How do you choose the right IT partner and what determines if the relationship will succeed or fail? Many factors can influence the choice of IT provider; including technical skills, coverage, references, costs, systems, and processes used.
Often overlooked is the influence that shared values can have on the long term success of a relationship. For example, how are improvement suggestions handled by either party, including negative feedback? Is the relationship built on winning the negotiation or on a genuine desire for mutual success?
Liz Hollingdale of Pool Controls understands the importance of working on the relationship with an IT partner to ensure her business gets what it needs.
Pool Controls have been manufacturing specialised pool sanitation equipment from their Perth base since the early 1980s, providing chemical and salt chlorinators for residential and industrial use. It’s no coincidence that expertise lives within Western Australia, which has the highest per capita pool ownership in the world.
“It’s a fairly technical electronic product that needs a lot of thought and expertise. So our business strategy has been to focus on what we do best, and do it better,” explains Liz.
Pool Controls’ operations are spread from WA to east coast based sales and support staff. With a long term export business to New Zealand and expansion plans for both Europe and Asia, the business faces similar challenges to much larger organisations.
“We had various IT people helping us out, but nothing strategic,” said Liz
‘We quite consciously outsourced because we get a much better support service. Doing it all yourself, you wouldn’t even know what’s possible.’
Pool Controls has worked with First Focus since 2012 and the first step was to ensure a reliable platform with a long-overdue upgrade of the hardware environment. As early adopters of mobile technology, improving communications further through VOIP phones and Office 365 was a natural progression. Next, there are plans to strengthen cyber-security, all while balancing the IT budget.
“You’ve got to be risk aware, but not risk-averse. But it’s also ensuring we prioritise our IT spending to get what we need overall, while not paying for anything we don’t,” said Liz.
Central to the relationship between Pool Controls and First Focus is a shared belief in some core values, which First Focus defines as ‘call it out’ by having the courage to voice your opinions, ‘succeed together’ through collaboration, and ‘strive to be fair’ for just and reasonable outcomes for both organisations.
At times that feedback has involved hard conversations. However, those conversations have been embraced by both parties, rather than avoided.
“I think a service organisation’s ability to seek out the negative feedback is absolutely fundamental to business retention. We’ve certainly had our niggles, but we’ve been able to address them and maintain a very solid working relationship,” said Liz.
As Liz explains, a lasting relationship requires equal input from both sides.
“We work with First Focus, they don’t work for us. It’s definitely a partnership, not a handover.
‘We work together to achieve a good result and First Focus have been very good to work with. You can certainly get what you are looking for.’