Earlier this summer, LightEdge hosted our 2nd annual Technology Summit, where one of the keynote speakers was USA Solheim Cup Captain Juli Inkster, who spoke to the importance of team building and organizing individual competitors to operate as a team. The message was clear: despite different styles, strategies and personalities, team members focused on how to leverage their individual strengths (while mitigating their weaknesses) in pursuit of a common goal give themselves the best chance to succeed. And the proof was in the pudding, as Team USA won the 2017 Solheim Cup versus Team Europe in August.

The same concepts that apply to team building in golf and sports can also be applied to the business world, particularly IT. Just like the best players will inevitably fail without team chemistry, you can have the best product, the most reputable customer service and the most talented staff—but if your IT services don’t work in tandem with those, nothing works. You can’t communicate. You can’t sell your product or service.

That’s why your relationship with your IT provider is crucial. When you look to your IT provider, you should be able to look at them as a partner focused on a common goal—not just as a sales person with a service to sell. In fact, according to the 2016 Strategic Partner Index Survey produced by the CIO Executive Council and IDC, “IT buyers and vendors need to forge relationships of trust and collaboration. Failure to partner puts both groups in peril.”

The survey also showed that seven out of 10 (71 percent) IT leaders state they spend up to half of their total budget on external service providers. With so much of the budget dedicated to external providers, a good relationship with them is imperative. Sounds easy in theory, right? Yet you’d be amazed at how many times a vendor relationship can be purely transactional, and that’s when the business suffers. Here are some characteristics and practices you should look for in an IT provider to help build and maintain a healthy, productive relationship that will keep your out of the rough.

Responsiveness, Flexibility and Proximity

A strong partnership with your IT provider should be built on responsiveness, flexibility and local presence. You want an IT service provider to be actively engaged and act as a strategic advisor—not just one who shows up when the bill is due or to troubleshoot a problem.

It’s important to let your IT provider become familiar with your entire staff, too, instead of just assigning one or two people at your organization to work with them. This will not only help your IT provider understand how your organization works, but it will ensure the relationship is not tied to a single point of contact and your IT provider will be able to effectively take care of your needs in real time, as they evolve.

Likewise, an IT provider is a teammate who ensures the client is not just partnering with a sales rep, but with the entire company and team—from the CEO on down.

Collaboration

At LightEdge, we have found that clients aren’t seeking a product; they’re seeking a solution. A good partner will collaborate with them and find a solution that’s comprehensive and tailored to their needs. This should be an expectation for your IT provider. For a productive partnership, there should always be collaboration—not merely dictation—to ensure your organization’s goals are met.

Proactive Communication

Communication is very important to a successful relationship with your IT provider. When you enter into an agreement with an IT provider, define how you will communicate with them—how often and with whom. And, be sure you’ve established how feedback will be given and responded to. How often you regularly communicate with your IT provider should be based on your business needs. Maybe it’s a weekly status meeting, maybe it’s monthly with increased frequency around special projects. Decide what’s needed and stick with it. This open communication will help you avoid any miscommunication and prevent potential frustrations from building. If you’ve already entered into an agreement with an IT provider and regular communication is not part of your arrangement with them, now is the time to call a meeting with them and establish communication procedures.

Knowledge

Another facet of a healthy relationship with your IT provider is that they have a deep understanding of the evolution and direction of technology and can pair that with your goals. With your input, they should be able to create a robust and viable business model that isn’t distracted by “flavor of the month” concepts. At Light Edge, we produce outcomes from our client relationships, not products. We work with our customers’ interests as top priority to strategically define the scope of their issues and to responsibly implement a solution that best serves their current needs and prepares them for the future.

By following these practices and looking for these characteristics in an IT provider, you should be able to forge a healthy, productive relationship and construct a winning strategy. Contact LightEdge today if you want to learn more about what goes into a successful IT game plan.