Companies of all sizes increasingly rely on contractors and temporary third-party resources to meet the demands of their businesses. This can be an effective way to augment the skills on your teams while maintaining more flexibility than hiring full-time employees. However, working with external resources can bring additional risks and require a different management approach. Today, we provide tips for successfully integrating third parties into your network management.

Mind Security – Yours and Theirs

One of the most important considerations when working with third parties is security – both yours and theirs. Opening your network to a third party creates another avenue for potential security breaches like malware or phishing attacks. You can’t control every detail of a network that’s not your own, but you can take measures to mitigate the additional risks.

Keep them compartmented:
Grant access only to the parts of your network that are necessary for your contractors to do their jobs, and implement firewalls as needed to segment them from the rest of your network. The appropriate access level may not be the same for everyone. A tailored access approach takes more time up front, but it’s a necessary investment to keep your network secure.

Do your due diligence:
Your company’s security is only as good as your contractors’. Before signing a contract, conduct a thorough assessment of external sources’ security policies, employee screening, ability to meet industry standards, and physical security measures, if appropriate.

Make time to close out access:
Of course you already know to close out a vendor’s access if their project ends and/or you switch to a new resource. When you have a lot of demands on your time, though, it’s easy to put this one on the bottom of your list. Make sure you schedule time for yourself to properly shut down third party access when it’s no longer needed.

Don’t Neglect the Relationship

Vendor relationships are just that – relationships like any other. From your end, you can make relationships with your third-party providers more successful by doing things like:

Prioritize communication: Vendors should be experts at what they do, but that doesn’t make them mind readers about your business or your policies. Good communication starts well before a contract is signed. It also means taking the time to go through your service agreements and making sure that both parties fully understand and can meet the terms and policies of the other. Once the agreement is in place, offer your contractors periodic feedback and respond in a timely a manner to their communications.

Be honest: Once the work starts, be honest with your vendors. If an issue develops, don’t wait until it becomes a big problem before you let them know. Good contractors will appreciate your honest feedback.

Say thanks: If you value a contractor’s contribution to your business, tell them! Humans love reciprocity. If your vendors know they’re important to you, they’ll have an easier time providing good service, and work is likely to go more smoothly.

Give them a chance to turn mistakes into improvements: Even the best service providers make mistakes. The first time it happens, it may be worthwhile to give your vendors a chance to correct their errors. Often, vendor relationships are even stronger once that happens, assuming the vendor takes immediate action to correct the problem and do better. If they handled the mistake right, they are far less likely to repeat it than a new vendor might be.

But know when to cut your losses: There’s value in giving contractors a second chance, but if a third party resource keeps making the same mistakes and isn’t taking active steps to strengthen the relationship, you deserve better. Conduct periodic evaluations of the service you’re receiving, and don’t be afraid to cut your losses when it becomes clear that something isn’t working out.

Working with third parties can save you time and add needed skills and resources to your teams. Without proper attention to security and relationship management; however, doing business with contractors can become counterproductive. Manage security risks through measures like segmentation, access control, and due diligence. Managing your third-party relationships through good communication, honest feedback, and periodic service evaluations can go a long way in making the integration smoother and more successful.

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