I love watching a good action movie. The surprises and twists keep me going. (Plus, I like popcorn drenched in salty butter.) When it comes to IT, though, surprises are never, ever a good thing.
At 3Points, onboarding clients dramatically reduces the pain we all feel when things don’t go as planned. It even makes the work more enjoyable (dare I say “fun”?). Onboarding means everyone knows what to expect when the sticky notes hit the fan.
Since I’m the guy who oftentimes picks up those sticky notes, I can say firsthand that onboarding your IT firm eliminates a lot of back and forth questions down the road. Setting aside an hour or so to lay out every possible scenario saves many headaches and heartaches.
Even if you have a long-standing relationship with an IT firm, you can still adopt these best practices for onboarding an IT company. It’s never too late shore up a good working relationship through communication.
Here are five action items for epic onboarding with an IT firm.
1. Square One: The Basics
When we sign on a new client, the first thing we have is an onboarding meeting at the client location. We sit with the main contact and cover basic expectations and processes. Start here.
– What are my service options?
– When is the help desk available?
– What is the process for opening and closing a case (an issue or project)?
– When is a case classified as standard, urgent or emergency?
– Define your maintenance windows. For example: What’s the best time to install or reboot servers – weekday from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. or on Saturday?
– Discuss the process for regularly scheduled onsite visits. Are you going to give your IT firm a “honey do” list or is there a standard checklist they should follow?
– Who does your IT firm contact after hours and what triggers a call?
2. Ask What-if Questions and Document the Answers.
Onboarding is a departure from traditional IT protocol where knowledge has long been held close to the vest. That’s the old way of thinking. Today, successful small businesses are more fully understanding their network, options and technology roadmap.
When onboarding, explore scenarios you may run into. What do these look like and how will they be handled? When an issue arises, both sides are looking for answers. And guess what? The answers will be there when you address the what-ifs upfront.
3. Talk About Administrative Details
Invoicing should NEVER be a surprise to anyone. Here are some housekeeping points to address during the onboarding process:
– How you will pay for monthly services and potential overages?
– Will you use check, bank debit or credit card?
– What constitutes an overage?
– Who in your company is qualified to order big-ticket items?
– When is the invoice due?
– What is the firm’s policy for putting an account on warning or on hold for nonpayment?
– Is it hourly billing or project billing?
– Will you be given detailed timesheets?
– Are services billed each month or for each timesheet?
4. Plan a Start-up Project to Get Things Going
At 3Points, onboarding gives way to an initial maintenance project that stabilizes the network. Bonus: This gives a client knowledge about their network and empowers them to grow their business with technology. Example projects include: a Microsoft Office 365 migration, a new server or server consolidation, or a network upgrade. Give your IT firm a day or two for transitional services.
Make sure you know what the closing of a project looks like. When we complete a project, for example, we have a final call to make sure that our client is satisfied. They then sign a certificate of completion. We also give a warranty period of 30 days for every project.
5. Know What Donut Your Account Manager Likes Best
OK, just kidding. The point is: Know who is going to be standing there to take the lead once the epic onboarding process and maintenance project are complete. In truth, onboarding continues long after the honeymoon. At 3Points, we continuously educate clients about new technologies, end-of-life announcements on technology, and checklists of potential replacement dates based on user needs and operational goals.
Let’s face it, sudden twists and turns happen. And while these may be appealing in books and movies, forgo the surprises through epic onboarding when engaging your IT company.
The ending will almost always be a happier one.
Jon Pisani is the sales engineering manager at 3Points where he manages maintenance agreements and contracts with vendors, leads audits for new business sales, and manages the 3Points Tech Team. Email Jon at email@example.com.