5 Questions to ask when researching your outsourced IT project

Collection of resources, advice, and best practices
for small to mid-sized businesses

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Last month, the Harvard Business Review writer Robert Plant published an article on what not to do when faced with finding the right IT vendor. To read the full article, please go here.

Coming from the perspective of a business professional who had made all of the wrong moves, Plant warned those looking to skimp in the all-important research phase of a project. He advised against cutting corners or relying on ill-advised word-of-mouth when searching for solutions to problems that are too unique and specific to each individual company to be covered by the general consensus.

While hindsight is indeed 20/20, making mistakes when choosing your business bedfellows is a costly, and often irrevocably damaging, blunder, especially to a small business whose budget is already limited. To help avoid any potential disaster, make sure you ask yourself these 5 questions about your project before engaging with an IT solutions provider:

1. What are your business goals?
To be truly successful, IT must always be aligned hand-in-hand with the overall business goals. Therefore, if the business is preparing for explosive growth in the next 6-12 months, IT had better be ready. Skimp on one aspect at any point in the process--security, design, workflow processes, etc., and soon that very same area will become a weak point for your company. Metaphorically speaking, if your business is the wheel, IT is the grease that allows it to move freely, by promoting growth and enabling free flowing and open communications between you and your clients, as well within your own network.

2. What’s the true scope of the project you’re hiring for?
Are you looking for help in workstation management, or do you really need network design? Think through each detail and function that this project is going to touch – are you going to be playing with accounting systems, or with your sales system? If so, make sure that you meet with those representatives prior to finding a solution to ensure you understand the true depth and scope of the project you’re looking for, as they are the people who are most likely to add insight to what the company needs are the people who would most often be using the technology you are looking to incorporate.

3. What are your internal resources?
For those companies who do not have the internal resources necessary to support a new project, they’ll need to consider their hiring options. With the range of options running the gamut from full-time outsourced or part-time in house profes-sionals, the amount of coverage you need depends on the size of your business, the type of business you do, and what part does technology play in running your business. A company of around 10 people that uses its website mostly for posting newsletter items will not need as much support as a company of around 25 that runs an e-commerce store-front. These are the types of details that play a part in determining whether your IT needs require constant vigilance or simply regular check-ins.

4. What does your current network and infrastructure look like?
Can you confidently describe what your current environment looks like? Do you have documentation on your hardware/software? Can you pinpoint where your weak points are? Before growing your system, it’s important that you truly under-stand the capacity and interworkings of your current infrastructure. If there are pre-existing problems, or certain aspects of your system do not gel with how your company and employees work, then it might be time to revise those aspects before adding new workflow and processes.

5. What’s your budget?
How are you going to pay the bills? Are you prepared to bring new equipment on board, and pay the upfront costs for hardware? These are issues all businesses struggle with, regardless of the economy or their current bottom line. Good IT solutions are an investment in the future stability of your company, by ensuring your employees are afforded the tools necessary to be good workers, and allowing your clients and customers to be assured that their business is being handled in the most efficient, confident way possible.

By asking yourself these questions before searching for an IT solutions provider, you can potentially save yourself a lot of future expense and hassle down the road that can result from choosing the wrong one. What other points do you keep in mind when searching for an IT solution? What are some problems that you have encountered when you haven’t found the right one?

In our next installment, we’ll offer a few tips and best practices on how to evaluate and engage with an outsourced IT solutions provider. In the meantime, if you have questions, contact us today!

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