Finding an IT Outsourcing provider that is right for your business can be a daunting task. You must be strategic when you begin searching to find the right provider to meet your needs and solve the challenges you are currently facing. Whether your internal IT team can’t keep up, or your current IT provider is not helping you plan, the IT solution you have in place is not measuring up to your business. If you’re experiencing such pains, it may be time to begin the IT outsourcing RFP process and replace your current solution.
We understand that this is a big step. The ability to leverage technology more productively is more critical to your business than ever before. You do not want to make a decision that will put your business at a disadvantage by not finding the right IT partner that will help you support your business strategy.
In this post, we are going to outline the key components of an IT Outsourcing RFP process that will help match you with an outsourced IT provider you can trust.
How to Compare IT Outsourcing Providers: The IT Outsourcing RFP Process
It can be difficult to accurately compare IT providers side by side if you do not ask the right questions. By sending out an RFP, you can make sure that you are asking the standard questions to vet the competence of the provider but also dive into the relevant information that is important to your business. Not all businesses have the same objectives, and not all Managed Service Providers (MSP) have the resources and expertise to support the initiatives and resolve the pain points unique to your business.
As you work through the RFP process, a mature MSP candidate will lead the business conversations and help you understand the ROI of your technology investment for your business today and in the future. The following sections outline the best-practices for a valuable search and successful selection of an IT outsourcing provider that fits your business.
#1: Clearly Establish Your Business Goals and Pain Points
The first step in a successful IT outsourcing RFP process is ensuring your key stakeholders are on board and clear about the business needs and initiatives the IT provider should be capable of supporting. This conversation should be rooted not just in the technical aspects of your IT, but the business problems you’re looking to resolve and the goals you are looking to support by investing in the process.
Gather Resources, Knowledge, and Pain Points
Your leadership team’s upfront investment in the discovery process sets the tone for your future collaboration and communication habits around technology in your business and with your IT provider.
Switching to another IT Outsourcing Company without being clear about the leadership team’s view for the future can result in wasted hours reviewing RFPs from potential partners whose services and business maturity are not aligned with your own.
Your key stakeholders should take an in-depth look at the solution your company has in place today and document what isn’t working for your business. A thorough review will help guide the conversations about what your ideal solution looks like, and what it can do for your company now and in the future. These parameters will help you brainstorm questions that will allow you to vet and score potential IT providers based on their compatibility with your business, not theirs.
Here are a few questions you can ask internally to start the discovery process, gather information, and determine how to score your options throughout the IT RFP process:
- What specific things have happened to make you want to make this change?
- Why are you doing this now?
- Have you outgrown your current provider and they are no longer a good fit for your business?
- What is your IT outsourcing budget?
- What are the primary complaints you hear from your employees and customers about your technology today?
- What do you like about your current IT solution that you want to make sure you continue to receive from your next provider?
- What elements of your business are most important to you? (fast support, security, business continuity, efficiency)
- What unique business elements does your IT provider need to take into consideration?
- What IT-related tasks are you spending time on internally that you feel you shouldn’t?
- What elements of your business are NOT getting attention because IT isn’t functioning properly?
- How do you want to look at IT’s role in your business? As a strategic business partner, or routine maintenance team? Neither expectation is wrong necessarily, but your vision for IT should be able to support the vision for your business.
- What is the decision-making process going to be? Are one or two people on your team going to be empowered to make this decision, or will this be a group decision?
Intentional, conversations are key before, during, and after the IT outsourcing RFP process. The effort put into discovery and planning will help your company’s leaders get a clear understanding of the core issues causing everyday business and IT pains. By dedicating the time and resources needed to run an effective RFP process, you can help set your organization up to find the right provider that will have a better understanding of your core business issues and the best path forward to meet your needs long term.
With this knowledge, you can more effectively filter out IT outsourcing providers who are not capable of meeting your needs. You’ll identify what to ask in order to have a clear view of what an ideal technology experience should be for your unique business, so you can select a partner capable of leveraging technology to help drive employee productivity and achieve your business initiatives.
#2: Identify the Differences Between Providers
It is next to impossible to get a true, apples-to-apples comparison of IT providers. This makes the process of identifying and being clear objectives even more critical to the IT outsourcing RFP process. Now that you’ve properly identified what you want to get out of the relationship with your next provider, you can evaluate the different responses to find the best fit solution for you.
IT outsourcing providers will have many similarities on the surface, but a valuable RFP can help highlight the many differences between service offerings so you have a clear picture of what each MSP will actually provide your business. There are MANY differences, but here are just a few:
- Size and Scale: Do they have the resources and expertise to manage not only you but their other clients as well?
- Pricing Methodology: Do they charge a flat fee per employee or by individual devices in your network?
- Out of Scope Items: What items are considered Out of Scope and will be billable?
- Account Management: Is your key contact going to be a commissionable salesperson, an entry-level technician, or a Fractional Chief Information Officer?
- Service Level Agreement for support: Do they have a response and resolution time guarantee for when issues do happen?
Know What You’re Willing to Spend & The ROI You Expect from Your IT Investment
Not all organizations have the same goals. But, if you have goals to grow or make changes to the way you do business, you need to select an IT solution that can scale with your company’s needs and support your efforts long-term. The lowest cost provider may be adequate for some, but for most midsize businesses, trying to cut corners brings them more frustration, disruptions, and ultimately costs them more down the road.
If your search for an IT Outsourcing Provider IS to find the lowest price, be clear and intentional about this within your RFP. If the goal of your RFP process is NOT to find the lowest price, you should consider the value the provider can bring to your business today and 24-36 months down the road.
For more information on how to determine the right IT budget for your business needs, read our blog, “What is the Cost of IT Outsourcing? How to Budget and How to Tell If You’re Paying Too Much.”
#3: Review & Select the Best-Fit IT Provider for YOU
For the IT RFP process to be efficient and effective, you should only submit requests to qualified vendors that can meet your non-negotiable expectations and have the resources to drive your business initiatives.
One of the biggest mistakes in an RFP process is sending the RFP to too many unqualified providers. This leads to many hours of wasted time entertaining vendors that can’t meet your needs, to begin with. Do a little research before sending out the RFP.
One way to do this is to ask your trusted partners for referrals. Another is by checking out their websites to understand the types of solutions they are recommending and the challenges they are solving. Also, look for testimonials or client recommendations. Are those testimonials talking about any of the pain points you are having? This is an effective way to get a feel for if you believe they would be a good fit for your organization.
Have Meaningful Conversations About Your Business and Goals
Another mistake many companies make in the process is only looking at written responses and not actually meeting and having conversations with the providers. An IT provider with the right level of business and operational maturity should engage in business-related conversations with your leadership team and key points of contact. Without the human element of communication and collaboration, expectations can get lost in translation. To select the best-fit IT outsourcing solution, your business leaders need to have meaningful conversations with your MSP candidates that are centered around your business, not just your technology.
It’s important that the IT outsourcing providers you’re seriously considering host a final face-to-face presentation. Whether that be in person, or via a video conference call, the human element of an engaging conversation is your most loyal ally in revealing issues you may not have picked up on by reading a PDF or talking over the phone. That way, the provider’s company can explain their solution based on your questions, and your team can ask additional questions not included in the RFP.
Start Your IT Outsourcing RFP Process
If you’re ready to begin searching for the best-fit IT provider for your business, download our Sample RFP to get started. You can also schedule a time to speak with an Aldridge representative to learn more about our IT Outsourcing and Managed Services.