ICT is a bit like navigating a tropical sea. There are sharks in the water and hidden reefs on which you can founder without a good map!
Here are some tips to aid navigation…
In the same way that you would get three quotes from tradesmen to undertake work on your home, try to make an effort to locate at least three potential suppliers and evaluate them against each other. As with most things, value is more than just a cheap price. The other points below help you to determine the value of each supplier.
Many ICT service providers undertake influential marketing activity material backed up with customer focused websites and informative guides and blogs. Proposals may demonstrate an understanding of your problem, present a good solution and be competitively priced. Credentials are designed to sound impressive and convincing. However, what is presented may not be truly representative. Before you settle on a service provider and commit to major projects ask to see a client list, select some at random and ask the supplier if you can speak with the FDs or IT managers.
There are a number of ways to try before you buy. If the vendor issues it, you could try evaluating a demo copy. Software test servers can easily be set up using cloud technology. You may be able to visit a site where the solution is in use. Be wary of being an early adopter of a new technology or of buying a solution from a supplier that cannot demonstrate a track record of success with the technology in question.
It is important to check the compliance standards of ICT service providers. This ensures that your business is compliant and underpins the assurances you give to your customers about your compliance. In ICT relevant compliance standards include ITIL, which standardises best practice for providing IT services, and ISO27001 which is an international standard for information security.
Before looking at solutions directly or inviting a supplier or service provider for a proposal, make sure you fully understand the problem from all the internal stakeholders. There are basic requirements that are a given; IT wants low maintenance; end users want easy to use; FDs want cost effective. However, look beyond this and try to understand the requirement in more detail; this will speed up the process of obtaining the right solution.
Contracts for services need to be accompanied by a SLA (Service Level Agreement) which sets out what and how each service is provided, and establishes performance against targets. It also sets out what happens if targets are not met. Examine each SLA in detail and make sure the fine print matches the needs of your business. If you have a critical service make sure the SLA reflects its importance.
Not every supplier is a technology services provider you can trust. Not every solution is right for your business. If you need help with any aspect of technology in your smaller, expanding and mid-sized business, please contact us and we’ll be glad to see if we can help. Simply fill in the form on the right or call us on 01844 293 330.
Image thanks to Kittikun Atsawintarangkul from freedigitalphotos.net
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