No Wrong Time to do the Right Thing – Transitioning IT Providers

Recently I was meeting with a potential client about transitioning IT providers and they expressed significant frustrations with their current vendor.  It was a long list of problems.  Luckily, I had a solution for them.  Hire i.t.NOW to do their IT and kick out the old provider.

The discussion obviously wasn’t as simplistic as that.  We talked about the challenges they are currently facing.  We also talked about how i.t.NOW’s structure, personnel, and systems could solve those challenges.  At the end of the discussion, they agreed with me that it looked like we had the solutions they need.

Nothing was earth shattering.  Most of the problems were common ones for our industry.  They’re problems that we used to have 5 or 7 years ago at i.t.NOW.  Luckily, we’ve been continually evolving and have a process for continuous improvement in place that helps drive our organization forward.  Their current vendor is younger, and doesn’t have such advantages.

However, this was months ago and they haven’t made a change.  Partly it’s because the right solution costs a little more than they’re currently paying. Superior products and services typically do cost more.  Mostly it’s because changing can be difficult.

Overcoming – “Change is Hard”

Nobody likes to have his or her cheese moved.  Transitioning IT providers can be difficult.  Learning a new way of doing something, you’ve been doing for a long time can be frustrating.  You have to retrain your brain.  This can cause something you used to do with little effort to seem painful.

Changes with IT can be especially hard.  So let’s take a minute and outline the major objections that hold folks up.  Then we’ll talk solutions.  I recognize that no major organizational change will generally go off without any hitch at all, but smart planning and execution can minimize the impact of changing IT providers.

Known to Unknown

Some business owners hesitate to make a change because “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t”.  There are advantages to knowing what problems you are likely to face.  Wouldn’t you rather not have any problems at all?  Transitioning IT providers can be the answer.

The solution to this is simple.  Do your homework.  Check out a potential provider in detail.  Go to their office.  Ask specific questions about how they would handle problems you typically face.  Make sure you feel good about the answers.

Call their existing clients.  Ask them if they’ve had problems like yours and how they were fixed.  Get specific with your questions both with their references and with the provider, so you can see that they indeed have the solutions you’re looking for.

If you do your due diligence correctly, you can have confidence that you know enough and will get the solution you’re looking for.

Service Delays

Sometimes buyers are concerned that transitioning IT providers will lead to significant service delays.  There are several different ways to tackle this one.

First, talk with the provider that you’re moving services to and work to develop a transition plan.  This will allow you to know what the steps are in the process and plan accordingly.  A typical transition plan includes information about what their on-boarding process for a new client is along with timeline and progress indicators.

Changing IT is a major transition.  Most IT providers have at least a two-week timeline to get a new client on boarded.  If they tell you they can move faster than that, I would be concerned about the quality of support you will receive and that they took enough time to document your current network state.  A small amount of time documenting the network upfront and setting up key systems for support can save a lot of headaches and problems later.  If the new provider says they don’t do any of that, it should be a red flag.

Many business owners will want to plan a small overlap with the outgoing IT and the incoming IT.  This typically allows the outgoing provider to continue to offer support while the incoming provider goes through their on-boarding process and documents the network.

Once on-boarding is completed, there should be a formal transition to normal support.  Just before this happens, make all parties aware of the change.  Hold a meeting with all users that will need support.  Train them on how to submit a ticket, numbers to call, and best ways to get in touch when they need help.  This will empower them to use the new service to the fullest.

Doing these items in advance helps to prevent a gap in service during the transition, and to make sure users know how to get help.  If done properly this process should allow an easy transition from one provider to another without issue.

Knowledge Loss

Knowledge is power.  Especially in IT Support.  Frequently business owners think that their network is special and complex.  While every network is a little different, the key components of how it works remain the same across most networks.  A windows machine is still a windows machine.  Firewall rules are still firewall rules.

At the same time, it’s important to recognize how much information is probably in your IT guys head.  How do you get that information out of his head and in a format that the next provider can pick up and quickly be moving forward?  Documentation is key in our opinion.

A good process for documenting a client’s network at the onset saves a million problems and hassles later.  Complete documentation during the on-boarding process.  Preferably, with some overlap between support teams if possible.  This will lead to a smooth transition and minimal knowledge loss.

Discuss Specific Concerns

Lastly, take the time to discuss any specific concerns you have about the transition with your new provider and ask them for a plan to overcome them.  Do you have multiple offices?  Tricky applications that need supported?  Custom reporting that needs managed?

Anything vital to your business that you feel is unique or needs addressed should be discussed.  They should make a plan for addressing each item and communicate it with you.  If you plan carefully, you can ensure a much easier transition to your new IT support.

The Costs

This client had a long list of problems that they wanted solved.  We may still help them, or it could be a long time before they’re ready to change.  Frequently, I see these objections and some others holding businesses back from making a change.

They continue to put up with that list of problems instead of getting them addressed.  It also means that they are continuing to incur the costs of slow response, downtime, lax security and more.  All of those items translate into lost productivity and missed opportunities.

Frequently businesses continue like this until a big “event” happens.  Their provider screws up so big that they can no longer ignore it.  Especially when piled on top of the long list of irritations they’ve been putting up with.  That’s usually when they call me back.  Unfortunately, those larger events frequently cost even more than all the lingering issues together.

The Payoff

The moral of the story is that there is never a wrong time to do a right thing.  If you know that you can’t get resolution to your problems with the current solution, it’s time to change.  Solving problems today saves you immediately.  It also will help contribute to saving you from a catastrophic event that could cost even more time and money.

Proper planning and the right partner will go a long way to smoothing out any transition bumps you’re worried about.  If you choose to move to i.t.NOW we can deliver a personalized transition plan that will ensure the very best experience.  Call us today to see how we can help.