IT: A Necessary Evil or a Business Necessity?
Before I start, let me be clear, I can’t take credit for a lot of the advice in this article. Much of it comes from our team of IT engineers, IT Strategy Consultants and other people within our business who work with companies like yours every single day on their IT.
First and foremost, I’m a business owner and a Managing Director. Yes, it’s an IT company, but I’m probably no more technically minded than you (in fact, if you’re an IT professional, let’s not even compare!). What I care about is the success of my business.
Just like you, I have people telling me about all the wonderful and exciting things that I could invest in from an IT perspective and I must decide on what is essential for my business. From my own experience, and from the thousands of hours of IT reviews I’ve listened to, I believe the process required to make the right decision is pretty simple. Every business is different, so there’s no precise ‘formula’ on how to get the perfect IT system, but there are 3 specific steps every business should take to ensure their IT is fit for purpose and not causing issues. I think it’s also prudent to point out that I’m probably considered a demanding IT user. I want to be able to work quickly and efficiently from anywhere I choose, and I expect you, and your, staff do too. If things go wrong (and this is IT, so things DO go wrong), I don’t care why or how. I just want it fixed ASAP and reassured that it won’t happen again. Or at the very least, told what I need to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Before you start to look at the details of your IT system, I want to share with you 3 core drivers behind a successful IT system. These drivers make staff better at their jobs. This enables them to support your customers better, make more sales and it also keeps them happy, which makes them stay with you.
Here’s what it comes down to. Your staff need to be able to:
Work Fast + Work Anywhere (Securely)
Forget the specifications of the server, the speed of your fibre broadband connection and the throughput of your switches for just a moment. The above is all you should care about.
Staff don’t want to be waiting for systems to load. They don’t want to jump through hoops to access data. They don’t want to experience any kind of IT issue that slows them down or prevents them from working.
Staff want and need flexibility. The rise of the mobile workforce is hardly a secret. Staff want to be able to check emails on their phone, update the system of an evening and work from the coffee shop between meetings.
IT companies have been given a pretty bad name since GDPR and many have been accused of ‘ambulance chasing’, but unfortunately the threat is real. If we were in a position to share the stories of businesses that have come to us for help after cyber-attacks then I’m sure people would take it more seriously, but few businesses want the world to know about their shaky IT security strategy. Security should form an integral part of your IT strategy and should not only protect across the different layers of your IT network but should also aim to hinder user experience as little as possible.
How can you make this happen?
The short answer: you need to conduct an IT review.
This review will provide you with all of the ammunition you need to make a decision about your IT.
Unless you’re an IT expert yourself, chances are that you’ll either need to rely on someone within your organisation for guidance and support or will have to put 100% faith in the IT businesses you choose to talk to for the correct advice.
Whichever the case, here are the 3 steps you need to take to create an IT system that drives your business forward:
Step 1. Bring in some passion
Whether you’re working with someone internally, recruiting a new IT manager or working with an IT partner you must find someone that cares. REALLY cares.
They need to care about you and your business, be passionate about IT and obsessive about providing outstanding support to your users. IT is not a one-off purchase. You will be working with these people for years to come. A typical IT system lasts for around 5 years, so don’t make rash decisions about who you are partnering with. If it’s an IT partner, then do your due diligence. Visit their offices, meet the team providing support and make sure they understand your business, not just your IT system. The right partner will give you advice, will listen to your needs and will keep you updated when technology changes so that you never fall behind.
Remember: never buy IT from a single person without meeting the rest of the company. Always meet the team around them. Nowadays, no one can support a business on their own, there are just too many skills to learn, too much knowledge to be retained and only so many hours in the day.
Step 2. Be proactive
Before you even start to consider what you need to do to your current IT system, make sure you understand the aftercare package.
IT goes wrong. I wish I could tell you it doesn’t, but it does. There are lots of reasons why this happens, but the outcome is the same, so you need to make sure that there are faith and trust in the team that is supporting your IT. As a general rule of thumb, IT support can be broken down into 2 areas: break/fix and proactive.
Break/Fix is simply the task of fixing any IT issues that occur. This could be caused by a software issue, hardware failure or any issue a user is having. Most of the time this is a case of calling or emailing your support team and waiting for the fix. In terms of break/fix support, the response and fix times should adhere to a Service Level Agreement which fits your business needs (which probably means they need to be quick!).
On the flip side, proactive support is all about preventing issues occurring in the first place. This is an area so often missed by businesses when reviewing their IT but is essential if you want your staff to work quickly and efficiently — downtime is not something you want to experience.
Ensure that you build a proactive plan into your IT with:
- Regular, scheduled maintenance to keep your system up to date with the latest software patches
- Housekeeping tasks, such as security checks, removing old users, updating permissions etc.
- Regular, scheduled checks to identify potential problems as early as possible.
Step 3. Have a plan
The most important thing is to have a plan. Not just a plan of what you need to do now, but also a plan of what you will need to do in the future. Proactive support plays a part in this case and choosing the right partner to work with is vital. Regardless of the technical details, you should understand exactly what your IT system is capable of dealing with and how it will fair in the future too. The demands of staff, software and business change, not to mention the ageing of IT equipment, which could all affect the performance of your IT. You, therefore, need to invest in the right technology to ensure that sales, customer service and staff retention are not negatively affected at any point. Your plan should be both detailed and visual so that anyone in your organisation can understand it if they need to. Don’t be blinded by jargon and don’t blind others with it either. Technical specifications and an understanding of how technology works are important, but ultimately the result is what you should be interested in.
If you’d like to talk to our team about what solution is best for your business contact us or apply for our Free IT Strategy review below.