How To Choose the Right IT Vendor in Five Steps

How To Choose the Right IT Vendor in Five Steps

Finding the fit for your RIA

Choosing the right IT vendor sounds like a daunting task. But by following five easy steps you will be able to engage the team that will assist you in all of your IT needs for years to come. You need to ensure that the team you select will be able to meet your needs and help your business grow.

We work with RIAs and financial advisor firms and believe it’s important that you find an IT vendor who knows the unique requirements of your industry.  Some of our clients have only 5 employees, but they’re managing millions of dollars for their clients so their cybersecurity requirements are paramount. 

Let’s look at the steps to choosing the right IT vendor for your RIA or financial advisor firm. 

1. Determine if You Need a New IT Vendor 

The first step to choosing a new IT vendor is making sure that you really need one. If you have never had an IT vendor then it could be a great idea to find one capable of meeting all of your IT needs, rather than consuming valuable company time trying to perform these tasks in-house. Most businesses eventually reach the point where they can’t DIY their own IT. Not only does it become a drain on resources, but they simply don’t have the expertise to manage everything, especially cybersecurity. 

Technology is part and parcel of today’s business operations. Having a team on your side to meet all of your firm’s tech needs is a significant asset, as the ability to work safely and securely is critical to your bottom line. Whether you’re a small 5-person business or much larger with multiple offices, the expertise needed to manage your IT is the same. We work with RIAs and financial advisor firms with between 5 and 25 people, and their IT requires the same level of expertise as much larger enterprises.  It’s not something most firms can manage on their own.   

If you already have an IT vendor in place, then you need to consider if you really want to make the change. Some reasons to change vendors would be: 

  • Poor understanding of specific needs for your business
  • Slow response time or poor communication 
  • Failure to mention hidden costs that result in a higher than expected IT budget
  • Poor and inconsistent customer service
  • Reacting to fix issues instead of spotting them before they become a problem

If your current vendor presents only one of these problems and then only infrequently, you might choose to stay with them. But if problems are multiple and keep recurring, it might be time to move on. 

2. Determine the Needs of Your Firm

The second step to finding the perfect IT vendor match is to precisely identify your specific needs. Where have you experienced difficulties?  Look carefully at your own company before you start considering vendors. Only when you know what you want can you ask the right questions and ensure the best possible solution designed specifically for you.

For example, one important factor is whether or not a vendor understands your unique industry and its corresponding needs. A financial firm or a registered investment advisor, for example, will require a higher level of data security than some other industries. For an RIA, one of the top priorities will be to assess the level of security that a potential IT vendor can provide. 

You’ll want to identify any other problems that your new vendor will need to solve. Are you having problems with the integrations of some of your apps?  Is remote work not as easy as you’d like it to be?  Have you had a data breach?

Knowing what issues you want resolved will allow you to pose the right questions to your future vendors, ensuring they are up for the task. 

Not sure what you need from an IT vendor or just getting your business started?  Here’s a list of questions you can start with. 

3. Review Vendors 

Take a look at all of the options that are available around you. Don’t assume you need to find an IT vendor down the street. The perfect fit could be in a completely different state. IT experts have remote tools that let them do their job without ever setting foot in your office. However, if in-office visits are important, those can be arranged even if the vendor isn’t in your city. 

In your search to shortlist a few potential vendors, look for a company who specializes in your industry and ask for referrals from other business owners. 

When you’re evaluating potential partners, here are some things you can use to compare one to the other: 

  • Stated response times to requests, and the ability to prioritize problems that may arise
  • Issue resolution time. IT issues will occur, but your vendor should be able to effectively troubleshoot those issues and avoid repeated recurrence. They should be clear and transparent about how quickly priority items get resolved. Time is money and your IT service provider needs to be efficient in solving problems before they start to affect your bottom line.
  • A good IT vendor shouldn’t be contacting you only when problems arise, or just giving you general updates. How they keep the lines of communication open and keep you satisfied is important to consider.
  • Consistency with customer service. Getting proper response is important but having the opportunity to get to know the team that will work for you can be valuable when choosing your vendor. If they have a dedicated team for you, they start to understand your unique business better and can provide better service. 

4. Review Pricing Details

This is another really important step. Sadly, there are times when what sounds to be a great deal turns out to be a really big money waster. Some companies will promise all-inclusive service but if you dig a little bit deeper you might notice that some things have additional fees attached.

Make sure to read all of the fine print, That way there will be no nasty surprises when the time comes to pay the IT vendor for the work they have provided. If you do choose a vendor with a truly all-inclusive package with a fixed monthly fee, be sure to ask about the flexibility to scale your users to support your growth. 

5. Decide on Your Team and Hire Them

Once you have reviewed the information you’ve gathered, it’s time to choose your perfect IT vendor.  Always ask for details about the onboarding and transition.  Your new day-to-day should be user friendly and the transition should be painless with little to no downtime.  You may also want to confirm if there is a way to back out of the commitment should things not go as planned. You may not want to lock yourself into something right away.