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Breaking up is hard to do (but sometimes it’s best for everyone)

Breaking up is hard to do (but sometimes it’s best for everyone)

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Tim Bandos, CISO and VP Managed Security Services at Digital Guardian, discusses why breaking up with an existing provider, however painful, can sometimes be the best move for both parties.

There comes a time when every business needs to step back, take stock of its technology stack and consider whether it’s time for a change. Doing so doesn’t mean anyone’s at fault. Businesses regularly outgrow the capabilities that existing providers can offer or find their needs have changed in a way that makes another provider more suitable. Perhaps they’ve switched to a more agile business model, which makes partnering with an equally agile provider a logical choice.

Put simply, there are many reasons why a fresh start can be beneficial. Equally, holding on to existing partnerships beyond their natural expiry date can end up being detrimental for all involved. This article will look at three of the most common signs that it’s time to move on from your existing provider.

1) Failure to keep pace with new technology

Keeping on top of the latest technology can be an expensive endeavour, but any provider worth its salt knows it’s worth every penny if it helps customers improve operations and empowers employees to learn new skills. As such, if your provider is unwilling/unable to do so, it may well be time to look for a new one. Over reliance on outdated, legacy technology not only hinders customer operations, but it can also put sensitive customer and employee data at risk, particularly if it’s no longer supported on a regular basis. Without on-going security patches, such technology quickly becomes vulnerable to cyberattacks and a data breach of any size can have a significant impact on your reputation, financial affairs and ultimately, long-term survival. As such, it’s important to ensure that any providers your business partners with are following best practices. Good questions to ask include, ‘Are they investing in ensuring the security of their software, do they use safe APIs, are they using DevOps and do they have a CISO?’

Unfortunately, when it comes to legacy technology, many organisations don’t help themselves. They have become too comfortable or familiar with it themselves, making them reluctant to change. However, in the end, such an approach benefits no one. Organisations miss great new tech-based opportunities to save money and/or improve performance, while providers rest on their laurels, causing them to become uncompetitive in the wider market. Providers should be proactive when it comes to keeping you apprised of the latest technology and solutions, especially if they can be an asset to your business. Ultimately, the key goal of every business is to grow market share and be as competitive as possible. If that isn’t possible with your current provider/technology, it’s probably time to leave.

2) Changing business needs and goals

When it comes to data security, taking a ‘set it and forget it’ approach is never a good idea. Your provider needs to conduct regular audits to ensure existing policies and procedures are effective and/or make changes wherever needed. If not, there’s a strong chance you’ll have blind spots in your protection. Equally, if your provider’s IT services aren’t tailored to meet your own unique needs, vulnerabilities can quickly appear.

Perhaps your business has recently switched your systems to agile. Doing so requires a major cultural shift and another provider – one that’s also agile – may be better suited to complement your changing needs.

Depending on the sector your business operates in, shifting regulatory compliance requirements can also require major on-going attention. An effective provider should be aware of any changes and be able to offer guidance and advice about the best ways to meet them.

These are just a few of the ways in which business needs and goals can change over time, often with little prior warning. Effective providers should proactively help your business meet these new goals as quickly and efficiently as possible, not act as a barrier to it. If your current provider isn’t doing that, it might be time to re-evaluate.

3) The relationship with your existing provider has become strained or damaged

Perhaps the most obvious catalyst for change is if the relationship with your existing provider has deteriorated in some way. Effective providers act like true partners, keeping your best interests top of mind at all times. If this isn’t happening, then something is definitely amiss. Unfortunately, many providers try to take advantage of the high costs/uncertainty associated with switching to try and hold customers captive, continually raising licensing, subscription or support prices every year, while offering few service improvements (if any) in return. Having to deal with an endless line of support tickets, or a hectic support workflow where it’s difficult to get status updates quickly can also be a big sign that it’s time for a change.

Lack of communication can be another red flag, particularly when it’s related to known product issues that could affect your business. Examples of this include failing to notify you of product management road maps or planned maintenance that will cause unavoidable downtime.

For many businesses, a customer success programme is also becoming increasingly important, enabling them to gather crucial feedback on how customers really feel at any given time. The same applies to providers. After all, retention is a two-way street. If you’re dissatisfied with your existing relationship and your provider isn’t actively working to allay your concerns, why are you choosing to stay with them?

Changing IT providers can be a difficult and time-consuming process, but sometimes it is a necessary step on the path to future success for your business. Whether you’ve simply outgrown your current provider, or have become disillusioned with the service being provided, don’t let the fear of change prevent you from making it. Sadly, loyalty is no longer rewarded like it used to be. In many cases it can even be punished, with higher prices and decreasing levels of service becoming par for the course. As such, it’s important to critically assess if your provider is really meeting your needs on a regular basis and if not, give serious consideration to finding someone who will.

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