Does your IT Managed Service Provider help you excel in business?
Traditionally small to medium businesses (SMB) have considered IT as simply a cost of doing business. This generalisation categorises technology along side utilities, maintenance, and other basic services such as office cleaning. These expenses generally have no metric of success. Evaluations are commonly based on perceived value vs. overall cost (gut feel).
In a digital age, is this really the way technology should be evaluated?
Business leaders are quick to comment that IT has become a critical component that allows them to operate effectively. Few however have any metrics, objectives or even high level goals for what they are expecting from IT.
Technology has quickly become the forefront of all customer interactions. Whether it be a direct engagement through email or online, or indirect via face to face interactions, all tracked and scheduled through a CRM or at an absolute minimum, a calendar system.
It doesn't stop there. Technology is integrated into all facets of a modern business including operations, finance, team collaboration and communication, sales, marketing; the list goes on. It's not hard to see why businesses who have effectively embraced technology have such an upper hand over competitors in the modern digital age.
So then, why is it that so few businesses have adequate KPI's and performance expectations for how their IT is operating?
Most commonly this is due to lack of understanding. SMB business leaders are generally not IT experts. They also feel highly vulnerable when having to make IT spending decisions. Unsurprisingly, like everyone else, they also tend to avoid focusing on areas of the business in which they are not comfortable.
Managing that which you do not understand
The first thing to do is to see IT for what it is, a function of the business. Whether IT is outsourced through a Managed Service Provider (MSP) or maintained by the owners nephew, IT is a function just like finance, sales or HR. Just as a leader who may not be good at sales themselves can lead an effective sales team, a leader with no technical experience can lead an effective IT function that delivers real results to the business.
Start by taking the technology out of the conversation. Key roles and functions of a business should be driven by outcomes. Outcomes can be defined by a business leader without the skills and knowledge required to fulfil them. Therefor desired goals can be expressed and defined without delving into technical details.
With clear outcomes and expected results defined, you are now free to find the best approach to achieve it.
Finding the right IT Managed Service Provider
Most SMB's outsource their IT support and other functions as a means to achieve better results and capabilities than that which could be provided from within. There is however, many ways to outsource IT services. Broadly these include:
- Adhoc Support / Break Fix - Hourly rates charged in increments upon request, sometimes provided as block hours.
- Maintenance Agreements - Fixed agreements that provide basic monitoring and maintenance, with adhoc support provided on top as required.
- Managed Service Agreements - These are commonly 'all-inclusive' support agreements that bundle maintenance agreements with unlimited helpdesk support. These agreements have many flavours and variations.
The later Managed Service Agreements is a necessity for any SMB looking to treat IT as a function of their business. Shared accountability and risk intrinsically binds both SMB and provider into a partnership which should have mutually beneficial desired results.
Choosing the right IT Managed Service Provider
Selecting the right Managed Service Provider can be hard. Most SMB's struggle with this process because they:
- Have not clearly defined their goals / desired outcomes
- Don't know the right questions to ask
- Get consumed by the technical detail
Never start the conversation with questions like "What does your company do?" What do you offer?", etc. Instead ask question like why they think their customers choose to work with them. If you don't like the answer, or they are unclear in their value proposition you can assure that the service won't be much good either.
Using this method will narrow down to 1 or 2 companies that are a good 'cultural' fit. Once you are aligned in the desired results you need only worry about their operation and process. These questions should be asked solely to gain confidence that they have the organisational maturity and structure to deliver what you are asking for.
Don't know where to start?
We work with a number of businesses every week helping them evaluate the real world performance of their IT. By providing insights and suggested metrics to watch we can help them to properly evaluate their technologies impact to the bottom line. We provide this as a free 45 minute consultation with no strings attached. If you would like to book in some time to talk, you can give us a call or book in a time directly from our website.