Avoid the end of the world with our IT support contract checklist

IT Support Contracts - Noah 2014 The End of the World

Avoid the end of the world with our IT support contract checklist

Is any part of a new IT Support contract really so important that it’s the end of the world if you forget it? YES, actually! 6 things, in fact.

I will remember my covenant between me and you.” – Genesis 9:15

Once you’ve signed that contract, all the springs of the hardware and software will burst forth, and the floodgates of the issues will open.

So, save yourself a flood of issues. Before signing a new contract with a new IT support company, or before signing up for a renewal with your incumbent IT support company, take a moment to check your contract includes these 6 things.

1. Service Level Agreement (SLA)

This is the document, and part of your IT support contract that tells you how quickly your service providers will respond to issues, how they will prioritise issues, and how they will deliver IT support to you. Look out for terminology like “reasonable endeavours” and “best endeavours”. They mean different things.

End of world scenario:

Amazingly, not all IT support contracts include an SLA. Or, if they do include an SLA, it’s not specific enough. And that could leave you high and dry when you’re screaming to find out when an issue will resolve. Without a proper SLA, you’ll probably find yourself struggling to get your IT support guy to pick up the phone!

2. Opening times

What happens when you want to ask for some advice beyond your SLA? You know, when you’re changing part of your operation and you need to know, there and then, the implications for your IT set up.  Or when the boss asks for a non-standard report. Or when you just need to escalate something fast!

End of world scenario:

The clock’s turned 5:30pm, and you’re about to start a project in the peace and quiet when everyone else has gone up. Something goes wrong with your IT. And there’s nobody available at your IT support company to help! Even worse, you make the effort to come in super early to print a report for that super important meeting and the printer’s broken, but there’s no emergency service because the IT support office is closed!

3. Contract renewal date and notice period

If you read our blog – 4 dates all managers must know – you’ll know that Supplier anniversaries and reviews are must-know dates because rolling contracts tend to deliver less for more over time. So, check they’re in the contract, and copy them into your own diary with reminders that pop up well in advance.

End of world scenario:

Ever heard the adage “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst”? Or (sorry to sound so cynical) “Think of the divorce before getting married”? Notice periods, renewal and review dates, and hand-over clauses may be just in case. But, without them, you could end up stuck with an IT support contract that doesn’t work, or having to carry on paying for an IT support contract long after you’ve terminated it.

4. Payment terms

As well as the obvious – when, during the cycle you get invoiced and have to pay – think here about flexibility and scalability.

Is your monthly fee going to be fixed? If so, will it stay fixed for the contract period? Is your monthly fee going to be variable? If so, what are the variables? The variables in IT support contracts almost always relate to the number and types of users, servers, and networks. Maybe it’s worth a chat with whoever’s responsible in your organisation for hiring and firing so you know what capacity you’ll need!

End of world scenario:

Your finance director’s going react if you present an unexpected bill that you’ve committed the company to. And, when your finance director sneezes, everyone catches a cold. Changes in your IT support demands that you haven’t anticipated will result in cost increases or service shortfalls. 

5. Actual deliverables

Does your IT support contract provide a structured service, where everything’s defined? Or are some parts unlimited? Beware of unlimited everything everywhere! Is that promise really achievable? It might look good on paper. Your IT support provider might even have forgotten to limit deliverables! But that’s little comfort when your needs overstretch their capacity to deliver.

End of world scenario:

You secretly celebrated signing a contract that committed your IT support provider to unlimited out-of-hours support. But, that’s not going to help when you really need that support because your business needs to fulfil a big order over the weekend and your systems went down! Who’s going to pay for the overtime of your delivery drivers whilst you wait for your IT support company to fix the problem?

6. Account management

“Account management” must be one of the most over-used terms in the service industry. It means different things to different people. I look at it in two ways: Firstly, it’s for us to check our clients are still getting amazing support service. Secondly, it’s for us to see how each other’s businesses and needs are changing.

Our clients benefit because we’re on the ball, service stays amazing, and they know what to expect when their needs change. And we benefit because… well… we’re on the ball (no complaints!) and we get to provide more services as our clients’ needs grow!

End of world scenario:

You’re about to hire some new sales people. They’ll need new laptops, software, support, etc. You knew about this ages ago because you heard your company’s launching a new product in a few months. However, the first your IT support company heard was when you told them about the new starters arriving on Monday. Just imagine if you’d told your IT support company about the potential new product launch a few months in advance! Chances are, as well as helping you plan capacity, they could have given you some good ideas for free that make your new product even better.

How to remember there’s a check list

Print out this check list and save it in your IT support contracts folder. Or add this link to your diary reminders before contracts renew or review.

That way you won’t have to worry about remembering what to check and when. Do it now!

Just checked this check list and found something missing in your IT support contract? Get in touch now to tell us what’s missing from your contract. And send a link to this article to anyone who’s about to sign an IT support contract or anyone who’s already got one.

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David has held positions as Operations Director and Head of IT in legal and professional firms for more than 10 years. He is a Director and co-owner of Amazing Support, a Microsoft Silver accredited and specialist Managed IT Support and IT Services company. David actively helps SME businesses receive better Managed IT Support and IT Services in the London and Hertfordshire areas. He also assists overseas companies who are looking to expand their business operations into the UK and helps with their inward investment IT process. A member of The Chartered Institute for IT (BCS), UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) and an event speaker promoting business start-ups and technology awareness. Married with a son, you will often see him riding his bicycle around the Hertfordshire towns! David participates in charity bike rides and is a keen Krav Maga practioner.