IT consulting has grown in popularity among small to mid-sized businesses. When looking for outsourced IT services, there are many things you should consider before signing an agreement or contract.
More often than not, business owners fall prey to too many assumptions when discussing outsourcing IT services to a service provider. Packaged services don’t always include additional support, which is critical to your business’s network. It’s critical to have a service area agreement that covers everything required to manage, maintain and secure your network.
Here are a few functions you should consider when outsourcing IT services.
1. Compliance and Security
Several outsourced IT providers support security compliance through package bundles that offer multiple features and components. Some of these features should include firewall configuration, intrusion detection systems (IDS), intrusion prevention systems (IPS), demilitarized zones (DMZs), vulnerability patching, incident response and more. An IT service provider should offer these by default.
When outsourcing IT services, you should also have an idea of the level of security you need for your network with compliance and security requirements documentation. Make sure the IT service providers you are looking at can match the level of security you need to protect your business.
2. Service Integration
IT service integration is a major requirement for businesses to remain competitive. Standard Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) capabilities require integration and automation from the service provider in order to minimize errors and provide on-demand service delivery in a secure and effective method.
3. Incremental Outsourcing
Businesses can reduce risks associated with outsourcing by dividing the requirements into manageable projects. You can provide a set of deliverables to service providers to work with under a trial period. The work can be performed on-premises or remotely as necessary. This type of outsourced IT services can help your business prepare for complete managed services.
4. Service-Level Agreements
One of the most important considerations is the service level agreement (SLA). This is where the service provider outlines the details of your services. This should include end-to-end program management and deliverables to your business.
The service provider will take on the project from your business, deploy a small onsite or remote team to do the work and coordinate everything between you and the vendor. SLAs should include delivery dates, surveys to ensure the service meets the business standard, effectiveness of the work, timeframes for service requests and availability of services.
Growing businesses that take on new projects, hire more people, create new departments and have a need for a scalable IT infrastructure benefit from outsourced IT services. This is because IT service providers have experts in the field with the knowledge and experience to build an infrastructure custom-fit to the needs of your business.
While some managed service providers offer cheaper prices than others, you should value experience over all else. Outsourcing IT services to an expert that’s completed hundreds of projects successfully far outweighs the experience that in-house IT employees offer. You can extract the most value from a knowledgeable parter and gain peace of mind knowing projects will be completed right the first time.
Because established service providers are equipped with the latest tools and training available, you also don’t have to worry about training your IT staff.
7. IT Strategy vs. Emergency Support
Businesses with strategic IT initiatives need a service provider that acts as partner and develops the most efficient method for managing their IT services. Service providers who simply take orders or only offer emergency support may be effective for some businesses with basic needs.
However, those concerned with growing and evolving their organizations would benefit from a strategic partner willing to go the extra mile to help achieve their goals.
8. Governance of IT Services
When outsourcing IT services, it is important to establish an understanding with the service provider and develop a proper partnership and foundational governance framework. This framework sets the tone for accountability and creates a shared understanding for all involved in the agreement. A governance framework determines the specific decisions that support organizational principles and goals to keep everyone in sync.
Formal reporting is communicated through a standard set of reports and deliveries to your business from the service provider. Reports should be delivered daily, weekly, monthly, etc., based on the agreement. Informal report delivery will come through the individual relationships developed between the service provider and the high-level manager.
10. Configuration Management
Managing changes and new requirements is essential to the time and quality of an IT service. Depending on the scope and size of the project, CM plays an important role to ensure all changes are tracked and logged.
Typically, an end user submits a change request in a service or application. The service provider can then consolidate all the change requests and perform an analysis on how they impact the project schedule, level of effort and technical feasibility of the network. All events should be taken into account prior to completing the assessment. The project schedule will be updated and presented to you with a plan on how to execute your request.