Using a New IT Provider: Are You Really Doing It Wrong?

A friend of mine in a professional group we’re in together asked me a question recently. He’s not in the IT field so he has a perspective I really appreciate. He gave voice to what a lot of companies out there might be thinking, “Why does every new IT provider I use tell me our old IT provider did it all wrong?” As someone leading a company that does various kinds of IT assessments, this was an eye-opener for me. Knowing my friend’s perspective, maybe we can be a little more sensitive to it in the future when we’re doing an assessment for a new client. Let me give some reasons why my friend might have this perspective.

1) Your old IT provider may, in fact, really have done it wrong.
If you’re having problems with your IT, it’s entirely possible that your old IT provider did things to cause those problems. I’ve run across many situations where a less-than-competent IT provider had done some real harm, impacting the organization’s operations, bottom line, and morale. We often get called in to “fix the crises” caused by whoever was there before us. You may find comfort in remembering why you hired the new IT provider in the first place.

2) Your new IT provider may be trying to justify the decision to bring them in.
One strategy for building credibility and trust (I’m not saying it’s a good one nor am I advocating it) is to find fault with the work of those who came before you. The new IT provider may think it makes them look smarter than the previous IT provider and attempts to show they’re looking out for you. It’s the old schoolyard strategy of building yourself up by tearing someone else down. Instead of accepting their statements at face value, ask the new IT provider for justification, especially about the impact of the “old” way of doing things and what benefits you’ll get from the “new” way. This may help you get a more objective view of the situation.

3) Your new IT provider may be trying to get more work out of you.
Have you ever been to an auto mechanic for an oil change and have them come back with a list of “recommended repairs” to the tune of many hundreds of dollars? Unless you really trust your mechanic, you probably cocked an eyebrow and had some doubt about whether the repairs were really necessary. You may be experiencing the same thing with your new IT provider. That said, those recommendations may really be in your best interests and your IT provider (and auto mechanic) may be acting in good faith. What would help those recommendations land better? I think that might a subject for another post.

4) What’s “wrong” may just be a matter of opinion.
Often what is characterized as “wrong” or “right” may be just somebody’s opinion. There are usually many ways to do something that are perfectly acceptable and rarely one right answer. So instead of stating something is “wrong”, it might be that there are newer or different ways to accomplish the task. Your old IT provider might have done things one way that was perfectly valid at the time. Your new IT provider might be advocating a different way, possibly because the state of the art has changed or they just prefer something different based on their experience and what they’ve had success with in the past. If you’re unsure based on what your new IT provider is telling you, ask them. They should be able to justify their assessment and recommendations in a way that makes sense to you. If not, you might be experiencing #2 or #3 above. If they are able to provide a good justification, you’ll be better informed when making decisions about whether to follow their recommendations.

I’m guessing you have some good stories about IT providers who you think check one or more of those boxes. If so, I’d love to hear about them. If they’re good, I’d like to emulate them. If they’re bad, I’d like to… not.

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