Finding a good partner in today's world of bring-your-own-device, cloud computing, social network, rampant cyber insecurity, and governance concerns might seem a daunting task. That's because it is, plain and simple.
But selecting the best-suited solution provider is the best way to augment your (no doubt) over-burdened internal IT staff to work on deadline tasks, finding a team with complementary talents, or gaining access to skills you don't have in-house.
In many cases, IT departments took a big hit in early 2009 and have seen little growth since. Tightened budgets and limited IT purchasing dollars greatly reduced the need for internal technology resources.
Now funding is loosening and companies are hiring again, when they can find the right people for the jobs. As you begin your quest for well-qualified service providers, here are some guidelines for finding the right company to support your needs, now and in the future.
Vertical market expertise
Understanding the needs of your users, your company's governance issues, its known integration hurdles, and hardware requirements is as much about having already made crucial mistakes (hopefully at the test bench) as it is about general experience in integration. Different business models and units (sales, manufacturing, just-in-time, RFID, and cloud, for example) require different levels of partner and certification commitment. Having a partner that predicts your needs, wants, and requirements is much more likely if you locate and leverage an organization that understands your minimum working requirement because it knows your industry based on prior experience.
BYOD is a current example of a technology path that is pressing and present in the support and integration market. A prospective partner that gives you the thousand-yard stare when you inquire as to referenceable BYOD adoption is not the right partner for your immediate and long-term needs. After all, BYOD is something most -- if not all -- midsized enterprises are considering today; no doubt it will be on your company's radar sooner rather than later.
At least 80 percent of all support calls are resolved with one of three questions: Is the failing device actually turned on; does your login give you rights to the resources you need to execute the program; and are you using the right password or does it need to be reset? It's only in the other 20 percent or so where you'll find challenges.
Continuity of support relies on retained knowledge about very specific processes and architecture. If you're handing over employee support to a partner, make sure its best-practices and procedures match your own company's policies.
When interviewing prospective partners' current clients, ask: “Do they pass along needed information and user training as a regular course of support?” If your company adopts a new process or application, the end-user training should change each time. Users empowered with enough knowledge to use the tools at their disposal are easier to support and, in fact, need less tech support.
Innovation and successes
It's important to find a partner who has a track record of innovation, one who invests in learning and implementing the adoption of new processes and software. Ask the potential partner: “What is your most recent and greatest efficiency gain for the end users you support?” The answers can be most revealing.
No solution provider/integrator stands alone, and it's important that your partner demonstrates its technical prowess through vendor certifications, ongoing education, governance compliance certification, and other measurable forms. Select a partner that has an unbroken string of partner support resources. These vendor or industry partners should be relevant to your organization, and certifications should be verifiable.
Your integration partner should be a strong ally as you harness the power of technology to enhance business processes to become more competitive, more agile, and more profitable.
Finding success and victory in digital efficiency is about working with a knowledgeable and professional IT partner every time.
— Michael Starnes is CEO of Orlando-based Starnes Consulting.