The Status Quo Just Isn’t Enough
Information Technology has experienced huge growth in the last few decades, and has made a significant impact on business productivity. Use of IT continues to escalate as collaborative and cloud based solutions expand. Simply maintaining the status quo within your company is a sure way to lose competitive advantage. Your IT partner and your IT support systems are tasked with keeping up with the growing range of IT utility, if your business is to remain competitive.
Given the growing demands, this puts pressure on your IT support to continue to expand their capabilities and to deliver exceptional or even acceptable performance. So, what should you expect from your IT support? Below is a brief listing of a few characteristics that describe good IT support. If you are not receiving the level of support you need in any of these areas, you would do well to consider making changes.
Strategic Business Support
A high quality IT MSP should be capable of providing strategic business support. The MSP should possess knowledge of your business in sufficient detail that will equip it to help you determine a successful business strategy and to formulate a strategic IT plan to support your company’s business goals and objectives. Absent a strategic approach to business and IT planning, the best your MSP can provide is components to address individual requirements. This will result in a disjointed system, likely contributing to your departments working in silos, performing redundant operations, etc. all of which degrades productivity and creates distraction from their primary job functions.
Understands Your Business
To be capable of providing strategic business support, your IT MSP must understand your business. It needs to know what drives profit and efficiency, and operational options to optimize your workflow, and increase your profits. There are a significant number of IT MSPs competing for your business. A fraction of those truly possess these attributes and have a track record of delivering satisfaction to customers, helping them realize a positive ROI from their IT investments.
Efficient and Complete Problem Resolution
When a problem arises, your IT support should be capable of efficiently identifying the problem and resolving it so that it does not become a recurring event. Incidence of long resolution times should be infrequent. When they do occur, your IT support should effectively communicate with you throughout the process to let you know they are working on the problem and to provide an estimate of time to completion. But this should be the exception, not the rule. In general, your IT support should know your systems and with a few exceptions, should be able to foresee potential problems and respond before they eventuate into a larger problem causing downtime (see discussion on Proactive Response and Preventative Maintenance below). The ability to perform at this level requires your IT support to have intimate knowledge of how the components of the IT system work together. This objective is much more easily and efficiently met if a strategic approach was taken during system design, installation, and implementation.
Preventative Maintenance and Proactive Response
One of the hallmarks of an IT system run well is that the IT support function performs routine Preventative Maintenance. Part of the PM follow up is to track performance metrics which are indicators of the health of the IT system. Based on the observed trends, it is possible to identify looming issues while the impact is small, allowing tuning/repair before the issue becomes a problem with significant impact, such as downtime. Working in this manner is to respond proactively, as opposed to merely reacting to problems after significant disruption has already occurred. If you observe a significant amount of IT activity occurring in reactive mode (i.e. solving disruptive problems), chances are that your IT support does not understand how to establish and operate an IT system designed to allow a proactive approach to problem identification and resolution.
High quality IT support includes an element of availability. Your IT support should respond in a timely manner to your requests for help. If this is not happening, your support may be over-committed and understaffed to handle the volume of activity. Lack of availability can also be a sign that your IT support may lack capability to resolve tough problems, hence they may delay response to request for help. It can also be a sign that your support simply does not value your business enough to dedicate the resources necessary to resolve your problems quickly and efficiently. Regardless the cause, lack of availability from your IT support is an indicator that you should consider making some changes to improve their response.
When you request help, your IT support should always respond without undue delay, to let you know they received your request and to communicate an estimated timeline for problem resolution. You should receive updates if and when the estimated timeline changes, or at periodic intervals for a complex problem that will require significant resource to resolve. You should also expect to receive periodic reports regarding the health of your IT system, which include leading and lagging indicators of performance, recommendations/suggestions for improvements, and notifications regarding actions taken to maintain performance. Communication between the IT service provider and the client also should routinely address how well the IT system is helping to deliver on business objectives. Maintaining such communications is an indicator that your IT support understands the business and has a performance based business culture, both of which are important to the competitiveness of your business.
It is not uncommon that IT professionals operate with stress of meeting deadlines. Timely delivery is a factor judged in just about everything the IT support group is supposed to provide. This creates a situation of stress for the personnel providing the service. Regardless the level of stress, your IT support personnel should continually provide respectful interaction with you and your staff. This lets you know they value your business and that they are focused on your business and how they can help. If you observe behavior that is not respectful, it may be a sign that the IT service provider or the individual providing the service has more work delegated than he/she can reasonably manage. You need to know your IT service has the resources needed to support your needs adequately. Much of the stresses can be eliminated via strategically designing and planning your IT systems and operational systems so that problems are managed proactively as opposed to reacting to emergencies.
Current IT Knowledge
The IT marketplace is dynamic, with new concepts and products entering the market frequently. Good IT support should remain aware of current offerings and IT market trends, and should make you aware of potential competitive advantages you could get by adopting new technologies into your business workflow. This does not mean that they should recommend implementing every new solution that has potential for positive impact. It would not be wise to continually switch systems and would be cost prohibitive in terms of both installation costs and cost of lost productivity during transition and training. Your IT support should understand your business well enough to know when the potential gains are significant enough to warrant further investigation. If your IT partner is remaining aware of the evolution of IT systems and tools, you should be receiving communication that lets you know they are actively seeking to ensure your IT systems, resulting production efficiency, and profits are optimized.
If your IT partner is lacking in any of these areas, it may be time to consider how you can affect change. Contact Custom Information Services for free consultation on these or any other IT issues you may have. CIS has the experience, knowledge and talent to provide service at this level and has the track record of customer satisfaction to back up this claim.