A few years ago I wrote a blog that outlined some of the key areas that I believed businesses needed to be mindful of when choosing an IT Provider. I focused on the growing threats from ransomware and other cyber threats, and the need to choose an IT provider that proactively focused on continuous improvement and ongoing alignment to industry best practice.
Unfortunately these cyber threats have increased significantly since that time, and the need to select an IT provider that specialises in cybersecurity is now crucial. Businesses of all sizes are being impacted by cyber incidents, and cybercriminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in how they overcome traditional IT security systems.
But it’s not all about security – there are other important considerations as well. So let’s take a look at what you should be considering...
Top 3 attributes you should be looking for in your IT provider.
1. Look for a partner that specialises in security, particularly cyber training
What many people don’t realise is that traditional IT security systems like anti-virus and firewalls (border security) are no longer as effective against modern cyber-attacks. The reality is that people are the number one security vulnerability, and cybercriminals are becoming increasingly effective in using phishing attacks and other activities designed to steal important credentials like your email password. With these details, they can trick others into providing sensitive information or making payments into fake accounts.
The only way to overcome these threats is to engage with a partner that can provide ongoing cyber training for your staff to create a ‘human firewall’. A human firewall refers to staff that are alert to the dangers and who actively lookout for threats to help secure your IT environment. Ideally, the training should be coupled with ongoing assessments, to make sure that staff clearly understand the dangers they face.
Now I know what you’re probably thinking – it all sounds a little ‘over the top’, right? Surely those cyber related statistics I’m reading can’t be accurate? I’ll admit, I thought the same thing until recently, when I saw firsthand the number of people that were ‘tricked’ into handing over their email username/password in a mock phishing attack.
Approximately 25% of the staff in this organisation were fooled – an amount far higher than I anticipated. Can you imagine what damage a cybercriminal could do with unrestricted access to your emails, and potentially your other software applications?
2. Look for a partner that can help you help your customers.
OK, that’s enough about security!
Another important area that’s often overlooked when investigating IT providers is their ability to understand your goals and help your organisation succeed in its mission. It sounds obvious I know, but the IT industry is known for having ‘tunnel vision’ and focusing more on the ‘tech’ than the businesses they should be helping.
Having a service provider that is reliable and responsive is, of course, important because without this your staff’s productivity can suffer. But IT providers in the future need to do more than just ‘keep the lights on’. Technology now exists that can help organisations fundamentally change the way they do business, making them far more competitive, streamlined and efficient. And for the first time, this technology is affordable for businesses of all sizes.
Heard it all before? You’ve got a right to be skeptical!
I’ll be the first to admit that our industry has been promising truly ‘business changing’ technologies for some time, and they haven’t always lived up to the hype. Or alternatively, the technology has been so cost prohibitive that no average organisation could make the numbers stack up. But as cloud technology has evolved it’s created enormous economies of scale to technology vendors, so prices are being driven down and some truly amazing technology is finally within reach. For example, if you’ve never heard of Microsoft Power Automate, make sure you check out our blog on how Microsoft Power Automate will transform your workplace - it can automate a lot of repetitive tasks, freeing your staff to focus on higher impact activities.
In summary, if all your IT provider wants to talk to you about is the number of RAM modules you need to optimise your Server CPU’s performance, beware! There’s a good chance they’re not going to be the right provider to help your organisation find and implement the business changing technology I’m referring to. What you need is an IT partner that takes the time to understand your business drivers and your current constraints, then recommends technology that ultimately improves the service that you provide to your customers.
3. Look for a partner with a proven track record
Obvious, right? Well, it is and it isn’t. Let me explain.
Unlike financial services, legal, construction and many other industries, the IT industry is completely unregulated. As hard as this is to believe (given how much we all now depend on technology), anyone can decide tomorrow to start an ‘IT services’ business, without any experience or qualifications in IT. There is no industry body or government regulation to prevent this, unlike many industries that require registered/licensed individuals within the organisation.
So not surprisingly, our industry is full of what we refer to as ‘cowboys’ – basically, IT companies that earn your trust via smooth talking salespeople, without any qualified people or back-end systems and processes required to deliver effective IT services.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The good news is that IT service providers sell and implement products from IT manufacturers, and the IT manufacturers have a lot of information about who their successful IT partners are – you just need to search for it!
Do you use Microsoft technologies? Then before selecting an IT provider, make sure you google “Microsoft solution providers”. Microsoft have a great website that shows all the successful partners in your region (make sure to view the list of ‘Nearest to you’). Ideally, try to find Silver or Gold partners (Gold partners have a strong track record with selling and implementing Microsoft solutions, as well as qualified Microsoft Certified Professionals).
Do you want to buy HP or HPE equipment? Google “HPE partners” to find a list of partners in your area that have qualified staff and a track record of selling HP equipment.
Once you’ve found a few partners that sound interesting, google them and check out their google reviews. This can be an interesting way of seeing what kind of feedback they’re getting from their customers.
And finally, take the time to visit the IT providers you have shortlisted and view their operations first-hand. Who is their cybersecurity expert? Which members of their team are going to get to know your business, and help make business changing improvements so you can provide a better service to your customers?
IT providers without these skills will be quickly exposed with some simple, common sense questions.
For more information about how the Diamond IT Team can support your organisation and discuss your Technology Roadmap, contact us below or call us directly on 1300 307 907.