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How to find your ideal IT provider

Today on Design Under Influence we are discussing IT providers and how to find one that is a perfect fit for your architecture, design, or engineering firm.  

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Companies retain IT service providers to get the most out of the technology they already use as well as discover and implement new tech. Basically, you want the IT side taken care of, so you and your team can focus on doing your best work.  

If people on your leadership team are spending 10% or more of their time dealing with technology issues, that’s your first red flag.   

Issues can range from employees not being able to find files, hardware issues, software licensing and compatibility, outages, onboardings/offboarding, etc, etc, etc.

The way we see it, the core responsibilities of an effective business leader are:  

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

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

In some cases, firms simply outgrow their IT provider. The original IT partner just isn’t equipped to provide the scope of service and strategic advice at a price that makes sense for your firm today.    

In other cases, you may simply feel that your current IT provider doesn’t care. This may sound soft and squishy, but we find that many companies end up in a transactional relationship with their IT providers, as opposed to true partnerships.   

A true investment in IT can make technology your competitive advantage — freeing you to work on your business rather than in 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.  

It’s time to build a process around your IT infrastructure. 

A great IT partner understands both IT offense and defense.   

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 ecosystem.  

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 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 of 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. LocationUnderstand 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.  

Here at ArchIT, we solve IT for AEC firms so our customers can focus on doing their best work.  

Contact us today to start the conversation.