How much of your work could be considered to be unplanned work?
This is a sneaky way of asking your IT provider how much fire fighting vs how much maintenance and project work they are doing in the business.
IT Incidents are one of critical silent costs in business today. Not only do you have to pay for the IT resource to solve the problem, you have associated downtime of workers or even company wide downtime.
If they are spending more than 50% of company resources on firefighting, we would be asking why. Depending on the size and complexity of your network, most of your IT spend should be going towards maintenance and projects, not incidents.
What percentage of your revenue is made up of hardware sales? How have you managed the transition to cloud revenue models?
Traditionally IT providers would make about 50% of their revenue in hardware. This revenue stream has been severely threatened as margins have gone down, and high margin server hardware has moved into the cloud.
The cloud revenue model is different. Instead of getting $30,000 of cash for a new server, you get $1k a month in cloud revenue. This means instead of getting all the money upfront, the provider now has to survive on a trickle of monthly revenue.
Providers need to transition to cloud services and cloud revenue models, but it isn't easy. Its a significant hit to cashflow that has put many providers out of business.
What is your policy on declaring conflicts of interests? Do you tell us if vendors are offering sales incentives that may have perceived influence on the products you sell us?
I've never seen so many incentives from vendors as I have seen in the IT industry. Usually in the form of cash or free, vendors incentivise sales to move old stock or meet aggressive sales targets.
When you get a proposal for any IT or telecommunications upgrade, you need to ask this one question. "are there any incentives, financial or otherwise, that are linked to this vendor or proposal?"
Sometimes the vendor doesn't matter all that much and sometimes it does. Depends heavily on the solution being offered. But if you are making a decision, you need to make sure you have the full picture of where everyone's interests lie.
How do you and your staff keep on top of the changing technology landscape? How many hours of professional development do you do a year? What professional associations are you part of?
Would you go to a doctor who got his medical degree in the 80's and hasn't done any professional development since?
Why wouldn't you expect the same out of your IT team. The pace of transformation in technology is mind blowing, so you need a company with a formal way of keeping on top of latest technology advancements.
Do you use any industry process or project methodologies in your business (ITIL, ITSM, PRINCE2, Agile, Waterfall, Lean)?
The problem of IT management is essentially solved. The question is, does your provider use the solutions already in existence or do they have their own ideas?
Using a a tried and proven approach can significantly increase the stability and predictability of service delivery.
If you had a critical failure of a product you use across most of your customers, how would you handle the incident?
The answer should sound like something out of an ITIL best practices bible, not "ugh, yeah we would fix it and stay up all night if we had to"
Example: "We would first log the problem in our ticketing system and link all the current incidents to that problem. We would inform our customers that we are working on the problem and keep customers up to date on a regular basis as to the status of the resolution. Once the problem was resolved, we would roll out the fix to all our customers. After the incident, we would have a meeting to assess why the problem happened and if there is anything we can do to prevent that type of issue from happening again."
Do you have a client that makes up more than 25% of your revenue? If so, what happens if you lose that client?
Delphi Automotive, the giant auto parts supplier, went bankrupt in 2005 despite generating $26 billion in annual revenue. A big reason: It served a few large customers who held so much sway that they could demand price cuts each passing year. (Delphi has since reorganized and went public last November.)
If you have a company like that, you don't want them to suddenly lose their 3 top engineers because they lost a big client. You need those engineers too!
Is there anything we have in our IT environment that isn't in your internal IT environment?
Eat your own dogfood is the mantra in IT services. If its not good enough for us, why would we sell it to a customer?
How do you store our passwords and ICT documentation? What happens if you get compromised?
Your IT people have the keys to your kingdom and if they are compromised, then its your business who is also compromised.
Its important to remember, it isn't just hackers on the internet you need to worry about, but more likely its rogue employees that will do the most damage.
Would you please send me the following information for my records?
- Insurance Certificate of Currency (Professional indemnity and public liability)
- This is self explanatory. You don't want to be responsible if they drop the ball.
- Our Network Documentation and passwords
- Without proper IT Documentation, your business may not be able to change to another provider without incurring significant cost and disruption.
- Our Business Continuity Plan
- How backups are created, tested, stored and secured. Also a step by step procedure on how to recover from downtime.
- Our latest security patching report
- All IT providers will use a RMM tool (remote management and monitoring tool) to manage updates and patches on your workstations. Many providers don't send these reports because customers don't see any value in them, but it's important that you make sure they are being done.
Why are you different from the competitors? Whats your value proposition?
Lets face it, almost all IT providers are the same. Most will answer the question four ways though;
- Business - We have a unique philosophy or business structure that guides everything we do.
- Quality - We are really good at technology. You won't find anyone better.
- Relationship - We have always looked after you and put your business first
- Price - you won't find this level of service from our competitors at this price point.
Do you have any key people in your business that do critical tasks no one else in the business can do? How do you document their knowledge?
This is more common that you think. There is a guru in the business that knows how to do everything in the business and the business grows to rely on that person always being there. One day that person leaves and the place is thrown into disarray as no one understands how to fix any of the problems they used to solve. We call this a Single Point of Failure.
Are the IT company's incentives aligned with your business goals?