How to manage your IT services supplier

2 October 2013

Paul TalbotAccording to a recent study by specialist research firm Whitelane Research, nearly half of the top 20 IT services companies say their UK customers have immature governance and supplier management skills.

Far too many business owners relinquish control over this part of their business and don’t spend enough time understanding their company’s IT needs. This can create an ‘us and them’ culture which is harmful to the business and creates gaps in communication, which can be damaging in the long run. If you do decide to outsource your IT, remember your involvement doesn’t stop there. You still need to stay abreast of what’s happening and remain actively involved in the decision-making process. Make sure you’ve got a clear, written service level agreement about what needs to be provided and what both parties have signed up for. You can also review your supplier’s current client list and ask for referrals. Be proactive – visit your supplier’s offices and make sure you’re dealing with a reputable company by checking the physical location where your data is being stored. Often, not enough attention is paid to ensuring your data centre is adequately protected. A data centre can range from a rack or a server to a multi-million pound fortress, but whatever form it takes, you need to make sure that your information is being stored safely. If your data is hacked, it can damage your business irreparably. If you’re migrating to the cloud, you need to be aware of the associated risks with using a hosted online system. Data stored in the cloud can be more vulnerable to cyber attacks and you need to make sure that your IT provider has appropriate systems in place to mitigate and manage these risks. The only truly safe computer might be one that is off, detached from the network and sitting behind locked doors, but the right mixture of monitoring, penetration testing and updating host systems can go a long way to reduce the risk to your data. You need to make sure you know and understand what you’re signing up for before you put pen to paper. There are a plethora of different packages and options to suit your business, but the primary decision you’ll face is whether you want a managed service or a more basic utility model. The utility model is about keeping in touch with costs, but if you choose to take on this model, you miss out on the expertise and support which a managed service wrap would give you. This is not an option for the IT-wary. You’ll need to keep a close eye on activity and essentially manage and monitor your service yourself. Whereas a service wrap will take care of compatibility issues, without substantial investment. A proactive service provider should be acting on your behalf to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your package but it’s crucial that you’re invested in the decision making process. Make sure you keep communication lines open and develop a relationship with your IT supplier, so that if you’re not satisfied with the service you’re receiving, you’re in a position to explore other options with them. Mature governance is key to ensuring that you get the best service levels from your supplier. ☛ Paul Talbot is CTO of IT services company adept4
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