I often speak to people who’ve worked for a big company for many years before deciding to start their own business. They are used to being in an office where they can pickup the phone, say “I need a BlackBerry next week,” and it just arrives.
But when they set up their own business, they have to deal directly with a mobile phone provider. Then they have to set the phone up, make it work with their email system … and often eventually throw the thing out of the window
When you first start your own company, it can be hard to adjust to this DIY approach. And in order to get the maximum value from your IT investment, you need to consider a few touchstones of IT and telecoms:
If you invest time and put thought into getting these four key areas set up correctly, or decide to outsource the management of these services to an external supplier, you can be more sure of being able to:
While running my company, Abussi, I’ve seen again and again how focusing on these areas has transformed how businesses operate and made them more efficient.
If you just tackle one of these areas, you can transform your business. So imagine what a difference taking care of two, three or four of them could make.
Here’s an example for you. Have you ever spoken to a larger company and been told “…oh, we are having some IT issues today so we can’t help you on that I’m afraid”? What impact would it have on your business if you couldn’t help a client when they called?
So, if you run a small business then don’t settle for second best or a home spun solution to your IT and telecoms needs. You need an IT system to match that of bigger companies. One of the best ways to to achieve this is to work with a local, focused and dedicated IT support provider.
Craig Sharp is the MD of Abussi IT, who provide Small Business IT Support in Birmingham
If you were to list all your company’s suppliers in order of importance to the success of your business, there’s a good chance your IT supplier would be near the top. With IT playing a part in virtually every aspect of most companies, you need an IT supplier you know will be there when you need them. So, how do you find that key business partner?
In my opinion, IT services are purchased on the basis of trust. Sure, there are lots of other factors involved, but for smaller businesses the relationship is often between an IT professional and the company’s owner-manager. Establishing trust in that relationship is crucial.
I have held this view for a while and it often crops up when I am speaking to owner-managers about IT security, staff access or other sensitive matters. I’m often involved in conversations where the owner-manager is keen to ensure that staff can’t access ‘x’ or are limited in their viewing of ‘y’.
The only way a business owner will feel reassured in that sort of conversation is if they trust me as their IT supplier.
But the one thing that’s never discussed is that we have access to absolutely everything. Not just a company’s server, but all its data, all its email (past and present), every single document and probably a lot of the company’s financial data too.
Like all responsible IT suppliers, we take this very seriously. And like every responsible IT supplier, we have processes in place to ensure that access to clients’ data is strictly monitored.
Trust is also a factor in the advice you get from an IT professional. It’s not unusual for businesses to come to use with a very general description of a problem:
“We can’t put our finger on anything specific, but we just get the feeling that something is not quite right...“
That’s a very broad statement and really difficult to isolate in terms of IT needs. But what that client often means is that they feel they’ve lost trust with their current IT provider. And once you’ve lost it, it’s almost impossible to get back.
In summary, ask some important questions of your IT provider to establish trust right at the start of your relationship. How long have they traded? Can they provide references? Can you talk to one of their existing clients?
Because for your business to have reliable IT systems that you can place trust in, you also need to place trust in your IT supplier – from day one.
Craig Sharp is MD of Abussi.
Do you pay for IT support? Does your business regularly suffer downtime? Need help sorting out unreliable email or computers that just don’t work? Been sold white-labeled products just because your IT support company gets a generous referral fee?
It that’s your idea of IT support then let me tell you why I think you are wasting time and money.
IT support is based around the premise of fixing problems when they occur and then charging for this. It should come as no surprise that most IT companies make more money through billable hours when disaster strikes than when your network is running smoothly.
In that sense, your objectives and those of your IT company are not aligned when it comes to taking care of your computer systems.
In 2012 there really is no reason to pay for IT support. Technology is at a stage where it just should not fail. Some IT companies make a lot of money adding complexity and then charging an arm and a leg to install and support it.
Ultimately it’s the complexity that leads to downtime. Simplifying your systems and doing things the right way to start with will help you avoid this expense. If you’re like most businesses, technology is your third largest expense after wages and rent. Make your IT budget work for you.
These days, you should be paying your IT supplier for maintenance (yes, there is still a fee) and best-practice advice. You should be paying for their help to set up systems that are going to work and not let you down.
This means that instead of calling for help when things go wrong you, can call and get help to be even more productive. Find out how to get the most out of Outlook or Word, do more with your tablet computer (such as your iPad or Samsung Galaxy Note) and get to grips with the latest features of Windows 7.
In my opinion, the best IT investment any business can make is an IT audit to bring your systems out of the Dark Ages and into 2012. Here are some questions to get you started:
Discuss these points with your current IT provider. Make sure you’re happy with the answers – and if not, shop around. There are lots of IT support companies out there and it’s important to find one that’s going to work with you and think proactively about your business.
Anyone selling you ‘IT support’ without considering these things is not being honest with you about what’s really possible.
IT support is dead. Long live small business IT consultancy! Ok, it’s not so catchy but it’s going to make your working day a whole lot better.
Francesca Geens runs an IT consultancy called Digital Dragonfly, which specialises in one-person businesses. She is especially interested in productivity and the use of information technology to improve people’s day-to-day business lives. She is setting up a new kind of IT company for small businesses to firmly challenge traditional notions of IT support. Are you ready to Be Nimble with your IT?
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