6 Questions to Ask When Selecting a Technology Partner for Your Business

Finding Your AI Advantage: A Guide to Selecting the Right Small Business Technology Partner

Nearly every business solution leverages some form of artificial intelligence. Many times, with the best tools, the native functionality means you don’t even know you’re using AI. The software edits grammar errors while you reply to customers and phone systems display customer data on your screen before you pick up the line.

Yet, each of these systems requires secure, scalable network infrastructure. Indeed, as your company realizes the benefits of AI, from increased productivity to enhanced customer experiences, your architecture must adjust to meet your AI demands.

Having the right technology partner by your side can help you embrace AI today and in the future. Explore the qualities a top-notch provider and tech partner should have and how these can benefit your small business.

AI Experience and Guidance

You need professional support to understand how AI affects your technology needs. Unfortunately, many small businesses are being bombarded with solutions from companies that have only recently started using AI themselves. The technology partner you choose should be experienced in a variety of business technologies including Internet, Cloud and more, AI implementation and integration, and the abilityy to discuss the impact of these tools specific to your needs and current tech usage.

More importantly, they should give you real-life examples of how these products can solve business problems and help your company achieve goals. By supplying these insights, technology partners provide the information you need to make informed buying decisions. This data helps you see the big picture and understand how the foundation you build today can support the AI-enabled future of tomorrow.

Range of Technology Options

Although you can easily piecemeal together phone, video, internet, and related solutions through multiple providers, it’s not the best approach. First, it can make vendor payments unnecessarily time-consuming. Next, when something goes wrong, it can feel like every support team tells you that it’s the other provider’s fault, and you end up playing phone tag instead of resolving your issue. Lastly, can be challenging to get these systems to all play nicely together.

With a single-vendor solution, you can handle most concerns and invoices through one channel. The products and services were built with interoperability in mind, meaning they work together seamlessly. When you’re ready to scale up with new network or cloud solutions, your provider can walk you through the options.

Dedication to Security

Nearly every technology company proclaims its commitment to security on the screen, but many don’t back that up in the fine print. Small businesses lack the resources to withstand ransom demands and large-scale cyberattacks. They need to know their technology provider has their back.

The best partners are well-versed in cybersecurity and offer standalone solutions to manage risks. They can help you assess your critical needs and find the appropriate threat protection level. And it’s not just about selling you another service or product. With a local partner, your success is their success. They want to defend and protect your brand because your company is an extension of theirs, remember, you’re partners.

Open Communication and Transparency

As a small business owner, you’ve most likely encountered hidden fees or pricing tables multiple times. You expected your first bill to be slightly higher after taxes but didn’t account for the setup, statement, and equipment fees. This isn’t the best way to begin a long-term partnership. And the best technology providers won’t hide rates or fees from you.

Pricing and product transparency are fundamental characteristics of top-notch technology partners. If something isn’t going to work for your small business, they will tell you not wait until it’s installed and you realize you can’t get service in your area.

If the feature you want isn’t included in the package you chose, they will explain that it’s an add-on and tell you ways to save money and still get this feature by upgrading plans or removing an unused option. Again, as your partner, they’re looking out for what’s best for your company, not only their bottom line. And when you have a concern, you can reach a human, not spend 15 minutes engaging with a chatbot.

Find Your Technology Partner

Artificial intelligence can improve small business processes in many ways. But it requires fast, reliable internet and WiFi. As your reliance on sophisticated software increases, you may want more computing power and cloud services. Still, it’s not only companies that use advanced tools, meaning your organization must be equipped to fend off cybercriminals.

If you take a piecemeal approach, your vendor list can get out of control. By selecting the right technology partner, you benefit from their AI expertise. Together, you can strategize to build a foundation that supports your company’s objectives today and prepares it for the future. Learn more by contacting Cox Communications.

Selecting a Technology Partner for Your Business – 6 Questions

Outsourcing some of your IT needs to a technology partner can increase your business’ growth and profitability. Using a Managed Service Provider (MSP) or Internet Service Provider (ISP) frees up your IT team to focus on innovation and internal initiatives. In contrast, a third party manages many of the routine or daily needs.

