You’ve been working with an IT support company, freelancer, or managed service provider for a while. You like them. They’re great people. Maybe you’ve known them for years and they’ve helped you out of more than one bind.
But lately, you’ve been feeling that things could be better. Your IT systems should be more in sync with your business. Your employees shouldn’t be dealing with nagging, unresolved problems. And your own, fairly new computer has been getting more sluggish by the day. Even on a good day when everything is working fine, you have a nagging gut feeling that the IT in your business isn’t great. You don’t even want to think about what might happen on a bad day when your server crashes or you get hit with a ransomware attack.
Do you think this is just the way it is? Is every business frustrated with IT?
If so, check out my Open Letter to Kelly Earnhardt Miller (and any executive settling for bad IT).
If not, then you know it doesn’t have to be this way. You’re just not sure how to make it better. You feel stuck with your IT company. You don't want to ruin a personal relationship. Or they have all the access to your network. You’re not sure how to switch to someone else without starting from scratch. You’re not alone.
We’ll look at a few reasons your IT support company might not be the best fit for you. These three steps will guide you if you’re not getting the best support from your IT support company.
Step 1: Give Your Current IT Support Company a Chance
Before you cut and run allow your current IT support company the opportunity to rectify the situation. Schedule a meeting with them. Have an open and honest conversation about your concerns. Be specific about experiences that left you uneasy about the state of your IT. This may set them up to deliver better support, or you may get confirmation that it’s time to make a change.
Either way, there are three possible reasons you’re not happy with your current IT support company.
1. You haven’t communicated your goals and expectations.
This isn’t your fault. But it might not be theirs either. Your relationship with your IT support company is a partnership. They must understand your business to offer the best solution. They should be asking questions about your business. But you should also be reaching out to tell them when plans or needs change. Communication is a two-way street. The good news is, this is a fixable problem.
Establish clear expectations and deliverables when you meet to discuss your concerns. Agree on problems that need solving and set timelines for delivering solutions. Any IT support company that’s a good fit for your business will accept this criticism. They will get things back on track. If you don’t see a resolution within the stated timeline, you’re probably dealing with one of the other two problems.
2. You are not a great fit with their capacity for service or expertise.
Has your business grown since you signed on with your IT support company? You may have gotten too large for them to support.
Has your business changed? Or, has your IT support company’s business changed? Your specific type of business may no longer be aligned with the type of business your IT support company best serves. Either of these things can happen over time or they could have been a problem from the start. Either way, it’s time to move on.
This may come to light in your meeting with them. If not, it will be clear when they’re unable to deliver on the results outlined in your meeting. Either way, a good IT support company should recognize this problem as well, and your separation should be amicable.
3. Your IT support company is not great.
I wish this one wasn’t on the list. But the fact is, there are bad IT companies out there. This will be obvious if they’re failing to meet their obligations and show no effort to improve the relationship. If this is the case – run. But not before following the next steps.
Step 2: Review Your Current Contract or Service Agreement
You’ve met with your current IT support company, tried to work it out, and established that you need to make a change. Now, determine if your contract dictates your timeline for switching to a new provider.
If you don’t have a contract with your current IT support company, skip to Step 3.
If you do have a contract – read it. You may even want to run it past your attorney. At Innovative, we've even reviewed contracts for some of our future clients to make sure they're not missing anything.
Confirm the following:
- When does the contract expire?
- What are the renewal terms?
- Is your current company in breach of any terms?
Contract Expiration and Renewal
The best time to start looking for a new IT support company is three to six months before your current contract ends.
This may seem like a long time. But depending on the number of people involved in your internal decision-making process you’ll spend about:
- 4-6 weeks researching other companies.
- 4-6 weeks meeting with your top one or two options.
- 1 month negotiating the terms of your new contract.
Your new IT support company may also need some overlap (2-4 weeks typically) with your current provider. Overlap time lets them work with your current IT support company to access:
- All your network devices.
- Documentation of critical passwords.
- Licenses and subscription applications.
Your current contract most likely requires you give a 30-day notice. Without notice, your contract may renew for a full year. This means you should finalize your new contract about six weeks before your current contract ends. This gives you both a two-week window between contract execution and your final 30 days with your current provider.
A Note About Timing of Your Notice
Every situation is different. The timing and logistics of switching IT companies depends on:
- The quality of the relationship with your current IT support company.
- The amount of information and access you (not your IT support company) has to your network.
- Your new IT support company’s ability to navigate this process on your behalf.
We’ll get to the part about how your new IT support company can make this transition smoother in Step 3. As far as your relationship with your current IT support company – a good relationship and amicable separation make this transition smoother. But the process will work out even if you sense there will be some tension with your current IT support company.
Who holds network information and access?
If you have access to all the passwords and information your new IT support company needs to access your network, you may be OK giving notice to your current company sooner.
If your current IT support company set up your network, they likely created passwords to critical applications that you don’t have. In this case, they hold the keys to your network and data. This is where the quality of the relationship comes into play.
If the separation is amicable you can likely give notice to end your contract at the same time your new company starts. Your old company will provide you and your new provider with all the information they need to take over the management of your network.
If you have a sense that the separation will be more hostile, you should plan to start your new IT support company’s contract before your old one ends. It is illegal for your IT support company to withhold passwords and network access from you or your new company. But IT companies have done it. More overlap time between the two companies ensures continuity of operations. It gives your new IT support company time to navigate the transition process on your behalf.
A Note About a Breach of Terms
In theory, you can get out of your contract if your current company is in breach of any of the terms. But this may require legal intervention and could take a while to resolve. Present your concerns to your IT support company. If they’re unable to resolve the issues or accommodate your requests they may be open to releasing you from the contract. This conversation should give you a sense of how difficult it might be to get out of your contract without an expensive legal battle. If they’re not willing to let you out of your contract, you must consult with your attorney to determine the next steps.
Step 3: Identify a New IT Support Company
You've done your due diligence to try and make things work with your current provider. You should have a clear picture of what you expect from your IT support company. You don’t need to know EXACTLY what services they’ll provide, that’s their job to figure out. You should know what success looks like though.
Once you’ve identified one or two possible candidates, it’s best to sit down for a face-to-face meeting.
Ask about their service model, contract requirements, and service level agreements. Make sure you understand the different types of IT support companies and managed service providers. Be sure you’re talking with companies that offer the right type of service and expertise to meet your needs. You may even want to visit their office, meet more of their staff, or talk to other businesses they support.
Don’t make the same mistakes twice. If you feel like your current IT support company is being less-than-cooperative in the transition process, ask your new company about both their onboarding AND offboarding processes. A good IT support company makes your transition away from their services just as smooth as your transition to their services.
Once you’ve identified a new company, agree on a start date, and get an understanding of their onboarding process. Make sure you understand and are agreeable to their contract.
Your new IT support company can make or break the smoothness of this transition as much as your old company. A good IT support company will take much of the burden of the transition off your shoulders. They’ve been through this a million times before and have most likely helped clients navigate some messy situations. The sooner you get them involved the sooner they can advise you and work with your former company on your behalf.
Final Thoughts on Switching IT Support Companies
Don’t make a bad situation worse. You don’t have to settle for bad IT. But don’t get an itchy trigger finger and go firing your current company without a plan and thoughtful timeline.
You want to work things out with your current provider if possible. But don’t let a fear of change be the only reason you stick with the wrong IT support company. Follow these steps and separate from your current IT support company amicably. You can always go back if the grass isn’t greener. But you’ll likely find that with the right partner you’ll sleep better knowing your IT systems are in order.