When it comes to hiring a new IT partner, you need to know what questions to ask to ensure that you are working with a company that can adequately manage your network. eTop Technology is a managed IT service company that works with businesses to help them manage their technology needs. As such, we are used to fielding questions by business owners and upper management regarding whose responsibility it is to make sure that their vendors are the right fit for the job.
For some, interviewing potential IT partners can be difficult if you don’t know a lot about the technical aspects that keep your network up and running, however, you don’t necessarily have to be technical in order to find out whether or not they are a good fit. After all, they are the technical gurus that you pay to understand that stuff so you don’t have to. We have put together a list of questions that are important to ask all of your potential candidates and the reasons why these questions are important. Knowing that your partner has the right answer to these questions will go a long way toward making sure that you are choosing the right partner.
These questions are all written from the perspective of a company that is looking for a managed service. This is a proactive service that allows your IT partner to act as your outsourced IT department. Even if a managed service isn’t quite what you are looking for, some of these questions may still be important to ask.
The key performance indicators that are important to look for in an IT company are stability and process. It is a pain to change IT partners. They integrate with your company, unlike any other partner you work with. You need to know that they will be in business for many years and that you won’t have to make an unplanned change. It is also important to know that they are organized. Managing a ticket flow and projects takes a good process and the best IT companies will put a lot of emphasis on this.
These questions will help give you a clear understanding of how stable your candidate is and how likely they are to be able to process your needs even when they are busy, without having to understand the technical aspects.
1. How long have you been in business?
This questions will give you an indication of how stable the candidate is likely to be. You may find two very different answers to this questions. A single sole proprietor may be operating a company for 20 years and that may seem appealing, but there are bandwidth limitations to companies that don’t expand past a single individual. There are also IT companies that have been around for one or two years and employ several technicians, but don’t yet have good processes established. Ideally, working with an IT company that has been around for five-plus years and has several employees is a good place to start.
2. How many people work in your company?
This question gives you insight into the candidate’s stability but more importantly, this will tell you how redundant the candidate can be. This matters in a few ways. First, if the company consists of one person you are at risk of losing support should your IT partner be occupied with another client or they decide to go on vacation. Secondly, the larger the technical team a company has, the larger the knowledge base they have to make sure that your problems are resolved correctly.
3. How many clients do you currently work with and are you willing to provide references?
Results speak for themselves. Knowing that the candidate is already working with hundreds or even thousands of end users will tell you that they are organized and have good processes in place. Contrary to popular belief, most networks are set up and operate in very similar ways across industries. While it may be nice to see that the potential partner works with other clients in your industry, the fact that they do not specialize in your field isn’t a problem that should deter you from working with them.
4. Where are you located?
In the beginning, the IT support field was filled with sole proprietors that worked out of their home. Today, this is still a very prevalent way of operating an IT company. In an era where most technical support can be done remotely or at the client site, it may seem trivial where the IT company is located, or if they even have a physical location. Though not necessary, having a physical, business location is a good way to tell who you are working with. It says a lot about how serious a company is about staying in business for the long run when they have made a seemingly unnecessary investment into having a business location.
5. How fast can I expect to get support when I call?
As much as we would all like to say that we can provide support immediately, it isn’t always a reasonable expectation. Busy times come and go in every industry, and IT support is no exception. What is important is that the candidate has a well thought out response time structure included in their service level agreement. Most of the time an IT company will be able to provide you with support immediately. When that isn’t possible, your candidate should have clear expectations as to what you can expect when Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 issues arise.
6. How much have you grown over the last 3 years?
Growth is good! But as a client, too much growth too fast could make you disappointed. Seeing that the candidate is growing steadily will indicate that they are pursuing their company seriously. All too often, however, a support company will grow too fast and have a hard time scaling to meet the demand.
By asking these questions, you should have a clear picture of the kind of potential partner you are interviewing. If you are truly working with an organized, stable, and efficient IT partner, their sales process, implementation, onboarding and service delivery will reflect this.