Having dedicated IT support is an important part of maintaining momentum in any growing business. As your business grows and adapts, you need applicable options and smart solutions for delivering the best performance possible to your customers, and an effective IT support program can make that happen. But, what happens when it’s time to renegotiate your service contract?
Depending on the length and breadth of the current services, when the time comes to renew, review, and approve their next IT service agreement, many businesses find it easier to just sign on the dotted line. The headaches that come from the jargon that typically accompany the IT service contract processes are bewildering to most and downright painful for others. So, rather than address the problems with the current service, most business owners find it much less stressful to simply agree to another year or two of substandard support.
However, settling won’t help your company expand into new territories. When it’s time to renegotiate your IT service contract, don’t be intimidated. These four negotiation tips can help you focus on the really important aspect involved: getting the best possible service in a value-added contract.
1. Prepare a Strategy
If you’ve noticed areas that need improvement, write down a list of needs and prepare to discuss how the provider will address those concerns. For example, do you find it difficult to actually reach a person for help desk answers? Is response time too lengthy? Have interruptions caused serious work problems and necessitated costly damage control? These are areas that need to be resolved before you renew your contract, so coming prepared to the negotiation table with dates, facts, and other information will help.
2. Demand Agility
Your new IT support contract must be tailored to meet current and anticipated needs, but what will happen when your new service or product goes viral? Look for an IT provider who is agile enough to change at the same rate, and in the same direction as your business. Why?
Firstly, you don’t want to pay for user and server requirements that you don’t need. And secondly, you need to have expansion options outlined before your business is in a position to use them. Has your support provider offered an IT roadmap or budget plan as part of the process? This can help to stop overspending, and keep any projects under budget and on time.
3. Consider New Vendors and Technologies
Technology is changing every day. Don’t assume that just because you’ve always done something one way that a better alternative hasn’t been developed. Cloud computing is more secure than ever before and offers exceptional cost savings on IT support services. For example, PBX, VoiP, or hybrid cloud solutions can allow you to take advantage of a leaner, more efficient workplace. Talk to your potential new vendor before signing a contract. Can they offer the variety of new technologies available?
Take as an example cloud services; whether you have already moved some of your IT systems into the cloud, or are still considering it, you should assess whether your IT partner is best placed to offer you the options you require. Are they tied to a single cloud solution, whether in-house or reselling a larger vendor’s products? In that case you might not be getting completely impartial advice as to which services are best for your business.
4. Understand the Fine Print
Most service agreements include disclaimers, but beware of providers who pepper their fine print with an overload of provisos. Do your research on the support provider by speaking to previous clients, if possible, and by discovering the scope of their capabilities. A company who has a positive history with industries the require advanced data protection (like investment and financial firms) exhibits strong performance capacity. Obviously, a breach of security is exactly what you don’t want to occur.
If the terminology of the fine print is too complicated, it’s worth hiring a legal professional to review the contract before you sign.
Service Level Agreements and Helpdesk statistics can make some impressive claims about response times, but bear in mind that it is “response” not “resolution” – no IT services provider can honestly guarantee to fix all possible problems within a short timeframe. Perhaps ask them for an example of a problem they couldn’t fix quickly, and what they did to resolve the issue in the end, the answer might be more revealing than ten examples of problems resolved swiftly.
Can you trust your IT partner to not exploit the data they have access to, e.g. stealing your valuable customer lists. Building strong relationships with the IT provider will help you identify how much transparency, and ongoing communication you can expect.
Create a clear outline of your expectations from the start. By shopping around for new support providers and getting quotes, and viewing case studies and performance records, you can renegotiate your IT support contract in a way that benefits your business and perpetuates its growth.