So, how should I manage IT, anyway?

Deciding what to do when selecting new technology for your business can be daunting. Just as daunting can be choosing an IT management service provider whose guidance you can trust. With so many options, it’s important to team up with a service provider that is best suited for your company’s needs. How you manage that dynamic can make all the difference.

article_thumbUnderstanding what your current needs are, and what they may be in the future, is critical when considering new technology. Which applications will drive better efficiencies? To cloud, or not to cloud? What’s the ROI on a new server? Are there advantages to keeping email in-house? What are our “wish list” objectives? Without understanding how these options will affect your business now and in the future, any decision you make is nothing more than a guess.

Choosing the right IT outsourcing partner works the same way. Is the provider experienced in a wide array of solutions, or do they simply execute a “one-size-fits-all” approach? Will you just be a number? Do they understand the nuances of your business?

To make the right service decisions, first make good business decisions. Assess carefully and comprehensively the needs you have now, and what they may be down the road. What type of response time are you comfortable with? What is a reasonable number of Help Desk tickets each month? Do you want to be deeply involved in every aspect of IT management, or would you prefer to have it all handled for you?

A small service provider will likely be limited to suggesting the same solutions they offer to all their clients. Can one or two people really be experts in all the possible solutions? Can they really handle all the work by themselves? If they’re as good as they say they, what happens to you when they land a corporate job?

Conversely, an IT management service provider that is too large may only recommend the packaged solutions with the highest margin for them, and not necessarily what’s appropriate for your situation. Many companies also feel unimportant when their IT management services provider is so large that they never speak with the same person twice. Beyond that, turnover can be the enemy of consistency.

Before committing to a new provider, it’s a good idea to determine what success will look like, and how you can measure it. More than just how a provider responds in a crisis, it’s helpful to learn about how they mitigate crises in the first place. Look for processes that manage ongoing IT requirements, not only reactions to emergency issues. It’s critical to stay ahead, and best to avoid a constant game of “catch up”. Ensure your new provider has a plan in place, and the resources to execute against that plan.

In addition to ongoing processes, consider accountability. Does the new IT outsourcing vendor provide transparency? Do they document your systems, and the work they do? Are you able to access information related to your company readily and easily? (This is true for internal IT resources as well.)

By first determining the critical success factors, you will be in a better position to ask the right questions. More than just learning about the new fad in IT management solutions, you will understand how your new managed services provider operates as a company, and if that is the best partner for yours.

Finally, even you, the client, have some responsibilities. Be willing to engage your IT managed services provider. When you aren’t sure about something, ask for more information and clarity. Be available to your provider, just as you would like them to be available for you. Success is a two-way street.

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Gene Smith is general manager of Mission Critical Systems, Denver-based IT management firm.
Reach Gene at 303-383-1MCS (1627); gene.smith@mcstech.net.