Seven Do’s and Don’ts When CEOs Hire an IT Partner

Renee Wagner
Vice President, Business Development

For even the savviest CEO, big network and tech infrastructure investments can be intimidating. Unless you came up through the ranks as an IT professional, there’s a good chance that you feel out of your element when it comes to deciding on a tech partner.

We constantly interact with prospective clients weighing their IT vendor options, which has led us to a few realizations about what a better decision-making mindset looks like for the CEO looking to make the best IT investment.

Don’t engage prospects until you are really ready.

Not sure what you want or what you need? Connect with your CIO and CTO. Learn what’s really needed so you can approach a vendor with a clear preliminary picture of what you require. If an internal process doesn’t reveal enough, reach out to the provider for guidance. There will be a time when preliminary conversations will evolve into a paid engagement, even if it’s just the consultation phase, but knowing what you’re looking for early is important.

Don’t overemphasize price.

Going for the lowest bid is tempting in the near term. Who doesn’t want to have that expense line-item as low as possible? The trouble is that those cheaper options almost always prove pricier down the road. We have plenty of examples of clients who passed on us based on price, but returned a few months later needing us to first fix a slapdash solution, then put our answer in place. That can cost you big.

Don’t be obsessed with size.

The big tech vendors love their big clients. But our experience has taught us that they don’t place as high a priority on their smaller and mid-sized engagements. Bigger isn’t better. Better is better, and with an IT solution implementation, ensuring a vendor truly understands your needs is imperative.

Do check references, and check them early.

In the sales cycle, prospects often wait until they’re almost ready to sign before they ask for references. At that point, they’re often just looking for affirmation that they’re making a good decision. We recommend flipping the script, and getting those references early. Why? With a good IT services provider, you can find work history that is relevant to your intended implementation. Don’t settle for a few positive, general comments. Get the reference check started right away, and get substantive feedback on comparable projects.

Do find out who will really be working on your implementation.

Will dedicated staff be on the job, or will the effort quickly be farmed out to consultants and part-time talent? That’s the difference between the vendor actually being on the job and serving as an intermediary that places bodies. Sometimes, the latter can work, but for complex engagements, you want a direct line to the talent taking care of your network needs.

Do ask lots of questions, and demand detailed answers.

When you sit down with a potential IT services provider, ask them what they did for other customers who came to them with needs similar to yours. Then, take note of how they share that experience. What was the timetable? The budget? The unexpected sticking points and the areas where things went smoothly? Knowing their lessons learned will reveal a lot about how they approach solution development and implementation. Here are even more questions you should be asking.

Don’t wait too long to decide.

An internal review and approval process that drags on for months might make sense if you’re deciding on how much to spend on office supplies every year. But copy paper is always copy paper, and pens are always pens. For network solutions? Innovations occur constantly. Wait six months and the best approach to how your needs are met might have changed considerably. Then you’re back to square one.

These are just a few of the things to keep in mind as you suss out the networking needs of your organization. Reach out to us today to start a smart conversation.

Leave a Reply


Nick Kelly

Cybersecurity Engineer, Cisco

Nick has over 20 years of experience in Security Operations and Security Sales. He is an avid student of cybersecurity and regularly engages with the Infosec community at events like BSides, RVASec, Derbycon and more. The son of an FBI forensics director, Nick holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice and is one of Cisco’s Fire Jumper Elite members. When he’s not working, he writes cyberpunk and punches aliens on his Playstation.


Virgilio “BONG” dela Cruz Jr.

CCDP, CCNA V, CCNP, Cisco IPS Express Security for AM/EE
Field Solutions Architect, Tech Data

Virgilio “Bong” has sixteen years of professional experience in IT industry from academe, technical and customer support, pre-sales, post sales, project management, training and enablement. He has worked in Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) as a member of the WAN and LAN Switching team. Bong now works for Tech Data as the Field Solutions Architect with a focus on Cisco Security and holds a few Cisco certifications including Fire Jumper Elite.


John Cavanaugh

CCIE #1066, CCDE #20070002, CCAr
Chief Technology Officer, Practice Lead Security Services, NetCraftsmen

John is our CTO and the practice lead for a talented team of consultants focused on designing and delivering scalable and secure infrastructure solutions to customers across multiple industry verticals and technologies. Previously he has held several positions including Executive Director/Chief Architect for Global Network Services at JPMorgan Chase. In that capacity, he led a team managing network architecture and services.  Prior to his role at JPMorgan Chase, John was a Distinguished Engineer at Cisco working across a number of verticals including Higher Education, Finance, Retail, Government, and Health Care.

He is an expert in working with groups to identify business needs, and align technology strategies to enable business strategies, building in agility and scalability to allow for future changes. John is experienced in the architecture and design of highly available, secure, network infrastructure and data centers, and has worked on projects worldwide. He has worked in both the business and regulatory environments for the design and deployment of complex IT infrastructures.