In 2019, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told the Mobile World Congress (MWC) that “every company is now a software company.” Nadella believes that a company’s performance in a connected, digital world depends on their software setup. Software governs how well websites perform, how quickly companies respond to orders, whether or not a website only sells in-stock items, and much more.
The problem for SMBs is knowing where to start. With so many options available, it’s hard to choose the right software, the right hardware and the best cloud services provider. That’s especially true for SMBs without a tech person on hand. To overcome this obstacle, many businesses team up with an IT partner to help them get the tech they need now and in the future.
If you collaborate with an IT partner that specializes in IT infrastructure and processes, you can save yourself a world of hassle and, in many cases, deliver tangible savings to your bottom line. Here are nine reasons you should align your business with a resourceful IT partner.
Reasons your business needs an IT partner
1. IT strategy
Just as you have a success strategy, you also need an IT strategy for your business. An IT expert can help you map out a technology growth path that makes the most sense for your organization’s size, scale and functionality. They can also make you aware of many useful solutions that you might not otherwise have known existed.
A smart IT partner will help you develop a plan that also supports overall business operations. In other words, they’ll help you make sure your IT department supports overall business goals and align your IT budgets with corporate budgets.
2. Increased security
If you’re still not convinced that you need to develop an IT strategy, consider your network security. By developing a plan to protect your network, along with a strategy to keep it up to date with the latest security tactics, you will be proactive in protecting your organization. You’ll prove to clients that you’re serious about keeping data safe and private.
If you don’t plan for potential security breaches, it’ll cost you dearly later. According to Verizon’s most recent Data Breach Investigation Report, small businesses had 832 incidents from Nov. 2020 to Oct. 2021, with 130 showing confirmed data disclosure. Ransomware attacks were the largest problem; just under 80 percent of those surveyed experienced one. AI-based cyber security software Coro recorded an increase of 150 percent in attacks against SMBs in the last two years.
Preparation is the only way to avert or minimize disasters and ensure that business operations can continue. Protecting your business begins with understanding its vulnerabilities and safeguarding against the risks you face. If you work with an IT partner to prepare for the worst-case scenario, you can avoid business disruption, downtime and other issues. You’ll be secure in the knowledge that your systems will be available and reliable, no matter what disasters you encounter, thanks to your IT partner’s involvement. [Related article: Disaster Preparedness for Small Businesses]
About 60 percent of SMBS permanently close within six months of a data breach, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
3. The right hardware and software at the best prices
Your IT partner can help you scale your IT infrastructure up or down to meet your needs with far greater speed and less upfront hardware expense than if you tried to do it internally. Scalability is especially important when dealing with a growing business, since you can add servers and other infrastructure as needed without going out of pocket for new hardware.
>> Learn More: Why Scalability Is Crucial for Business Success
Because of their experience and connections, IT partners are often able to provide better hardware and software at a cheaper price than if you approached the vendors directly. This leaves you free to spend more money and time focusing on your core business.
An IT partner will make sure the installation of your new hardware and software is smooth. Getting experts to manage the whole process also ensures that it’ll be done right the first time.
And, if all goes to plan, they’ll be there to expand your system to cater to new employees as your company grows. While growth is great for business, it can create problems for novice IT staff. An expert, on the other hand, knows how to successfully scale with your growth and vigilantly protect your data repository.
4. The best cloud solution
Cloud computing gives you access to as much storage space as you want, as well as state-of-the-art computing power. There are lots of competing cloud services and it’s easy to become overwhelmed when choosing the right vendor.
An IT partner will help you select the vendors whose services offer you the storage and functionality you need at the most competitive price. They’ll handle implementation, too, which can minimize or eliminate potential disruption to critical business functions.
5. Tech that works together
One big breakthrough in recent years is that your business software and apps are now able to talk to each other with the right plug-in or a bit of coding. That means when you make a sale, you don’t have to input the details separately into your CRM, inventory software, POS system and accounting software.
When you work with an IT partner, you can cut back significantly on the number of repetitive, mundane tasks staff have to perform. It becomes much easier to see what’s happening across your business.
6. Better connectivity and website
Your software and apps are not the only things your IT partner can make speak to each other. An IT partner can also make your apps speak to your website.
For example, you can integrate your website with your accounting software so that it records each sale you make and then sends the invoice to your warehouse. Your warehouse team will get an alert letting them know there’s an order they need to fulfill and the invoice is there waiting for them to include with the parcel. The possibilities are endless.
A great website experience that knits in seamlessly with your business operations will keep customers happy and save staff lots of time that they can spend on doing something more productive.
