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Where does your business find the IT expertise it needs?
Businesses that lack the staff IT expertise or time that a technology requires can outsource. A sea of techies will claim that their know-how is what you need; they'll certainly take your money.
Many businesses choose to outsource IT expertise and support to a professional partner, such as a:
- Network consultant, reseller, or systems integrator
- Service provider, Internet service provider, or managed services provider
Any of these partners may offer cloud-based services. And many of them will save you money.
Interviewing multiple candidates will help. The following are five strategies that Cisco small business customers have used to find the right IT partner, and results they got.
1. Require High Business Intelligence
Funneling your IT partner options through the business value screen will quickly give you a manageable pool.
Limit candidates to those who understand that their success depends on making your business better—more profitable, for example. Dismiss candidates who immediately try to sell you a specific product or service.
To bring value, a partner must understand your business—including its competition, challenges, and goals. Begin the conversation, then watch for open ears and good questions.
A medical clinic applied this strategy; the partner it selected dramatically reduced its operating expenses (OpEx)—in staff labor and communications costs.
A bakery chose a partner whose interviews with its employees produced a network solution that reduced the bakery's costs and helped it sell more. The bakery is now gearing up to franchise internationally.
2. Look for Extraordinary Expertise
Changes in IT at some point affect every business (including the business that ignores them).
Look for a partner who does live on the leading edge of technologies in your market. The partner's expertise can prevent your business from being the digital illiterate that suffers from inefficiency or missing market opportunities.
For an entertainment company, getting surprised by its partner was a good thing. "I never would've thought a phone could do this," said the owner. Its new technology raised revenues, increased productivity, and cut expenses.
Maybe you want a partner with expertise that can help you do business globally. A manufacturer chose a partner that could integrate and expand its international operations. The result: the manufacturer cut its travel costs by $5000 a day, and simultaneously elevated its customer service to a competitive advantage.
3. Evaluate Simplicity and Reliability
This may surprise you: The biggest cost of a network is the labor to operate it. Capital expenditures are only 28 percent of the total cost of ownership (TCO). Labor is 49 percent, and the other OpEx (bandwidth, service and maintenance, and energy) make up 23 percent.
Using IT partners' managed services or cloud solutions can reduce OpEx.
You can also lower labor costs by having an integrated network, which uses a single technology infrastructure for wireless and wired access, security, and management. A partner that provides the simplicity and reliability of integrated network solutions can save your business substantial time and money.
A small retail business that used this strategy saved its employees two to three hours of labor daily, and its savings on telecommunications costs paid for the new system in less than a year.
A medical manufacturer selected a partner that unified its voice and data communications on a common infrastructure that also provides high security for HIPAA compliance. The reliability and simplicity of the new system raised productivity, reduced customer churn, and created a competitive advantage.
4. Clarify Service and Support
Partners should offer you a range of network services and technical support:
- If you have IT staff able to perform most of the network technical support, you may want the partner to train them on the network's web-based management software to reduce the expenses of downtime and travel. The medical clinic that did this cut its tech support time by more 50 percent and expanded its operations without adding more IT staff.
- Cisco partners also offer an award-winning technical support service that provides anytime access to Cisco engineers and technical resources. Some also offer a range of onsite response options, including managed services. A swim school that chose the managed services option has found that the "step above and beyond" service it gets increases employee productivity, and costs much less than hiring IT staff.
5. Create a Fruitful Connection
Even in the technology business, it's who you know. Save time and money by allying yourself with an IT partner that is certified by a vendor you trust.
Cisco Certified Partners have met rigorous standards for networking competency, service and support, and most important of all, customer satisfaction. Often they can provide all the technology services you need, serving as the single contact.
A law firm entrusted its Cisco partner to integrate its voice and data networks. The result: quick and dramatic savings on phone expenses covered much of the cost of the new system; the firm also benefited from Cisco® financing.
Cisco partners often offer their customers Cisco financing. It lets you adopt new technology when your business needs it, while conserving cash flow.
Find a Cisco Certified Partner nearby that can help you implement the right network for your business.