13 Qualities Of Successful Partnerships With External IT Providers
On the hunt for an external IT partner to supplement your internal IT organization? Have just one IT person and need more support? Looking to move to the cloud or enhance your cybersecurity posture?
No matter what your end goal is, the search for an external IT partner can be overwhelming. You aren’t sure where to begin and you want to make the best choice for your business.
I get it. Business leaders often ask us what qualities they should look for in an IT partner. In this article, I’ll tackle that question head on.
I work for a managed IT support service provider and have seen what successful partnerships look like. Before you assume that the purpose of this article is to convince you to do business with us, I want to be perfectly clear: we know that managed IT support isn’t the right solution for every organization.
The real purpose of this article is to explain the important characteristics to look for in an IT provider so that you can form a successful partnership with whichever IT provider is right for you.
We know it’s a different approach, but we are committed to providing easy-to-understand and honest information you can use to make the best technology-related decisions for your organization.
We’ve learned in our 40 years of business that it doesn’t do you or us any favors to encourage a partnership that won’t work out in the long run.
After doing all of your research, if you ultimately end up working with us, that’s great. If not, and you find a successful IT partner elsewhere, that’s great too. The bottom line is that there is plenty of work to go around and we want what’s best for your organization.
After reading this article, you’ll know 13 of the most important qualities that successful external IT partners share. You’ll be able to use this list to evaluate your current provider or guide your search for a new one.
What Qualities Lead To Successful External IT Partnerships?
Every successful business partnership is based on an honest relationship. Listed here in no certain order are 13 qualities that we’ve seen make relationships with external IT partners succeed.
You need a partner that is more interested in what you need than what they are selling. You want them to ask about your business, your IT pain points, your needs, and your goals.
Only after understanding those things will their recommended solutions directly address your unique needs.
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” is the fifth habit of Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and it has relevance here.
You want an IT partner that uses their IT experience and optimizes technology to meet your needs.
Rather than a provider who comes in with one solution that they say will solve any problem, you deserve a provider that tailors their solutions to the unique needs and goals of your business.
You’re looking for an organization that offers the personal touch and service that foster strong relationships and ensure satisfaction.
From the service desk technicians to the project engineers, you need a team that is looking out for the best interests of your organization.
Your IT team brings technology expertise, but you are the expert when it comes to your business and industry. Only through mutual respect and collaboration will your IT solution truly meet the needs of your organization, streamline activities, and improve efficiency.
It’s important that IT systems and applications are seamlessly integrated. This will foster smooth transitions and minimal disruption during deliveries, and system upgrades or changes. It also indicates that your schedule and business needs are important to your provider.
True IT partners recommend proactive solutions (such as network monitoring and optimization) that prevent issues with your IT infrastructure and devices, rather than simply reacting once there is a problem.
Being proactive minimizes downtime and frustration for customers and internal users. It also allows you to budget and plan for infrastructure improvements.
It’s important that your IT team have the technical skills to make recommendations to improve efficiency and security.
But it’s equally important that they explain in simple terms the reasons behind their recommendations and the benefit to you.
Consider it an added bonus if they provide employee cybersecurity awareness training so that your users know how to spot and report suspicious activities.
Today’s digital infrastructure moves quickly.
You need a partner that provides clear, timely, and honest updates.
If deadlines shift, you (and your users) need to know. If you have an issue during a system update, where can you turn? Progress reports, service level agreements, resolution timelines, and quarterly business reviews all alleviate concerns and build trust.
To come up with the most effective solutions, your team needs to actively listen to your pain points today and understand your goals for tomorrow.
This full understanding of your needs and concerns will guide your IT team’s ability to problem-solve and help them work with you to develop effective and customized solutions.
Your IT team needs to always be looking toward the future. They need to know the latest technology enhancements that could help your company meet your goals and they need to help you budget and plan for upcoming enhancements to your technology infrastructure.
This helps keep your infrastructure ready for what’s next and avoid surprises.
Related article: Why Is It Important To Align IT and Business Strategy?
Your external team should care for your infrastructure as if it were their own. That means they need to be available to resolve issues whenever they arise (which is often after hours).
Their commitment (or lack thereof) directly impacts the productivity of your organization and the availability of your network to users and customers. Minimizing downtime and disruption is key.
This may go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway.
You need a team that has a deep bench of experts with a diverse catalog of technical skills, certifications, and experience. They also need strong relationships with vendors. This will ensure efficient problem-solving, monitoring, and maintenance.
Related article: How Many IT Staff Members Does My Business Need? Number Vs. Skills
There are a lot of choices when it comes to IT support.
A proven track record and positive reputation are indicators of a provider’s commitment to working collaboratively and honestly with customers.
Ask to talk with current customers, explore case studies, and look for industry recognition and awards as an indicator of excellence.
Does the IT provider offer the ability to meet your changing IT needs? How will they support you through a period of amazing growth or significant economic downturn? Can they scale their solutions to meet new challenges?
You don’t want to be stuck in a long-term agreement that can’t adapt to accommodate new challenges.
What’s The Bottom Line?
In this article, we’ve talked about 13 characteristics of successful IT partnerships.
We explored the need for external IT partners to be inquisitive, supportive, collaborative, flexible, proactive, and educational. We’ve also identified the importance of being transparent, understanding, strategic, available, technically skilled, reputable, and adaptable.
You may have noticed that I didn’t include honesty and integrity in my list. These two characteristics are the threads that tie everything else together. They underpin the entirety of every relationship. If you look for the characteristics outlined above, you’ll notice when honesty and integrity are missing.
With the knowledge you’ve gained from reading this article, you are well prepared to find the best IT partner for your organization.
While technical skills are obviously important, keep in mind that they are only one part of the equation. Without the full complement of qualities listed in this article, your relationship with any IT provider will suffer.
So, take your time. Compare several options. Make sure you feel comfortable. This is an important decision and the extra care you put in to find the right partner will pay dividends in the future.
Many organizations look for external help because they are concerned about cybersecurity. Is your network secure? Not sure?
Click the button below for a simple cybersecurity checklist that explains five best practices and actions you must take to protect your business from the latest cyber threats.
Use this self-guided checklist to:
✔️Understand where your organization's cybersecurity policy needs improving
✔️Learn actions you can take to keep your organization's data secure
✔️Help ensure your organization follows the latest cybersecurity best practices
Don’t have a cybersecurity policy? Learn 7 characteristics of a successful cybersecurity policy so you can put one together for your organization!
And, if you find yourself with other questions and would like to talk to an actual human, click the button below and one of our IT solutions advisors will schedule a 15-minute call at your convenience.