7. Reduced downtime
According to ProjectionHub, the average turnover of an American SMB operating a D2C model with five members of staff is $5.4 million. Assuming a five-day working week for a business open 12 hours a day, the cost for every hour of downtime is $1,630 — that’s $19,565 a day. If you or an employee experience an unfamiliar problem, you might spend hours trying to figure out a problem while the overall costs continue to escalate. However, a trusted IT partner who has dealt with the same issue dozens of times can make a quick fix, and the cost of that solution would be a lot lower.
8. Opportunity cost advantages
If you’re not sure which apps are right for your business and you don’t yet know how to get them to communicate with each other, that information will take time for you to learn. Building an IT infrastructure for a business is complicated. Novices make mistakes that cost money, time and productivity. Then, once everything’s installed, you need to learn how to keep the system working and secure day after day.
Opportunity cost is the cost of choosing one action over another. So while it’s true that you will have to pay your IT partner for their services, that may cost less than learning everything from scratch and doing it yourself.
9. Cheaper than an in-house IT team
Another advantage of an IT partner is having their expertise at your fingertips 24/7. Why spend your day dealing with unexpected downtime, managing software upgrades, installing security patches, and maintaining hardware and software when an expert could do it for you? They understand how to best use your IT resources, so let them do it instead.
If you already have IT staff, they’ll perform better if they have the additional expertise and knowledge of the right outsourced partner to call on. This system is cheaper, too, than hiring another full-time IT employee. Your IT partner will be on call to handle IT emergencies that can happen outside of normal business hours. IT partner companies are staffed 24/7, giving you the support necessary to run your IT operations whenever you need.
As well as being there where you need them, your IT partner will ensure that you have newer, up-to-date hardware with managed antivirus and security services to mitigate cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
How to find the right IT partner for your business
Most successful companies don’t get where they are without forming beneficial business partnerships. In today’s technologically driven, on-demand world, a strong partnership with a managed service provider is essential for businesses. This is because every business, no matter the industry, relies on technology. Without such a partnership — especially if technology isn’t your company’s forte — you could be asking for trouble.
With an IT partner, not only do you have experts on call whenever you need them, but you also have the benefit of newer, up-to-date and cybersecure hardware. Having an IT partner also means that your employees are less likely to lose productivity due to technical issues or network downtime. Your customers will also be happier and more likely to do repeat business with you because they’re more likely to have a pleasant and successful experience with your website and their order.
The system an IT partner builds and/or maintains for you should be scalable and able to cut down on manual data entry tasks, automate workflows and present you with reliable and up-to-date data you can use to make better decisions.
Before you decide to take on or expand the IT portion of your business, consider finding a resourceful IT partner that can help drive you to success. The premise of IT management is to align technology with your business goals to create value and ensure the smartest, most efficient use of your technology assets.
How can you find the right partner for your business? Here are seven steps to follow.
1. Decide whether or not you want a local partner.
What happens if there’s a hardware, software or connectivity failure in your workplace and your IT partner is based in a different part of the country or even overseas?
If you want your partner to repair and install new IT equipment, it’s best to go local, even though that costs more than using a company based in another country, such as India.
2. Be clear about any changes you want to introduce.
If you want your IT partner to upgrade your tech, they can do that, but first you need to be clear about what you want.
The first people you should speak with about your tech stack are your co-workers. Find out what their current frustrations are and ask them what changes would make their work simpler. In many companies, employees drive new tech adoption because they can see inefficiencies better than managers can. On a broader scale, think about the types of complaints you get from customers and what your competitors do better than you.
When prospective IT partners come out to meet you, share with them where you are now and where you want to be. Ask them what hardware and software you need to get the outcome you want, how much it will cost, and how long it will take to implement.
3. Make a list of the types of regular help you need.
Regardless of whether you’re getting new tech in or not, what services do you want your IT partner to provide on an ongoing basis? Let them know whether or not you require 24-hour service and ask them to include that in their quote.
Many IT service partners will charge a monthly retainer for their services so ask them to be clear on which services are included and which are not.
4. Check their credentials.
You need to satisfy yourself that an IT partner can do the work you want. For business owners without a deep knowledge of IT and no existing IT team, this might be difficult. If that’s you, you may want to detail your needs to a freelance IT consultant first. They can help you put together a spec sheet to describe what you want to potential partners.
Then, when you get a quote, have the consultant check that it includes the coverage you want and that the prospective partner’s credentials and experience are up to scratch.
5. Check references.
Speak to other clients to learn about their experience of working with your prospective IT partners. Ask them to provide the names of companies whose needs closely match yours. Check for reviews online as well.
6. Ask for service-level guarantees.
As we’ve seen, downtime costs a lot of money and you need your IT partner to respond quickly. Insist on certain service-level guarantees, like the length of time it takes to respond to queries or come out to your premises, along with any warranties they offer on the hardware and software they provide to you.
7. Make your decision.
Although price is important, select the provider who you feel best understands what you want and who has the availability and responsiveness you require.
Additional reporting by Tiffany Bloomer.