How to switch IT providers: A proven 3-stage process
Change can be tough. But as a business owner, you know that transitions and difficult decisions are part of the growth process. And that’s where you find yourself now. You’re seriously thinking about switching IT providers because doing so could unlock your business’s potential.
But the whole switch seems overwhelming. Where do you start? How do you go about it? What should you look for in a new provider? You have so many questions and feel stuck. Not to worry. The whole process can be broken down into three stages: recognizing the warning signs, finding a new provider, and making the transition. Here’s how to change service providers.
Stage 1: Recognize the warning signs of a lousy provider
Do you really have a problem with your IT? Is it really necessary to switch services providers? Look for these red flags with your current Managed Service Provider (MSP):
“Keep the lights on” mentality: If you feel like your provider does nothing more than keep the lights on or is simply taking your money, take this as a red flag. Telltale signs of this destructive mentality include slow response times, poor communication, and a lack of expertise and resources to resolve issues. Generally, if you feel like your business isn’t getting enough attention, you might want to switch IT support providers.
Low first-time fix rate: A high first-time fix rate means more efficiency, productivity, and lower operational costs. If you call your provider multiple times to fix the same problem or submit several support tickets for the same issue, your bottom line is paying the price. Start looking for a new provider.
Reactive support: Great IT providers are invisible. And when you have one, you’ll know it because you’ll rarely think about technology — it is out of sight, out of mind, running smoothly in the background. Hassle-free IT like this is a result of proactive support and preventative measures and maintenance. If your provider only responds to issues after they’ve occurred, you are not reaping the full benefits of having an effective IT provider.
Growth has flatlined: This red flag circles back to the first one on this list. Your IT provider should do far more than simply keep the lights on. Smooth IT and advanced technology should give your business a competitive advantage and serve as a launch pad for growth. If your provider isn’t offering advice to help you grow, you’re missing out on a key benefit that many MSPs offer.
Erratic budget: Does your budget fluctuate from month to month? Does it seem like you’re regularly slammed with a surprise bill? When you’re uncertain how much you’ll spend each month, frustration levels can rise fast — but it doesn’t have to be this way. Many MSPs offer a predictable, fixed monthly fee for their service.
Questionable security: Do you constantly see reminders to update your antivirus and operating systems? Are staff unaware of cyberthreats and how hackers infiltrate businesses? If you answered “yes” to either or both of these questions, your provider probably isn’t taking your business’s security seriously. A reputable IT provider will help protect your business with routine security updates, cybersecurity awareness training, a BCDR plan, and an incident response plan.
Lack of transparency: A good provider will talk straight with you. So if they’re reluctant to share documentation on your IT processes or how they manage your network, this is a big red flag because they could make leaving very difficult. If you’re in a situation like this, it’s better to switch IT providers sooner than later.
Stage 2: Find a new provider — 6 questions to ask potential new partners
Your first question shouldn’t be directed at potential providers, but rather yourself. In other words, you need to know what you want before you can find it. Which services do you need? Do you require help with compliance? Is it important that the provider can scale their support as you grow?
Once you’ve identified your needs, you should ask your potential providers the following questions:
1. What is your experience? This general question will evaluate potential providers’ competence, ability, and expertise, and should be followed up with the following:
2. How will you improve my business? This involves first telling providers about issues with your current MSP, the reasons you’re looking for a new one, and your business goals. Listen to how each potential provider would do things different than your present one and how they’d help you achieve your objectives.
3. What are your support response and resolution times? Do they offer 24/7 support? How quickly do they resolve tickets? A good IT provider should offer round-the-clock support and resolve your issues fast. However they answer this question, they should validate their words with guaranteed response times outlined in their contract and service level agreements.
4. What proactive measures do you take? This question helps you avoid providers who’d rather perform the bare minimum of maintenance than optimize your technology. So listen for the specific proactive measures they take. These should include routinely applying patches, regularly updating your technology, and consistently monitoring and maintaining your networks, systems, devices, and apps.
5. How will you protect my business from cyberthreats, disasters, and legal liabilities? Proactivity is more than just routine monitoring and maintenance. It should also include implementing cybersecurity precautions to protect your business, testing data backups, developing a BCDR plan, and ensuring your organization is in compliance with the latest industry regulations. An MSP that can implement these measures for your business will provide you with stability and help you avoid issues that could cause massive downtime, data loss, and fines.
6. What is your onboarding and offboarding process like? A good provider will have a process in place to create a smooth, headache-free transition. Part of this process means you should have minimum involvement so you can run your business with few disruptions. The new provider should also be transparent with their offboarding process — explaining exactly how it works and clarifying the terms. This prevents you from getting trapped in a bad contract.
Stage 3: Transition and switch service providers
The final stage of your information technology transition plan includes both offboarding with your old provider and onboarding with your new one. The below checklist and plan can help make the switch as seamless as possible:
Review your contract’s cancellation clause: This is important because it may include a required notice period. Regardless, notifying your current provider of the switch 90 days in advance gives them enough time to coordinate a smooth transition with your new provider.
Document all facets of your network: For your new provider to do a good job, they must be aware of all the technology your current provider has been managing for you. This includes:
Coordinate the transition: Agree on a time when your old and new IT provider can simultaneously offboard and onboard you. Ensure it’s outside of your normal working hours so that downtime is minimal. Your old provider needs to be responsible for:
Now that you know what to do for your offboarding process, it’s time to onboard. Here, you also need a plan. As mentioned, your new provider should already have a managed services onboarding process in place to make the transition easy. However, you should take the following actions with them or your internal staff:
Get an IT audit: From answering the questions in Stage 2, you already know what you’re looking for from an MSP. But that doesn’t mean your new provider shouldn’t audit your IT. By doing so, they could identify some critical problems and make recommendations to save you money. An audit will also enable them to accurately price their service and help you uncover issues you may want to add to your transition services agreement checklist.
Set expectations: While the audit is being conducted, take some time to get on the same page with your new provider. Tell them your expectations for response times, downtime, goals, timeline for the onboarding process, etc. Get specific. If you expect your help desk calls to be returned in 10 minutes, let them know. The same goes for downtime. How much do you anticipate in your first six months? Talk with your provider about this so you can identify common goals to put in your service level agreements.
Also, don’t forget to mention the technology problems you’d like addressed. If your new provider understands your needs, they’ll be much more likely to fulfill them.
Communicate with your staff: Don’t leave your employees in the dark. Tell them who the new provider is, why you’ve made the switch, and how their daily work life will be affected. Also, get their feedback on your current IT environment. What do they think can be improved? What technology frustrations do they have?
The goal is to involve your employees in the transition process. Have them test new equipment, share their thoughts, and let them feel heard. If you do that, they’ll buy into the provider switch, which will help encourage a smooth transition process for your entire company.
Lastly, set your staff’s expectations, too. Explain the process for contacting the new provider for service and support. Tell them the agreed-upon response times and what they can expect from the new IT provider.
Are you ready to make the switch?
If you’ve read this far, you probably now realize that you need a new IT provider. You also see that getting one is not as scary as it seems. There is a proven IT transition plan process. Follow the stages above and take it one step at a time.
Just imagine how much better your life will be with a new provider! You’ll have faster technology, less downtime and IT frustrations, and more focus. Best of all, technology will no longer be a problem for your organization, but instead a unique advantage that promotes business growth. So what are you waiting for? Implement your IT transition plan today.
If you’re looking for a new provider, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’re here to listen, understand your unique situation, and share how we can help. Contact us today.