Why IT Service Provider Relationships Break Down


It’s fair to say that most of us take IT for granted.

When you power up your work PC, check your emails on your phone, or retrieve a quote from a cloud-based CRM system, it’s now the norm for systems and data to be immediately at our disposal. In fact, many businesses rely on this being the case to deliver their core functions.

So, why does it sometimes go wrong?

Often, it’s because of breakdowns between companies and their IT service providers. Like any relationship, you have to make sure the two parties work well together – and it’s not always something you get right first time.

Here, we’ll explore why IT managed service provider relationships sometimes breakdown, look into some of the costs involved when they do – and help you make sure you’re well matched with a provider from the outset.

What’s the cost of breakdowns in working relationships?

Generally speaking, when something goes wrong with your IT service provider, the result is ‘downtime’.

Downtime is any period of time when you can’t access some or all of the IT services you need to keep your business running. Downtime doesn’t necessarily mean a PC that won’t power up – instead, it might mean that your customers can’t use your payment portal, your teams can’t access your accounts tools, or simply that your internet connection drops for a period of time.

For many companies, IT is such an integral part of their business that losing this kind of functionality is unthinkable. When UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s lost their payment processing capabilities in 2016, the financial impact ran into millions – likewise when Amazon went offline for a mere 20 minutes – costing the online giant over £3 million.

Now, it’s unlikely that you’re going to suffer losses of this magnitude if your site goes offline – but industry studies have shown that even smaller businesses could lose upwards of £10,000 for every hour lost.

What kind of problems can you run into?

It’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to stop all IT issues occurring – but a good IT service provider like Sphere IT in London is likely to be able to guarantee that you spend at least 99% of your working time with operation systems.

The trouble is, not all providers are created equal – and problems can occur if you’re working with a team that’s not a good fit for your business.

A breakdown in communication

It’s fair to say that IT comes with a language all of its own. While being able to compare and contrast MPLS providers or configure an SD-WAN network overlay is something that would draw a blank from the average person – this kind of talk is par for the course with IT teams.

While this kind of technical jargon is fine behind the scenes, most managed IT providers will need to have a customer-friendly lexicon too – after all, you’re employing their services because this kind of technical knowledge is beyond most of our capabilities.

When there’s a clash of understandings, problems can occur. This makes it absolutely vital to have an IT partner onside that’ll be able to take your layperson’s terms and translate those into IT solutions. If you don’t, you’ll find misunderstandings are likely to impact the way you use your most mission critical systems. Sure, this are things that can be put right – but why waste the time?

Service level misunderstandings

When you work with a managed service provider, your relationship should be outlined by a service level agreement – or SLA for short.

Your SLA details what you’ll pay – and what you’ll receive in return. Problems can often occur when these agreements aren’t tailored to your company perfect – or, worse still, left as verbal agreements.

Generally, a managed service provider will offer a maintenance and support contract – meaning any additions or modifications to your applications or systems is something to be paid for additional to a normal monthly cost. If your way of working together isn’t clearly defined, this can lead to unexpected additional costs – or, if you’re not willing to pay for something you think you’re already entitled to – standoffs that can impact your mission critical services.

Don’t leave your agreement to chance. Make sure it’s clearly defined and talk through some worst case scenarios to make sure you’ve got the cover you expect.

No scope for growth

As your business grows, your reliance on IT systems is likely to grow too. As a result, the more embedded an IT provider becomes in your business, the more you’re likely to rely on them to keep you driving your business forward.

The problem is, not all IT service providers can keep up – and when they can’t, you’re faced with the daunting prospect of establishing a new relationship – or carrying on, risking your uptime with a company that might not be able to provide the level of assurances you need.

When you establish your business and bring an IT team onboard, you need to talk about your most wild daydream predictions for where the company could go. We’re talking multi-million-pound turnovers, big staff numbers, sophisticated automated systems – and so on.

You might not expect this kind of growth for some time – but if you find yourself accelerating quickly, you need to be absolutely certain your provider can keep up.

Reactive support only

As your business grows, proactive support is absolutely key to making sure you keep your business IT stays working as intended.

Even if your mission critical applications and systems don’t need to run through the night, it’s useful to have an IT team that can make sure they’re aware of any problems before they impact your business.

Many managed service providers have 24-hour systems monitoring provisions – but if they rely on being entirely reactive, it can derail your operations for hours – and sometimes even days on end. Even if a system monitoring tool gives you a few hours advantage, with such a huge amount of money associated with downtime, it’s being reactive only can cost you dearly.