Sure, hooking up with a new IT service provider is all cigars and handshakes at first. Promises are made and stars glimmer in your eyes as you sign the contract. The future looks bright.
Then things start to go south. Carefully negotiated deadlines are ignored. Expensive custom apps you paid dearly to be developed suddenly don't work, and your cloud vendor comes down with a case of the vapors. The thrill is gone and it ain't coming back.
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Before you make a clean break and start fresh with someone new, consider this cautionary tale of a small biotech firm in the Rocky Mountains that decided to dump its IT consultant. When the consultant got wind he was about to be canned, he installed a script that automatically blind-copied him on all emails to and from the company's top executives. He quickly discovered that the firm's lead scientist was having an affair. On the day the consultant was to be fired, he zipped up 500 racy emails and, using another executive's account, forwarded them to the scientist's wife.
"It was worse than a soap opera and very tragic for the client," says Patty Laushman, CEO of the Uptime Group, an IT shop asked to perform computer forensics to prove that the firm's IT vendor was behind the scheme. "Had we known how unhappy they were with their current vendor, we would have coached them on how to safely make the switch."
Of course, not all jilted vendors turn into Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction." Most vendors who feel wronged just sue you. But with easy access to your confidential information and core business systems, the risks from a bad breakup with IT service providers are especially high. As more services move into the cloud, relationships become increasingly short term and impersonal -- which can lead to problems when critical systems and data are no longer under your roof and the vendor isn't returning your calls.
The industry is rife with horror stories of companies that terminated relationships only to find themselves locked out of their own networks or their ERP systems suddenly stopped working. Some even discover that they don't actually own the code they use to run their business and have to go crawling back to the developer to get it.
Fortunately, you don't have to suffer through an ugly divorce -- provided you go about it the right way. Here's some sage advice from people who've been there.
IT divorce tip No. 1: Cooler heads prevail
If you decide to separate from a vendor, avoid doing it in the heat of anger, says Jeff Huckaby, CEO of RackAid, a provider of server management services. If your service provider has just made a major mistake, wait to see how it responds before you get medieval on them. Whether the provider sincerely tries to fix the problem or merely placates you may play a major part in deciding whether to pull the plug. Even then, the decision should be well planned and deliberate.