Changing IT service provider with minimal disruption

By Vikki Durden, Head of Operations at UK IT Service

Businesses have felt the squeeze during the global coronavirus pandemic, with lockdowns and distancing measures wreaking havoc for business operations.

Before the restrictions, 44 percent of businesses named IT investment as a key priority for 2020. Now, many businesses are understandably hesitant to start spending.

However, investing in key technologies could help businesses navigate short-term financial hardships – making operations more efficient and cost-effective, and boosting profitability.

So, how can businesses begin evaluating their current IT environment and make the switch during trying times?


Evaluating providers

While there may be an overarching aim with switching IT providers – like cutting costs – getting the most beneficial overall service may mean striking a balance between providers and their services, including customer service standards, contract terms and price.

Weigh up the pros and cons of potential providers, including those currently managing the IT environment. While one vendor may offer a reduced rate, consider where their service may end up costing you elsewhere.

For example, if your current provider delivers impressive customer service standards, response times and flexible working hours but you are paying a premium, you may be able to continue your partnership in a different capacity.

In this case, it makes sense to switch the bulk of your project work to a more affordable provider but stick with the current vendor on an ad-hoc basis.

When unexpected issues arise out-of-hours, their flexible service and swift response times make them the perfect solution for tackling time-sensitive security issues and minimising disruption.


A fair assessment

The reliability and speed of keeping IT in-house convinces many businesses to pay a premium to employ an internal team – covering salaries, employee benefits and more.

However, for others, it is simply not financially viable to sustain an in-house IT team. IT demand is famously inconsistent and in slower periods, businesses are still required cover salaries.

Outsourcing IT projects gives SMEs the ability to scale resources as needed, so when a significant update or transformation project is in the pipeline, they suddenly have access to an entire team of IT Directors. When demand eases again, they can reallocate the budget elsewhere.

It doesn’t always have to be a case of choosing external providers over in-house employees, though. For many, the two can work in tandem to deliver speed and efficiency.

For example, in-house teams may be tasked with the daily management of the IT environment – keeping systems running smoothly and securely for employees – while additional or unexpected work is outsourced.

This minimises the disruption caused by unexpected cybersecurity threats or technical errors, which previously would have seen the business’ IT manager put their daily tasks on the back burner to fix.


An effortless transition

Research is key in a seamless switch to a new IT provider. Businesses should aim to partner with a vendor which shares their ambitions – not one which simply patches bugs when called upon, without going the extra mile.

Successful businesses always have one eye on the future, so key decisions on IT vendors should be made with future growth in mind.

There is a common misconception around outsourcing IT – that it is simply for fixing bugs or troubleshooting tasks. In reality, many IT providers are equipped to provide long-term support to SMEs, delivering innovative IT projects that provide a platform for genuine growth.

Outsourcing to a dedicated provider gives SMEs access to the knowledge and experience of a whole team of IT Directors, who can deliver complex, long-term tasks like building out their IT infrastructure, planning for future updates and integrations and assist with transformations like moving to a cloud-based model.

IT providers also make it their responsibility to stay on top of the latest online security threats and data regulations, keeping clients safe and complaint.

For SMEs, it means these projects, which often drain in-house resources, are outsourced to experts, freeing up employees to focus on their main responsibilities.


Making the change

Ensure a seamless transition by being clear on the terms of the partnership from the outset. Outline key contract terms like basic working hours and additional ad-hoc fees if needed, arrange points of contact and highlight any limitations or restrictions.

Businesses switching from an existing provider should initiate contact between the two parties. Organise a hand-over call in which the current provider can detail the state of the existing IT environment and pass on information for ongoing project work.

It is also important to create boundaries between the incoming external team and any in-house IT professionals. Dividing ownership and responsibilities for projects avoids inconsistency within tasks and possible disruption related to sign-off.

As with any transition, there will be minor hiccups along the way. Tackle these proactively by arranging regular calls with the new provider, to discuss the status of ongoing projects, upcoming work and timelines and addressing issues before they become costly problems.