However, this only works when your technology partner can fully meet your needs and align to work with your organization. If you don’t find someone able to be on the same page, you spend more time than you save and can also create double the work if your IT department can’t trust the outside organization to do its job effectively. At the same time, you need to give MSPs and ISPs the space they need to meet their deliverables, which means resisting the urge to micromanage.

So how do you find the right technology partner? Here are six questions to start.

Do They Have Expertise?

Ultimately, this is the first and only place that you need to start. Do they know what they’re doing, or are they making promises that they can’t keep? This is probably the most straightforward question to answer because it comes down to track record. What you’re looking for is experience with companies that have needs similar to yours, or recommendations from people you trust, keeping in mind that the strongest testimonial is a long-time client.

While there is always space for innovators to come in and disrupt an industry, it’s also essential to keep in mind that the kinds of services that MSPs and ISPs provide are generally crucial to your core business remaining operational. Reliability is key. Looking at how long a company has been in business and what’s on their resume are great shorthands for what you’re after, which are expertise and reliability.

Are They Responsive, and Do They Communicate?

Beyond ensuring your potential outsourcing partner has the credentials required to get their foot in the door, it’s also essential to evaluate how your company will communicate. A contract with an technology partner is so valuable because it’s not based simply on a set of deliverables — it’s an agreement to provide an ongoing service without the need to micromanage the details of how that service gets implemented.

The best service providers know that communication is key to a successful relationship. This isn’t just about setting up an autoresponder so that the company can claim that it has a lightning-fast response time. Instead, it’s about letting the person on the other end of the computer know that a human is on the case, understands the problem, and is working to fix it. An MSP or ISP that doesn’t communicate is a recipe for disaster.

Do They Offer Value?

If you’re going to use an MSP or ISP technology partner and outsourcing solution, you need to know that it’s worth the cost. Because they’re providing a service and not concrete deliverables, it’s essential to understand what the ROI calculations look like.

First and foremost, look at how many employee hours you’re saving by outsourcing, compared to how much time was previously spent patching up leaks and putting out fires. After that, you’ll need to factor in less tangible things, like less exposure to liability with improved security, better resilience, and more IT hours devoted to innovating.

Are They Available When (and Where) You Need Them?

This will partially depend on what service-level agreement (SLA) you hammer out and the prospective ISP or MSP capabilities. One of the significant benefits of moving to a specialized outside vendor for these services is the possibility of around-the-clock monitoring.

It’s also important to keep in mind that technology has its limitations. Even with expanded and improved networking capabilities, some issues won’t be solved unless someone shows up to figure out what’s happening. Can the partner you’re looking at get people to you quickly, or do they have to put someone on a plane?

Are They Proactive?

One of the big reasons to switch to a managed solution is that you also secure access to cutting-edge technology that can take your business to the next level by going with an expert. A great MSP or ISP will offer new solutions and ideas to help grow or optimize your business.

While fulfilling and exceeding SLAs is a great start, it’s not going to get you the edge you need to compete. If you’re talking with a company about becoming a potential partner, it’s important to sync up about longer-term goals. That conversation will tell you a lot. A quality partner will have ideas about where you’re headed, not just where you are.

Does Their Business Culture Align With Yours?

Beyond experience, this might be one of the most important things to take a close look at. Culture is a nebulous word for many things: communication style, level of formality, expectations for documentation, and far more. Ultimately, this is about fit. Suppose you don’t operate under the same assumptions. In that case, there could be much miscommunication, and, as we said before, clear communication is the key to success with a technology partner.

What You Can Do Right Now

Picking a technology partner for your business can be a big decision, but it can pay big dividends in terms of growth and profitability. By focusing on key questions, you can quickly figure out if a vendor is right for you.

  • First and foremost, consider their resume.
  • Look at how they measure responsiveness and whether or not that extends to 24/7 support.
  • Prioritize proactive companies who seek to innovate, not just check things off a list.
  • Take a close look at their business culture and see if it’s actually a fit.
  • Learn more about Cox Business solutions for your business. Visit us.
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