Set The Standard: Insist on Great, Not Just Good
We are hearing more and more buzz and are constantly having to field questions around how technology impacts business success, both positively and negatively. What's clear is that today's economy and the "next-gen" consumer requires simplicity, convenience, and an immediacy like never before, and that is actively bleeding into B2B commerce. The pressure is on. We work with our clients every day to keep technology running, to secure their systems, but most importantly, to determine how they can leverage technology to communicate and collaborate more efficiently, do more with less, gain insights to make better decisions, and subsequently improve customer experience - and their bottom line.
We know that when you invest strategically in small business IT services, you will have a better chance of surviving this economic shift. If you do not, you will struggle to keep up. Let me be clear, technology is not the solution for any and all business woes. Rather it is the right technology, applied to appropriate business priorities and opportunities, at the right time. Investing in the right technology, for the right reasons, is the key. Your technology partner must be capable of providing you this value. Working with you to understand your small business IT challenges and requirements, then walking you through technologies that can fill the gaps.
Investing in Small Business IT Services
So what does it mean to "invest" in IT for your small business? At its core, a proper technology investment goes well beyond IT service and support. A meaningful investment is more about what you do after you keep things running vs. how you keep things running. Yes, technology has to work when and where you need it. It must be available so you can deliver it to your customers. Simply keeping things up and running used to be the primary focus in IT - Replace or upgrade the servers, troubleshoot why hardware keeps rebooting randomly, expand the hard drives on the file server, deploy the new accounting software on a new server. But the advent of "cloud services" has allowed us to significantly reduce the work required to keep things up and running, and at the same time has expanded mobility, accessibility, security and collaboration capabilities. So if it takes less time and money to keep things up and running, what do we do with all those savings? Invest it.
So What Makes a Great Small Business IT Service Provider?
There are many things that make a great small business IT service provider, but I'll provide you with the key indicators, then a list of several additional qualities you should look for.
1. You have a Strategic Account Manager (We call them Advisors).
Not only do you have an Account Manager, but you also feel comfortable talking business with them. You should be able to have meaningful and iterative conversations around your business challenges and gain insights through those conversations. A Strategic Account Manager who holds business-focused conversations across 20-30 of their assigned clients holds a wealth of knowledge that can be shared, and add value for your small business.
2. You have a plan.
Your Account Manager should be having monthly or quarterly conversations with you to build and maintain your long-term technology plan. Your plan should consist of elements of foundational support and maintenance, but more importantly the plan for extending technology that provides you with a bottom-line improvement. How are they going to make you more productive and efficient? How are they helping you prioritize the improvement and extension of technology so your investment is maximized?
3. You have access to training resources.
Top providers today have a specific team dedicated to helping you understand how to use the technology you have invested in. We estimate that nearly 80% of deployed technology is either not adopted, or not properly adopted. This leads to wasted investment and limited productivity and efficiency gains. Technology is a tool to improve your life, not simply cost you money.
4. You can expect excellence.
You are investing in technology, so your provider should invest in great service and support. The following are some key standards you should expect:
- Secure - Your provider should be actively talking with you about security and what you should be considering to avoid common attacks. They should also be secured to the highest industry standards including but not limited to HIPAA, PCI, NIST, etc. Most providers support clients in many industries, some regulated and some unregulated, but they hold a central key to all of your systems. Your IT service provider's lack of security is a massive exposure to you. Small business IT service providers have been targeted and will continue to be targeted given the breadth of their access.
- Transparent - You have access to all of your system documentation, usernames and passwords, and all other assets. You own these assets, so you should have access to them at any given time. Your invoices should also have full details of the work performed. Along with that, you should have the ability to share access to all software and services sold to you by your provider.
- Fast Service - When you call, the phone should be answered by a knowledgeable resource who can answer your question, or take ownership from start to finish. When you e-mail or enter a request online, you should receive a response within an hour.
- Flexible - You should never lock into a long-term contract. If your provider requires you to sign a contract, even for one year, it’s a red flag. A great small business IT service provider will allow you to be on a month-to-month contract, forcing them to earn your business every day.
- Experienced - Your provider should have experience in your industry. Ideally, they are focused specifically on your industry. Your value is stretched exponentially when you have a technology provider that understands your industry challenges and can share common solutions with you based on direct experience.
Welcome to "IT Service 2.0" (or MSP 2.0) - Specifically, the shifting from just technology support, maintenance and reacting, to understanding, thought leadership, strategic planning, THEN technology.
Time and time again, we have begun working with a new clients and had to unravel disastrous technology deployments that not only wasted resources and failed to improve the business, but also had that client in an extremely vulnerable position from a risk perspective. These are prime examples of instances where a technology-first approach was taken.
It's not too late to right your technology ship, but the pressure is building. If you are not sure if your small business IT service provider meets the standards above, we've developed an easy audit process of 10 Things you Should Ask your Current IT Provider.
We'd love to show you the difference that InsITe can make as your small business IT service provider. Contact us about how your small business can receive over a $1,500 in service credit for free. We'd be happy to get you started.