When It's Time to Change IT Service Providers, Do It with Confidence
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
- Your business needs have changed, requiring an immediate shift in your IT strategy. But you’re locked into your current IT services and pricing, and your IT provider isn’t interested in talking until your contract is up.
- You used to hear from your IT account rep frequently. Now you’re lucky if you get a quarterly email promoting services that may or may not be of value.
- When IT issues arise, the time between reporting them to your service provider and getting them resolved seems to be getting longer.
- The list of IT services providers you’re managing continues to grow, requiring an increasing amount of your time for administration.
- You suspect there may be redundancies in the services you’re paying for from the various IT services providers.
- You feel you’re missing out on cost savings or new technologies because your vendor isn’t talking to you about them or doesn’t have the ability to deliver them.
- Whether or not these situations resonate with you, chances are there’s something not quite right with your current IT vendor relationships. The bigger issue, however, is that you’re hesitant to do anything about it.
Obstacles to Change
As the saying goes, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Many IT professionals feel that way about their vendor relationships. They may not be perfect, but they don’t meet the criteria for “I need to get out of this right now.”
It’s easy to gloss over less-than-satisfactory vendor relationships and accept things the way they are. After all, making changes takes time and can cost money — even if those changes ultimately save you both in the long run.
Maybe your organization’s process for taking on a new vendor is complex and time-consuming. Perhaps you don’t think you have time to assess all your various vendor relationships to determine who and what is working and if there are gaps or redundancies.
There’s also the personal side of vendor relationships. If you’ve been working with an IT service provider for a long time, there’s a good chance you could have developed a friendship as well as a working relationship. That makes switching vendors especially hard.
How to Move Forward
Whatever is preventing you from changing IT service providers can be overcome. Here are some suggestions:
- Make vendor assessment a business priority, but give yourself time to make any changes. You don’t have to switch to another vendor or consolidate vendors overnight, although if it works out that way, great. Set a reasonable schedule that provides you — or a team member you delegate — the time to do the necessary legwork.
- Work with the appropriate individuals and departments within your organization to understand new vendor acquisition and onboarding. For example, are you only able to consider new vendors as a result of sending out RFPs?
- Get a big picture look at your existing IT vendor relationships. Conduct a formal audit. Note all the service providers you’re working with, what services they’re providing, and the terms and specifications in the contracts you have in place with them. That includes their policies for allowing you to switch.
- Evaluate your satisfaction with each vendor’s performance. Are they meeting your expectations, as well as the terms of their contracts? Do you have issues with them — good or bad? Do they offer the full scope of IT services you need? If you’ve had issues, how have they responded?
- If you’ve been working with a vendor for a long time and are less than satisfied, have an honest discussion about your dissatisfaction. Your IT vendors are essentially members of your team, and they should always be trying to “make the team.”
If a vendor isn’t performing at the required level, you can offer a chance to fix things. Set a timeline for seeing improvements. Continuing to tolerate poor performance reflects poorly on you. You can always give a vendor another chance later on.
- If you’re working with multiple providers, determine why. For example, maybe you’re working with multiple cloud providers because you have a multi-cloud strategy in place. Or, is it simply because you’ve been randomly adding on cloud services from different providers without a strategy? Are the services you need unavailable from a single source, which has necessitated going with multiple vendors?
- Determine your optimal vendor strategy. There are advantages to working with a single-source provider, including volume discounts and a single point of contact for all matters. However, multiple providers may make sense depending on your business needs. Consider the pros and cons of each option.
- Map out how your strategy should play out. For example, let’s say you want to consolidate services with a single vendor. Create a list of all services you need. Outline your communication and service expectations. Determine how you’d ideally like the relationship to work.
- Conduct research to find a vendor that can deliver what you need and want.
Do your due diligence to make sure any vendor you consider can meet the full scope of your needs. Don’t just go by their marketing materials. Speak to references. Visit the vendor’s facilities if applicable. Ask to see relevant documents such as audit reports and certifications, as appropriate. Test drive services to get a sense of how the vendor works if that’s an option.
If you decide to go with a new vendor, make sure to set expectations for the relationship and agree to it. Don’t just rely on service level agreements and contracts that may be generic or difficult to understand. Clear communication about what you want and expect will go a long ways towards ensuring a good working relationship.
You should also partner with the prospective vendor to create a phased approach to taking over the various services as other vendors’ contracts end, if applicable. Set a date by which you want to full scope of services migrated to the new vendor.
- Devise and implement a regular vendor assessment process. By periodically “checking in” with your various IT service providers, you’ll be able to address issues before they become problems and keep the relationships on a positive course.
What You Have to Gain
Staying with an unsatisfactory vendor can be costly and carries risks. Changing vendors can yield numerous advantages, from more favorable terms to access to much-needed services. If you are in the market for a new IT services provider, consider US Signal as your IT services provider. We’ll be happy to talk to you about your organization’s needs and expectations and how we can meet them.