There are several reasons why it’s important to choose an IT vendor carefully and manage the relationship closely. They could be the person of your (business) dreams, who saves the company from a total system crash and forever earns a place as a valued member of your team. Or, they could spell doom for your whole company by posting all your login credentials on dark web hacker forums. You just never know.
Most IT vendors fall somewhere in the middle. But the gravity of such a critical decision can be overwhelming when you’re choosing whether to contract with a new IT vendor or negotiate terms with an existing one. There are so many eligible partners, so it can be tough to figure out which one you want to ride off into the sunset with. And what happens if you choose the wrong one? What do you do when you have a fear of commitment?
If you choose to work with BEMO, you don’t have to make a long-term commitment until you’re ready.
Unlike most IT vendors that require a 12- to 24-month contract, we’re happy to work on a month-to-month basis. If sparks fly, we can tie the knot. But if they don’t, just politely tell us it’s not you, it’s us, and we won’t make it weird! We’ll just wrap things up and wish you the best.
Sometimes called vendor governance, vendor management is the practice of controlling your relationships with your suppliers. This applies both to sourcing a new vendor and to optimizing a relationship with an existing one.
Most organizations choose to focus on reducing costs and mitigating risk in particular, because these can have the biggest make-or-break impact on the company. Once you’ve sorted out the cost and the risk, it’s also important to work on things like proactive collaboration, communication, and cooperation. These factors ultimately determine how smoothly your organization interacts with your vendors and how much value you receive in exchange for your money.
In other words, you can choose a supplier with a low price tag that checks all your boxes on paper, but if you can never get them on the phone and their representatives always act like you’re being a pain in the neck when you reach out, chances are you won’t be happy with that service long-term.
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on risk management and building a positive business relationship. IT costs are typically flat, so you can make that decision separately.
Why is vendor management especially important in the IT world?
Pop quiz: Which employee has the most access to every facet of your organization?
You might be tempted to say the CEO, because that’s the person in charge. Or, you might consider for a moment the employees you’ve grown to trust over many years of working together. Certainly, you’ve afforded those employees some extra privileges within the company.
In most organizations, however, it’s the IT person (or department) who can log into any account at any time, access encrypted files, rearrange your network, and change the credentials of all your employees (If you ever hear an evil laugh coming from your IT employees, you might want to check on that situation!).
Since your vendor controls who they hire and place within your company, it is crucial to work only with trustworthy IT vendors. This is the “mitigating risk” portion of IT vendor governance.
Your IT person’s clever solutions could keep the business running when the whole system unexpectedly goes belly-up. Or, their unfortunate gaps in cybersecurity could allow attacks that might eventually force the business to close its doors.
Their forward-thinking and efficient software choices could save the company tons of time and money. Or, you could find out in a couple of years that the software didn’t scale at all, and now the whole business is running on a platform that doesn’t serve it anymore.
In a nightmare scenario, a truly bad IT worker could destroy your company in just a few keystrokes — accidentally or on purpose.
Unless you know and trust your IT vendor implicitly, you’ll never be quite sure where you’ll fall on that spectrum when crunch time comes.
Now that we’ve discussed what it is and why it’s important, let’s dive into some steps you can take to make sure your IT vendor management strategy is on point.
1. Ask for references.
Nearly every IT vendor you contact will claim to take care of whatever you need. But unless you pop the hood and take a peek at what’s really going on, you risk getting sucked in by shiny sales pitches and missing what actually matters: How does the IT company help its existing clients?
An IT vendor’s track record can speak volumes about how its clients have fared over the years. Companies with stellar reputations have more than likely earned the generous accolades lavished on them by happy customers.
(If the not-so-subtle hints above didn’t entice you to check out BEMO’sreferences andcredentials, that’s okay. We’ll just drop in a reminder that we’re ranked #2 globally and #1 in the U.S. in Microsoft’s “Modern Workplace for SMB” category, and then we’ll move on.)
3. Define your “must-haves.”
Compromise is okay to a point. But before you can determine where you’re open to being flexible, you’ll have to know which lines cannot be crossed.
If you want a company that offers 24/7 IT support, for instance, but you also want to have an IT person physically present in your office building, you’ll probably have to choose one or the other. You can certainly find round-the-clock help with a remote IT company, and you can probably still find services that send employees to your brick and mortar location (though these are fewer and farther between in the post-COVID era). Finding a company in your area that does both could be a challenge.
Or, you might want to choose a vendor that excels at a premium service you badly need (such as cybersecurity), but also costs less than a vendor that only charges for barebones tech support.
At the end of the day, you want to be happy with the service you choose. Only you can define your sticking points.
4. Monitor your progress.
Just as you would measure the value a regular employee brings to your company, it’s a good idea to track the value offered by an IT vendor.
You can set goals that make sense for your situation — for example, eliminating phishing emails that make it through the security filter or reducing company downtime due to technical issues by 50% within three months.
Then, track performance indicators related to those goals. Following the same examples, you would count the number of phishing attempts encountered by your employees and total up how much time gets wasted waiting around for business operations to come back online after a crash.
These metrics will prove whether your IT vendor is worth your time and investment.
5. Communicate your needs.
If something isn’t to your liking, it’s time to make a change.
Depending on your situation and the vendor you work with, your tactics and topics of interest will vary. Generally speaking, you might want to:
Look over your contract to find ambiguities or misunderstandings.
Re-negotiate contract terms.
Enforce your boundaries about the amount and type of communication between your organization and your vendor.
Allocate more of your time or resources to tracking performance indicators and making sure your IT vendor truly provides value.
Keep in mind, vendor management isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it type of deal. It should be an ongoing process where both parties continually strive for the best possible outcomes.
Time to throw in the towel on an IT vendor that isn’t meeting your needs? BEMO can pick up the slack.
If your IT vendor is a mess but you’re afraid to drop them and go without an IT service for a while, it might help to know BEMO can step in whenever you need.
Fully managed IT services
Assistance with cloud-related applications
24/7 remote support
As we’ve mentioned, our month-to-month contract is just about as risk-free and pain-free as you’ll find. But we’re still going to bend over backward to show you why we could be your ideal long-term IT provider.