Does your IT Service Provider work for you or against you?

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Find a service provider that sees your business success as their own, it helps ensure they will do everything in their power to help you succeed.

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No business today can be a stand-alone. In one way or another, it will need to add value to ensure quality of service to its customers and hence seek to engage a service provider. Maintaining a secure, compliant, and highly effective service delivery quite challenging to some businesses. 

More often than not, services / products and solutions in the market seem to be of better quality than what is actually sold. Just after reviewing a demo of a solution or service, you and your team gets excited to purchase the product / service. However, it doesn’t take long before you realise the actual product/ service is somewhat different.  

There are a number of outsourced services/ solutions in the market, which may include; internet solutions, backup / Cloud solutions, API integrations, penetration testing and vulnerability assessment (cybersecurity) services, data management, leasing services, work paper management solution or even automation of the entire business functions to ensure that the core values of customer nimbleness and innovation are adhered to and offering of quality services and products to customers.

In this situation, companies often turn to finding a service provider who can handle the many tasks to advance their ICT infrastructure. But how is one pick which service provider to go with? 

In this article, I will help you to make an informed decision when choosing a reliable service provider. Let us look at a few of the main qualities you should consider:-

1. Contracts / Service Level Agreement (SLA)

Ensure that the service provider’s Service Level Agreements (SLAs) terms are favorable. In fact, it is important to share your service level requirements to the provider prior to issuing a final copy or consider having your legal team review the agreement prior to final sign-off.

When you are on-boarding a service provider, you obviously have expectations for the level of service they will provide. SLAs ensure that the provider you are working with is held accountable for maintaining a certain level of service and penalties will apply due to non-compliance. To ensure accountability, ask potential providers what happens if they are unable to meet the agreed-upon levels of performance and availability. At the very least, they should agree to offer you customer credits when they do not meet your agreed expectations. In the same SLA, ensure that a clause for “No vendor lock-in” is featured.

2. Expertise or experience in the market / understanding of business environment

The size of the organisation may not matter because some tech companies are virtual. However, seek to know the provider’s experience with similar companies. If you choose the wrong provider, you could be setting your company back for months. For this reason, it is always best practice to start by narrowing down the providers that already have experience in the market with organizations similar to yours. While they do not necessarily have to have experience with others in your industry, they should at least have experience with organizations similar to your own size.

3. Scalability

Do not assume that since the same service provider provides the same service to your competitors understands perfectly your company operations and your specific technological needs for how you would like your processes to be and make sure they are able to handle it.

Be sure to ask how they’ll handle scalability to ensure that you can efficiently grow your business without having to worry about your requests for new modules on the application or services letting you down.

4. Confirm stability

New service providers are popping up all the time with promises that you may not stand to miss. Therefore, as you try to on-board to a newer provider who most likely offers services at a subsidized cost ensure that they are a stable company as this might be a risk. When choosing a provider, it is best to stick with one that has a sustained reputation for reliability. Not only does this give you peace of mind that your business will be managed properly, but since their reputation is not at stake, it also ensures that they will do everything in their power to quickly handle any issues that occur along the way.

5. Support is key

Prompt response to your request is key and determines a strong support process from your preferred provider. Many service providers promise you about their ability to provide 24/7 support and 99.9% up-time at the time of sale of their product. However, what they often do not talk about is what they do to spot and take care of potential threats before they become an issue in the first place. Top tier providers understand that prevention is just as important, if not more, than successfully handling disasters when they happen. When talking to potential providers, ask them about their support process and find out if they focus just as much on prevention as they do the reaction.

6. Virtualization

As technology advances, one of the nice things to take into consideration is virtualization i.e. the abstraction between software and hardware. This means that you do not have to be tied down to one particular vendor. The virtual machines don't really care what hardware they run on (compatibility), so you're not tied down to a single vendor, type of server (within reason of course), or even platform. Virtualization also avails seamless transition from one service provider to another.

7.The service provider must See You as a Business Partner  

As you plan to sign that agreement with your preferred service provider, put this in mind-that the most successful service providers are those that consider you as a business partner and that the success of both of your organizations is tied together. Most service providers are focused solely on features, availability, and security. While this is all important, most of these traits are the same for every provider. When you find a service provider that sees your business success as their own, it helps ensure they will do everything in their power to help you succeed. Both business objectives should align.

8. Risk assessment and continuous monitoring

Organizations rely heavily on their third parties for improved profitability, faster time to market, competitive advantage, and decreased costs. However, third-party relationships come with multiple risks, including strategic, reputation, regulatory, information security, and financial risks. Penalties and reputational damage from non-compliance, supply chain disruptions, security breaches, and data thefts involving third parties are driving companies to continually improve their Third-Party Management. This part of the process requires deeper dives into areas of risk such as IT security, financial stability, corruption and bribery etc. This is accomplished through multiple activities including the use of in-depth questionnaires and reaching out to their current and former clients.

To ensure that all the above is adhered to; define your company policies and procedures for monitoring service providers through contract management that involves obtaining of all internal approvals. These policies and procedures at a minimum need to include the following:

  • Roles and responsibilities

  • Risk assessment process

  • Due diligence in selecting a service provider

  • Ongoing monitoring

  • Third party termination to avoid lock-in

  • Oversight and escalation


The cost of outsourcing is a relief to most companies. But you shouldn’t make the mistake of using it as a determining factor of choosing a service provider. Instead, think about the qualities defined above, do your market research and make your decision based on the provider that is best for your organization. 

 This article was originally published on here by Veronica Rose, a certified Information Systems Auditor and an Author.

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