One of the primary benefits of using Providers instead of in-house staff is costs. You do not need to hire or train staff to instantly gain access to new levels of expertise, temporary or long-term. Many Providers such as ISOutsource, offer monitored services to keep track of your systems, services, and risks, often mitigating them before significant issues arise. If issues do arise, most Providers have a litany of technical and cybersecurity expertise to address the issue. Many organizations leverage Providers as their primary IT team or to supplement current teams.
Provider relationships should be nurtured and managed. When Providers fail to deliver promised services, you and your organization could face significant risks. There is no guarantee that your provider will deliver contracted services. Contracts and SLAs are designed to create workflows and operations bound by legal promises; however, these agreements do not always support your business requirements. Additionally, human and technical failures occur too often; common service failures center around providers’ leadership and staff, communications, and deployed toolsets.
The best practice to ensure your Providers are there for you is to create a trusted relationship with concierge services. This engagement will support your business requirements; however, it takes time and commitment for both parties.
Additional Provider best practices include building relationships around these principles:
Center Services Around Your Business Requirements
Many organizations make the mistake of creating the Provider relationship and service commitment around technical needs; this model should focus on the business relationship with service commitments. It starts by establishing a basic business platform centered around your goals, mission, vision, and services. If the provider knows and understands what you are about, it should be able to create a program that works for you. Can your Provider answer, “What does our business need to be successful?”
Business and Technical Objectives
Work with your Provider to map all business requirements and processes to associated technical solutions. This mapping exercise aligns priorities and criticalities between business and technical systems. This sets the stage to create agreements for technical solutions focusing on business outcomes.
Be Transparent & Nurture the Relationship
Create a transparency-based relationship. Keep your provider informed of your changing business requirements and technical needs in advance. Likewise, Providers need to be transparent about risks, needs, budgets, and changes to offerings that impact your business. The way to nurture the relationships is to conduct periodic business and service level reviews that include past performance but also focus on the future. The business review should include metrics but focus on business requirements coupled with technical solutions.
Most Providers have established communication methods for submitting requests or outages; follow them. Circumventing the process often causes delays in service requests. If they fail to respond to your needs, bring it to their attention. If the Provider’s request process does not align with your requirements, ask them to change or find a Provider that aligns with your needs. Do not wait for the business review, have periodic conversations with your Provider’s account management team.
What Happens When the Provider Fails Meeting Your Business Requirements?
Be sure to contact the provider before missed business-impacting failures exasperate you. Contact the Provider’s account management team at the first sign of delivery degeneration or slippage. Start with the established feedback loop and escalate as appropriate. Most Providers care about clients and want to service them correctly. Document the interaction and response in case the relationship deteriorates and you need a cause to terminate the relationship. Check the fine print of your contract.
What Do Providers Cost?
It is difficult to provide a direct answer, every agreement is different. Most Providers have formulas that include the following variables.
- Business Requirements
- Services Required
- Time of Day/Week
- Response Levels
- Number Users
- Number of Facilities
- Local/Remote Service
- Contract Terms
It is important to create a flexible agreement with the Provider to account for business changes such as user and facility count, services required, and response times. For example, many organizations think they only need 8×5 coverage and later determine that their user base requires a 5 am-midnight coverage. Business requirements change, Provider contracts should account for that.
Common Struggles with Providers and How to Solve Them
Many of the struggles with your Provider stems from the lack of communication. For example, the original agreement allows for the Provider to respond to a Help Ticket or Request within 60 minutes. Many users expect instant responses leading to frustrations and trust issues. Ensure that your users know the Provider’s responding frequency.
Another struggle stems from the lack of periodic business needs. For example, changes to business requirements will be missed by the Provider if it does not periodically sit down with the organization and conduct a formal business review. Failure to address business needs breaks down the relationship and leads to potential loss of contract.
Providers are an excellent resource for expertise, overflow work, and completing commoditized IT activities. Establishing and maturing the relationship takes time and effort from all parties to ensure success.