You’ve made the decision that your firm needs a better IT service – or you could at least stand to investigate other options. Maybe you no longer have the time to solve your own IT problems, you’ve outgrown your current IT provider and your rising needs aren’t being met, or the service you were promised simply hasn’t been delivered.
Whatever your reasons, you’re ready to face the prospect of buying new IT. Now comes the hard part – how do you buy IT? And more importantly, how do you buy IT you won’t later regret?
Buying the wrong IT for your business could not only be a waste of time and effort but could cost your firm in less tangible but infinitely more integral ways such as major security breaches, erosion of organisational reputation and reduced staff productivity. Conversely, finding an IT service that partners with you can drive your business forward and increase productivity as you grow.
With dozens of IT service providers seeking their market share, how can you navigate through the promises and jargon to find a partner that’s a good fit for you, your business, and the direction your organisation is moving?
If you are unsure where or how to buy an IT service that will cover off everything your business needs, this guide will help you to gain clarity and beware of some unforeseen pitfalls as you grow into the future.
Get it right, or it can all go wrong
One of the first steps to buying IT is determining between outsourcing IT or hiring in-house staff. Your choice will depend on several factors, including your company’s size, budget and infrastructure support needs.
Whichever way you end up going, you want to make sure it’s right from the start. If it’s not, you’ll end up back where you started – underperforming IT, daily frustrations, and ongoing problems. Plus, you’ll have a big bill for your troubles. But beyond that, failing to buy the right IT for your firm’s needs can see you facing some even bigger problems, including
- Security/privacy breaches of sensitive data
- Low staff productivity, and high staff turnover
- Inability to match the service or offering of competitors
- Inability to utilise new or updated technology to improve efficiency
You want a proactive IT provider who will work to improve your entire system and IT experience, not just fix a problem. Reactive IT support (break and fix) is no longer enough: issues need to be identified and mitigated before IT downtime or failures disrupts your entire firm. For an internal team, this is often at least two people – but can you afford to have both or is it best to outsource to a supplier who already has both?
Preparing for finding your IT service match
Before even picking up the phone, your first integral step in buying IT is adequate preparation and research. Comprehensively assessing what isn’t working and what your specific needs are cannot be skimmed over if you want to get it right the first time.
- Know what you want (or what you don’t)
Develop an IT “wish list” to drill down into specifics about what and why your current systems aren’t working and the services you need to meet the gap. This shouldn’t be in tech speak, rather think of it in business terms (e.g. we would like to be able to digitally sign). This way you will be able to discuss your IT in a way that makes sense to you when you meet prospects.
To evaluate which tech initiatives will align with your business goals, industry demands and client expectations, you may want to consider:
- Software and applications required for everyday firm functions
- Flexibility, as the way we work (and where we work) continues to change
- Scalability, as your firm grows, and your needs expand
- Ask around
Don’t underestimate the experience of others. Who do you know either in the industry or personally that has dealt with IT services and what can you glean from their experiences? The Legal sector in my experience is more than happy to share, so I encourage you to get in touch with your business networks, whether that is your friend or someone you attended ALPMA with, and ask for specific recommendations: what did they like/ not like about the service? Which major applications have they used? What should you look out for, and how much should you pay for services?
You should also consult with each of the personnel that use your IT services: request their feedback on experiences with current services and ask them to list 5- 10 non-negotiables they would want/ expect in an IT provider.
- Let their website do the talking
Much can be gleaned from IT service providers websites prior to contacting them and you can weed out many contenders at this stage. Grab the list of provider recommendations you received from your networks and scan their websites for case studies or testimonials from previous clients, the demographic of their client base, their service offering, what Practice Management Systems they commonly work with, and the structure of their IT buying processes. Then head over to Google and check that their reviews match up with their online claims.
- Ask questions based on your needs
When discussing buying IT with a potential provider, you need to set the agenda. Sales teams will always give you the pitch, but you need to be sure they can deliver what your firm requires. Even if you don’t know much about IT, you’ve already determined what your firm needs. If that’s quick, extensive support, ask about their support desk and response times. If you’re concerned about security, ask them about hosted servers and offsite back up. If you experience a lot of lost files or hardware issues, ask how long it will take them to retrieve them or fix them. Look for their experience with law firms and law applications, and ask for specifics – any provider worth their salt should be able to provide the answers.
- Look for red flags
This can include poor customer service or communication skills: they don’t return calls quickly, can’t explain with clarity what inclusions are in their IT services, use difficult to understand jargon, or are impatient and don’t proactively listen. They may have limited legal firm experience and are unable to provide any specialist knowledge around Practice Management Software and platforms. It’s important to ensure your provider has the expertise to be able to deliver law-specific IT services. You’ll probably also want to avoid a company with limited service offerings, or those who excessively focus on tech solutions rather than identifying the suitability of your specific desired outcomes.
How to know you’re ready to buy
Each of these five steps takes time, effort and input from the wider team. But like any major purchase, buying IT needs plenty of research and consideration. Any amount of time you invest into IT research will not be wasted; especially if it is informed and targeted. Pursuing a project management approach, consulting with your networks and involving your whole organisation will help streamline efficiencies now, and future-proof your business for continued growth.
If you take the time to hone in on what you want and need, consult with a trusted network or advisor, carefully research and interview your candidates and check that they don’t have any glaring holes in their deliverability, you’ll find yourself in a pretty good position to buy IT. And, most importantly, avoid buyer’s remorse.
Finally, before signing on with your chosen supplier, make sure to:
- Clarify your expectations and outcomes and receive written confirmation of their understanding and agreement
- Read the fine print: verbally go over the contract line by line and double-check for red flags
- Ensure the service, support and price can scale (up or down) as you need it
While you might be more comfortable with the idea of internal IT support, the expertise and service outlined here is much easier to obtain through outsourcing, not least thanks to the wider specialised expertise and bigger support team at a lower cost. Innessco has been offering specialised outsourced IT services to boutique law firms for over 15 years, providing:
- Local time 24/7 Helpdesk support
- Onsite support visits
- Secure server hosting
- Simplified IT processes
- Services that ensure you get the most out of your practice management software
- Cost-effective and reliable IT that maximises productivity and minimises problems
If you’re unsure if outsourced IT is the right IT for your firm to buy, quickly evaluate your firms IT needs with Innessco’s free online tool. If you’d like further information, click here to contact Innessco.