Last month I titled my column “How to Fire your IT Guy.” It was a catchy title I had on my mind for awhile. The world of technology consulting and IT support offers an almost endless variety of options to outsource your technology needs from the one-man-band to national organizations with their own outsourced techs available at your beck and call.

Last month’s column encouraged a large amount of introspection and caution before making the jump to a new IT provider. It’s a big leap to transfer these keys to the kingdom and the action should be considered thoughtfully and with much patience. We encouraged thought of how we might repair relationships or even be part of the problem before making the switch to ensure the move will be as successful as it can be.

This month we look at the flip side of that consideration – how do we find the best match for supporting the technology systems and services that help our business run best? Similar care should be given to avoid the pitfalls caused by hastiness, emotional decisions, or imbalanced consideration of cost.

The recognition that our business needs a technology consultant or IT support team often comes in a moment of crisis:

  • A server crashes and no one knows where the backup is.
  • The website is hacked and customers are complaining about the pop ups coming from your site.
  • You and your management team decide it’s time to invest in your own custom technology systems… and you need working yesterday.

There are a wide variety of technology support companies out there. Many providers still live with a “break/fix” mentality and won’t take action or charge you unless you reach out with a specific problem. Others promise to deliver managed services that will proactively address all your technology needs and prevent disasters from ever befalling your business’ technology. As you can imagine, these are the ends of a spectrum that rarely deliver what they promise (low-cost, low-maintenance IT services), and the best fit for your business is often somewhere in the middle.

When searching for technology partner, here are a couple questions to keep in mind as you discuss your needs with technology service providers:

  1. Does the provider offer a one-size-fits all solution, or do they spend significant time listening to your needs before offering a tailored approach to your technology situations?
  2. Do you treat your business’ technology as an asset or simply another expense? Does your technology budget (if you even have one of these) leave room for proactive maintenance and improvements, or is it focused solely on keeping things operational at minimal costs?

Bringing on your first IT provider or transitioning between them is a delicate and important process to consider. There are endless options to consider, and knowing your own priorities before you allow a provider to tell you how it has to be done is an important first step.

Written by Chet Cromer for publication in the Business Leader