Relationships are what business is all about. They make and break business deals every day. A key business relationship that is often taken for granted is the relationship you have with your IT integrator. From enterprise applications, to network hardware, to security assessments and beyond, IT integrators have a very deep tie-in with most businesses. It is a relationship that cannot be taken lightly or treated with indifference by management.
Being on the receiving end of IT integration services as well as having owned and worked for multiple IT integration firms, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. The following are the seven essentials — including some insider secrets that no one ever talks about — for finding and getting the most out of your IT integrator.
Putting out Feelers
The first step in establishing a good relationship with an IT integrator is to hook up with the right one in the first place. Finding the right fit at the beginning is not easy, but it is worth the effort. I have found that partnering with the wrong integrator can be a lot like marrying the wrong person — there is typically a lot invested and it is not easy to get out.
The sad fact is that any businessperson can start up an IT integration firm with minimal qualifications and minimal experience. All it takes is incorporating, getting a business license and setting up a few vendor partnerships and a distributor account. A few days and a few hundred dollars later, the integration firm is in business. In essence, though, a neat company name and glossy marketing slicks mean nothing — anybody can do it. What you need is a company run by people who care about your business and will do what it takes to prove themselves and create a long-term relationship.
The Seven Essentials
If you are in the market for an IT integrator’s products or services, here are the key factors to keep in mind to make sure you find the right fit:
1. Call them or meet with them to have a conversation sharing what your business does and what your business needs from an IT perspective. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen IT integrators (typically their salespeople) meet with potential clients, talk about the basics that they need, and end up misquoting products or underscoping services because there was a gross misunderstanding of the customer’s business. Some people are so hungry to gain a new client and make a sale that they overlook the very essence of why they exist: getting to know the customer and establishing a good rapport.
In your discussion with the integrator’s representatives, there should be a mutual dialog. They should listen more than they talk. Pay attention to the types of questions they are asking. Are they centered on selling you certain products, or are they more interested in learning about what your company does and needs? One of the best determinants of a good relationship can be revealed at this stage by your good old-fashioned gut instinct. We humans have that gut feeling for a reason and if the people you are meeting with come across as uninformed, cheesy, or just not your style, you are going to know it within a matter of minutes. Don’t ignore that feeling.
2. Tour their facilities. If the IT integration firm you are considering is a relatively small company, they may not have anything fancy. You might just meet them for lunch or at a coffee shop since they may have their employees working remotely — that’s not out of the ordinary. If it is a larger firm, take a look at the office environment. Is it relatively neat and professional? How’s the receptionist? Many managers still don’t get this, but the receptionist is often a direct reflection of the overall culture of the organization. Do they have a stocked warehouse? Does it appear to be relatively organized? Are the employees friendly? Are they even coherent?