How to find your ideal IT provider

Today we’re unpacking an especially interesting topic here on Design Under Influence — how to evaluate your future IT provider so that you can be sure to find the perfect match for your architecture and design firm.  

So how do you even know if you need a new IT provider, anyway?  

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The most common reason we see executives visit us here at ArchIT is that they are dealing with technology issues to the extent that the productivity of their business is slowing down.   

If you’re an executive spending 10% of your time dealing with technology issues, it’s time to consider a change in your IT provider.  

Issues can range from employees not being able to find files, faulty operating systems, or technology breakdowns that leave you shut out of normal processes.  

When you consider what 10% of your time costs your business — it’s very expensive.  

Every business executive should be focused on three things:  

  1. Culture & Talent  
  1. Processes & Systems  
  1. Sales and Marketing  

Notice what doesn’t make the list: dealing with technology.  

It’s time to build a process around your IT infrastructure. A true investment in IT can make technology your competitive advantage — freeing you to work in your business rather than on your business.  

You should not be involved in day-to-day IT operations. If your IT provider isn’t responsive and proactively working to solve IT problems before they arise, you might find yourself having to take on the workload.  

A great IT partner isn’t defensive, it’s offensive.  

In some cases, you simply outgrow your IT provider. What might have been working for a smaller version of your firm isn’t working anymore, as they’re just not equipped to provide the strategic advice you need to scale.  

Now that we’ve established some reasons that you might look to switch IT providers, let’s talk a little bit about the evaluation process itself.  

What should your architecture, engineering, or design firm be looking at in an IT partner?  

The first step is identifying a partner that specializes in architecture and design.  

This is important because you want a partner that understands the technological processes and tools related to your business. When your IT provider has comprehensive knowledge about your technology, they are better equipped to build infrastructure that works for you.  

Additionally, specialization allows for strategic guidance. A great IT partner doesn’t just solve issues as they arise, they recommend and implement new strategies for better streamlined operations.  

At the end of the day, you want a provider that is familiar with your community. This allows for easier communication and awesome referrals, allowing your business to participate in a larger architecture & design infrastructure.  

Your IT provider should:  

  • Know your Tech Stack  
  • Help you to optimize your Tech Stack  

When an IT firm works in your specific niche, they are highly familiar with the iterations and processes of your business. You then reap of the benefits of that knowledge to improve your technological processes.  

You should narrow down your list to two or three IT companies that operate in your niche, then get to work on requesting proposals.  

There are a couple things you should be looking for during the proposal stage:  

  • Is the prospective provider responsive and timely in returning the proposal? This is a great demonstration of company culture, showing you what it might be like to work with that provider in the future.  
  • Is the prospective provider asking questions about your business? Are they seeking to intimately understand your business processes? Your firm is a little different than others, and your IT provider should be working to understand your company culture.  

In short: does the prospective provider care?  

If you feel like it could be a good fit, the final step is asking for references. And when you get those references, make sure to actually talk with those folks and ask questions about their experience with the IT service.  

To cap off this discussion, let’s give you 5 key traits that every great provider will have:  

  1. Location: Understand where their support staff is located. Typically, U.S-based support teams are more equipped to deal with the level of experience required to function as a partner in your firm. You want the person that picks up the phone to know you and your company’s environment. 
  1. Response Time: IT providers should provide a response time in writing. For remote issues, it should be less than one hour. If you require on-site assistance, it should be less than four hours for urgent issues. Make sure to also discuss after-hours and weekends, which should have similar response times.  
  1. Technology Strategy: Will you have to pay extra for strategic advice? Or is it provided in the service offering? You want to make sure that strategic advice is a part of the offer, and request specific deliverables as part of your itemized, chronological IT roadmap.  
  1. Proactive Review Process: Is the IT company taking the time to intimately understand your business? You want your IT provider to have processes in place to regularly meet with you on a monthly or quarterly basis schedule to provide updates, statistics, and information.  
  1. Specialization: Does your IT provider service clients like you? Make sure to ask this question specifically, then request references to back it up.  

We hope that this information has been helpful for you in starting your search to find an ideal IT provider for your architecture, engineering or design firm.  

We’d be honored to be one of the companies you consider!   

Here at ArchIT, we empower architecture and design firms to make technology their competitive advantage.  

Contact us today to start the conversation, we’d love to demonstrate how our strategic IT plan can function as a partner in for your business!