Indepth: Managing an Outsourcing Relationship

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A strong relationship is the key to successPerhaps the most important advice to give when managing an outsourced IT provider is to be very clear about what you expect and want from them.

Think carefully about what aspects you want to outsource and then carefully seek a provider who can satisfy those requirements most effectively. Make sure there is a Service Level Agreement (SLA) which lays down the precise terms of what they can do for you.

SLA Contents

The SLA should have a schedule of what equipment is to be maintained and under what circumstances, together with the time scales you can expect by way of response. It should also have instructions for the processes you need to follow when using the provider. Always choose a company which has a process as it shows their professionalism. A company without one is effectively making it up as they go along and you should steer clear, even if it feels laborious.

You also have to be aware of your own responsibilities. There will be tasks which the IT support company needs you to undertake, for example, a backup on-site every day.

In addition, some current software only works on computers of a certain specification. We find this especially applies to antivirus software. Most companies stop supporting older versions at some point. You'll need to upgrade your equipment if this happens, otherwise your security could quickly be compromised.

Talk to your IT support company about a managed replacement programme for your equipment. A reputable provider will be glad to discuss this with you.

Regular meetings

Even if you don't need to use your maintenance often, your IT support provider should stay in touch with you. Regular healthchecks are a good way to do this as they can highlight what's needed to keep your equipment in top working order and highlight any issues in advance of them becoming a problem.

If you do use your maintenance regularly, you should schedule a frequent meeting to discuss the nature of the call-outs you've made and the level of service you've received. This ensures that both you and the provider know where you stand and can act quickly on any potential issues, benefiting you both.