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How easy is it to switch business IT support providers?

Business, Business Value

Light switch on white background with the text: 'How easy is it to switch IT providers?'

In theory it should be dead easy to switch business IT support providers. If both the winning and losing providers can be grown up and professional about it. In practice if this isn’t the case and the losing provider decide not to play ball, it can be a bit trickier.

Thankfully, the majority of businesses swallow any disappointment about losing a customer and show every bit of professionalism in transferring the relevant information across to the new provider. Hopefully they learn from the experience and you gain a new partner who can deliver better solutions for your business.

So how does switching business IT support work?

For whatever reason, you have decided that your existing provider is no longer meeting the needs of your business. Maybe they are failing to meet their SLA’s, maybe you feel you are getting bad advice, or maybe like some long term relationships, you’ve just outgrown each other and want different things. Now you’re looking to switch your business IT support providers.

In an ideal situation this is what would happen…

You choose a new provider and agree the terms of your new working partnership and your ideal timelines.

Unless there has been a falling out and breakdown in communication between you and your existing provider, it really is common courtesy to call them or arrange a meeting to let them know you intend to leave their services.

Other than being a nicer way to do business, it also gives you the opportunity to clarify the finer details such as contractual limitations and notice periods. Once you’ve got an agreement of timings, your new provider should handle all aspects of the transition moving forward.

Your new provider will then contact the existing provider to obtain access to all managed systems and relevant passwords. They will also use this opportunity to discuss any specific ways in which systems are set up and any third parties that are involved that the new provider will also need to contact.

From your point of view, you shouldn’t really need to be too involved and the transition should be a smooth one.

So what’s a typical timeline?

Obviously, businesses work differently, but this gives you a general overview of the process:

  1. Read your current IT provider contract.
  2. Research new IT Support providers.
  3. Read The IT Service Buyers Guide to get more information on what to look out for and what to ask.
  4. Meet with prospective providers.
  5. Decide on who you want to switch business IT support to and meet with them to discuss terms of your new working relationship.
  6. Inform existing provider that you no longer require their services.
  7. Agree timelines with both your existing and your new provider.
  8. Your new provider makes contact with your existing provider to gain access to systems, passwords and any other relevant information.
  9. Your new provider visits you for a meeting to help them understand your systems, any industry specific software and how you wish to work, policies etc.
  10. Your new provider takes over the management of your systems. Your old provider no longer has access but is normally still under contract for a period of time in case any information is needed.
  11. Exit meeting with old provider. This isn’t always required but it’s purpose is so that all management of your systems is formally moved across to the new provider.
  12. Your team would normally be shown how to log support calls and be provided with all the necessary contact information.
  13. Review meetings – you would normally have a series of these meetings in the first few weeks/months of the new relationship to discuss any issues that have arisen as well as future plans.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

We’ve worked through a number of IT Support provider switches and thankfully our experience is that the majority are good.

However it’s better to be prepared for one that doesn’t quite run as smoothly. Below we take a look at the possible scenarios that we like to call the good, the bad and the ugly.

1. The GOOD transition

Your current provider accepts notice from you and agrees to work with the new provider, giving them any information they need.

You hardly need to get involved as both providers work harmoniously together.

2. The BAD transition

Business is tough at times and a bad transition can often be the result of the existing provider being under pressure and stress which could be the very reason their service fell down in the first place. Their intentions could be good, it may simply be that they have been experiencing capacity or staffing issues which can make obtaining information tricky.

Possible issues

  • The losing provider isn’t easy to get hold of and are often ‘busy’ when the new provider attempts to make contact.
  • They are sometimes slow with responses. Not proactive.
  • They may ask for payment of additional services.

3. The UGLY transition

Sadly, there are providers out there that just don’t care enough about your business.

They were never going to be a good provider.

They promised the earth at the beginning and simply failed to deliver. When you finally decide to leave, expecting them to be professional throughout this process is futile but most definitely NOT a reason to avoid it.

Knowing what to expect will empower you through to the other side. Your new provider will do everything to support you through this process and overcome any obstacles along the way.

Possible issues

  • Refuse to share access information and passwords.
  • Provide incorrect information.
  • Avoid phone calls and emails.
  • Threaten to switch off services such as emails without notice.
  • Issue retrospective invoices that you weren’t aware of and essentially demand payment before releasing the required information.
  • Cancel orders with third parties such as phone lines etc
  • If the losing provider owns the rights to elements of your business such as your website domain etc they can effectively hold you to ransom if you can’t agree handover.

Things to consider when switching business IT support provider.

  • What are the terms of your current contract? Notice period 30 days, 3 months, 6 months etc. It’s important you refer back to your contract so you have the facts when embarking on this process.
  • Ensure you are up to date with all invoices from your current provider. Speak to your accounts team to clarify.
  • Have a clear idea of your timescale. This will depend on notice period but it’s good to be able to share with prospective providers to make sure you are on the same page to begin with.
  • What services does the current provider supply to you? Support contract, telephones, Office 365 licenses, lease line, back ups, network monitoring, leased hardware, anti virus?
  • Who owns and controls what? Domain, email subscription, website?

The key to switching business IT provider is to review and evaluate what has gone wrong with the current relationship. This will help you to be more open with any new providers when you discuss where you need to see improvements.

Starting off on the right foot is important to building a long lasting relationship.

With regards to the transition period, stay positive that the transfer will happen with little involvement from yourself but be aware of the difficulties you could face.

Make sure your new provider keeps you up to date at regular intervals so that you are aware of any issues. If they do arise, do what you can to liaise between the old and new provider as much as possible to help keep the lines of communication open.

Don’t lose sight of the end of the tunnel, it’ll be worth it in the end.

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