.
Among the negative aspects of working with a large IT provider are:
You want an IT provider that can be nimble, responsive, and think outside the box. Larger organizations of all types can suffer from analysis paralysis and decision by committee.
This can limit the provider’s ability to think outside the box and develop proactive, creative solutions for unique issues, unusual technology applications, or compliance requirements.
As we talked about within the staffing section under the pros of large organizations, these IT providers often have higher overhead expenses that they pass along to customers.
Understanding the provider’s staffing and overhead costs will help you make an informed decision that will ensure you get the most out of your dollar.
When working with a large organization it can feel like you are being passed from one person to another without anyone diving in and resolving your issue.
By the time you get to the “appropriate” person, you could incur significant (and expensive) downtime.
Find out what you can expect in terms of response time and how easy it is to get to the person who can help. As all business leaders know, time is money.
Consider your latest experience with a big box store. Yes…you may have gotten a bargain, but good luck if you have an issue with your purchase. The same can be true of large IT providers.
There are definitely some good ones out there, but this characteristic can rear its ugly head when you can least afford it. Pay particular attention to the customer service terms in your agreement. You want to know what to expect before you have an issue.
So, Which Is Better? A Large Or Small IT Provider?
As we said at the outset, only you can decide what sized IT provider is best for your organization. Now you know the pros and cons of each option and you can feel confident in your decision.
You know that if you choose a smaller provider, you may benefit from personalized service, proximity, flexibility, and customer service advantages.
You may find that smaller providers lack skills, partner with fewer manufacturers, experience higher staff turnover, or cannot support the scalability you’ll need when your business grows.
With a larger IT provider, you may find broad staff skills, documented processes, and access to IT specialists. On the other hand, you may confront bureaucracy, overhead costs, complexity, and impersonal attitudes.
As with all decisions in life, there are pros and cons. The important thing is to go into your search for an IT partner with your eyes wide open. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of all of your options puts you in a position of power. Asking the right questions will point you toward the right provider for you.
The best approach is to talk to a variety of providers.
Like any relationship, you often have a strong intuitive sense of which partner will is most compatible and will provide the service and approach that will work best with your organization’s IT infrastructure and culture.
Putting in the work upfront to understand your potential IT provider will yield dividends in terms of trust and an effective working partnership for years to come.
Want to know more about effective IT partnerships? Read this article: 3 Ways To Measure The Success Of An IT Partnership (Metrics & More)