Tuesday, June 29, 2010

HB Magazine Editorial: Choosing the Right IT Partner for Your Business by Malachi Clark

As a business owner you wear many hats. You have to manage employees, finances, and the general day-to-day operations. Among these hats you wear is one for choosing vendors and suppliers. Choose a great vendor and you have a partnership that can last for decades, choose the wrong one and it could take decades to recover. The IT needs of your business are no less important. A question I often receive is, “Why should I hire people to manage my IT needs?” It is a valid question. Can one of your hats be IT? Can you do it yourself? It seems that everyone has a 'cousin' that can 'fix computers'. Here are a few points to consider about why your business needs much more than just computers that are 'fixed.'

Partnership - A great IT partner, should be just that, a partner, not a nameless vendor that comes in and always does it their way. A good IT partner is interested in a long-term relationship that benefits both parties, not just to make a quick dollar. Every business is different and has unique needs. Your IT partner should listen and take the time to get to know you and how your business operates. The right IT partner will work with your business to determine what to upgrade and when. Should you upgrade the old computers that work just fine? Should you get the latest smartphone? Will that new software make your business run more smoothly? Are your current systems holding your business back? Will that new upgrade work with my existing systems? What about Facebook or Twitter? These are all questions that can only be answered if your IT partner understands you and the way your business operates.

Inform - The right IT partner should take the time to make sure you understand your existing and future technology needs. It is vital that you understand why you need certain technology solutions and how they will reduce your costs or help to make your business grow. Knowing this information allows you to easily adapt to changing market conditions including, if necessary, changing IT partners. The right IT partner will not force you to be locked into a long term contract, instead their work should encourage you to want to work with them. While a long-term contract can provide some benefits, it can also lock you into a bad situation for longer than you want.

Planning - Beyond answering the questions you have, the right IT partner will know the questions you should be asking. IT professionals stay informed of the latest trends, what is new and useful to your business, while keeping in mind that a new trend that is correct for other businesses may be just 'trendy' for yours. The right IT partner should work with you to help you budget and plan for the future and to help grow your business through technology.

Availability - Your IT partner needs to be ready to work when you are. Emergency or run-of-the-mill, 9 to 5 or after-hours, your business shouldn't have to wait on IT.

Proactive - The right IT partner does more than 'fix' your computers. Proactive maintenance and updates reduce the need for repairs. Businesses of all sizes benefit greatly from IT partners that perform regular preventative maintenance. These regular planned cycles can minimize unexpected IT expenditures and save you money and downtime. Your IT partner should help your business move from a "break-fix" mentality to proactive IT approach.

Price - Obviously price is a concern for any business. While cost cannot be the only factor in deciding on an IT partner, if they are too expensive, it doesn't matter how good they are. The opposite side of that is summed up beautifully by a quote from Red Adair, "If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." An experienced IT professional will not only cost your business less long term, but will help your business grow faster.

Perform - Ultimately, the right IT partner will be able to get the job done. A great IT partner will combine all the elements above and do what needs to be done to help your business.

Malachi Clark is the President of Techglia, Inc., which provides managed services, custom application development, outsourced IT, Online Backup, and Help Desk support to Orange County businesses. For more info, visit www.techglia.com/hb or call (714) 545-3284.

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