Your IT systems should just work, but it is the nature of them to fail at the worst possible time. When that happens, you need a trusted partner to step in and restore order – but what happens when they, too, fail to get things sorted out? When that happens, you need to take action, because your business and your livelihood depend on it. These are our 8 picks for what do to when your IT consultant lets you down.
1) Understand your own plans
Do you have a strategic plan for IT aligned with your business? If not, the first step isn’t to blame the IT partner. If you company is expanding, innovating or looking to drive efficiencies, IT support has to be appropriately aligned to support those goals, and so do your key people. You need a clear roadmap to know where you are now and where you want to go.
IT strategies often have to cope with different requirements from various departments within the business, too. Understand your users and their needs to provide the appropriate solutions.
2) Identify the gap
Start simple: Just how is the IT provider letting you down? Often, it doesn’t take a crisis to know that support isn’t what it should be. Do a quick pulse check:
- Are problems solved rapidly (is an expectation even set?)
- Do the same problems constantly reoccur?
- Does your IT provider treat problems with urgency?
That’s just support; IT is so important to business today that planning, strategic advice, budgeting and training support should be available from your partner. If not, the gap could be substantial.
3) Review your current model
It could be insourced or outsourced, but whatever the model, make sure your IT delivery is matched to the company situation. Consider the company future and maturity; test the market and examine the options available on an ongoing basis. Needs change, the market changes and IT most definitely changes. By regularly reviewing the model, you can take advantage of constant development for the benefit of your business.
4) Know your timeframe
Contracts can be good or they can be really bad. If you’re tied into a contract, it can be a case of ‘paying the school fees’; be aware of it, but ready up to move on when it expires. With cloud services today, you should enjoy the flexibility to change as rapidly as business circumstances can.
The same applies to internal IT personnel; end of contracts can be a useful time to reevaluate the situation. In some cases, this can be done rapidly: in one case, Leap Consulting took over within just 48 hours of notice.
5) Mitigate risk
When a sole IT person leaves for any reason, it can put your business at considerable risk as that person may hold ‘the keys to the kingdom’. If they hold all your records (and you don’t have a copy)…well, that’s risky. Avoid this situation by taking the obvious precautions; with a trusted IT provider, too, you won’t ever be prone to single man dependency.
6) Understand your contracts (if you have one)
Most IT providers have service contracts or managed service contracts in place which set out terms and conditions, service level agreements, and roles and responsibilities.
Understanding the contract is important; commit to a 3-year agreement and you could find that early termination comes with break fees. That can be costly.
Watch out for tricky terms: a contract might describe mere acknowledgment of an issue as ‘first response’. That does nothing to solve the issue, so if first response is within 2 hours, the actual work might not start for another 24 hours.
Knowing what you need and what you are signing up for is crucial if unpleasant surprises are to be avoided.
7) Don’t be hasty
Something stopped working and you’re desperate? BE careful of ad hoc ‘help’ from friends and associates. Randomly adding ‘solutions’ to your environment can cause lasting damage. If it is outside of the wider IT strategy, it should be avoided, or you could expose the company to unnecessary risks and challenges.
The most common example is cloud. Cloud solutions are awesome, but they are not a panacea. The rule of thumb is to always make considered and informed decisions; don’t be distracted by raging bushfires.
8) Don’t put up with poor outcomes
This is the biggie. If things are not working out and your IT has become a handbrake rather than an enabler, find out why and take action. Good partners will understand your business, its goals and aspirations, and help you make IT decisions and establish systems and processes which move you in the right direction. If that isn’t happening, make the changes necessary – because IT is crucial for success. If it fails, your company could, too.