IT Solutions

How to Choose the Best IT Support Option to Get the Results and Business Value You Want

When business owners and executives evaluate their IT support, they often think that everything is fine if they don’t notice technology causing disturbances. They think – our network isn’t down too much and we get things fixed when we have issues.

Bad or Good on paper

In some companies, however, it is evident that IT is a day-to-day frustration and is holding the company back. Whatever the situation, it’s possible to take IT up to a new level where the technology experience and the results it provides have real business value.

In this article you will get the information that you need to choose the IT support option that will help you to find and extract business value from IT. To do this, we’ll guide you through a thought process to which we have identified three main objectives:

  • Recognize the difference between types of IT support solutions based on the experience they deliver
  • Learn the criteria that will help you choose the best IT support option based on the results you want.
  • Recognize which option will create the business value that you desire. 

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Where are you now with IT?

Whenever you are getting ready to chart a new course, it’s useful to take a good look at your starting point. As you review your current IT situation, you might be able to relate to one or more of the statements in the sidebar on this page.

That last statement in the list reflects quite a different perspective compared to the preceding six statements. If IT is just fine, then that’s great, but there’s probably a reason why you feel the need to revisit your options. It’s possible that if you start to ask some questions around your company, you might uncover issues that just haven’t been visible to you. You also might just have a nagging feeling that IT could be doing more for your business.

  • Our IT issues aren’t getting solved
  • We can’t effectively plan for IT costs
  • We aren’t getting the IT advice we should be getting
  • Our IT manager or senior resource
    is leaving
  • We aren’t totally sure that our data and networks are secure
  • IT takes too much of our fine
  • IT seems to be running smoothly

Change is Uncomfortable

Great Things Never Came From Comfort Zones sign with a beach on background.jpegIt’s normal to feel some discomfort with the thought of change. As you start to consider what direction you should go with IT support, you know that it’s going to take your time and energy. You know that your decision is going to impact every part of your business, because all of your business processes rely on technology. You know that your decision is going to impact the people in your company, some for better and some for worse. It’s not your desire to make extra work or possibly stir up conflict, but the consequences of doing nothing can have negative financial impacts on the business.

Consequences of Doing Nothing

  • Higher labor costs because of poor productivity, duplicate work
  • Financial unpredictability
  • Make the wrong decisions about IT investment
  • Higher employee frustration and turnover
  • Security breach resulting in loss of trust, additional costs
  • The business struggles to achieve objectives

 

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There are consequences for doing nothing about your IT problems

Doing Nothing About Your IT Support Problems is a Decision

IT Solutions Categories

How will the path we take affect the focus on our business?After reviewing your current situation including the consequences of not making a change, let’s go through the IT options that you have to choose from. A logical place to start is to compare and contrast resourcing internal IT vs outsourcing IT services.

There are different approaches within these two broad categories that are going to affect the results you should expect, but we’ll get to that in a later section. A question to keep in mind throughout this exploration of IT solutions is –

How will the path we take with IT support affect the focus of our business?

Let’s first look at these two categories and the implications that each will have on the focus of your business.

Internal IT

We will devote the resources needed to develop the right processes, and the right people to get the results we want.

Outsourced IT

We will find the experts who can do what needs to be done to get the results we want.

Common Perceptions of Internal and Outsourced IT

Here are some common perceptions of the pros and cons of our two broad categories – Internal IT Department or Outsourced IT

Internal IT

Pros

  • Fast response time because they are on-site
  • IT people will really understand our business because they are one of us
  • A full time employee will cost less

 

Cons

  • Response time will slow as our business grows
  • Limitations to the expertise of that person or small team
  • Over/under capacity at times
  • Might be difficult to find the right person
  • Average turnover rate in the IT industry is 2.5 years

Outsourced IT

Pros

  • IT is off my plate
  • Combined expertise exceeds what we could have internally
  • “Just right” capacity
  • We benefit from their investment in tech tools and continuing education
  • Leverage the collective knowledge they have working with all clients

Cons

  • Not on-site all the time
  • Unpredictable costs depending upon how agreement and services are structured
  • Cookie cutter services may not meet our unique needs
  • They don’t know us
  • Their company is too small to be effective
Internal IT or Outsourced IT?

The Top 10 Results SMB's Want From IT

Choosing the right IT solution isn’t as easy as deciding to turn left or right. Within each category there are different approaches and ways of providing services that affect the IT experience that you are going to get.

 

  1. Fast response time
  2. IT understands us
  3. Cost effective
  4. Predictable budget
  5. Plan for the future
  6. Comprehenseive expertise
  7. Just-right capacity
  8. IT innovation
  9. Security
  10. IT is off my plate

 

Top 10 IT Results

What business value could you derive from these IT results?

It’s a good bet that you acknowledge that these nine results would benefit your company, but let’s go a step further and envision the business value that you would derive from being able to get these results:

Improve productivity and efficiency

Decrease labor costs

Minimize interruptions

Increase customer satisfaction

Decrease risk

Less stress and worry, so you can focus on your business

 

What business results emerge from better IT results?

Increased business value!

 

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How IT Solutions Measure Up

Now that you can identify the kind of results that you want to get from IT, and you recognize some ways that these results can provide value to your business, it’s time to look at different IT solutions and see how they may or may not be able to deliver. The most common IT options we’ll examine are:

Break/Fix

Managed Services

Internal IT

How IT Solutions Measure Up

Option #1: Break/Fix

This term is used to describe an approach that focuses resources on reacting when things don’t go well.

What is Provided:

The term is what is says – something breaks and you call the IT company to fix it. You might get some advice but no help with planning.

Cost Structure:

You are charged time and materials for the work that is provided. IT costs will be unpredictable and there is no way to budget. An issue could be a few hundred dollars or several thousand. A general rule of thumb is that for every $1 you spend in break/fix support, you have lost another $2 in overall employee productivity.

Experience:

Every time there is a break, you have an interruption in your business operations. Response time can be slow. There is never time to address the root cause of problems so issues go on and on. People struggle every day to do their jobs. Inconsistencies may cause duplication of data. People create their own workarounds which can cause other problems including security vulnerabilities.

Business Model:

The more issues you have, the more money the IT provider or department gets from you. If you have a break/fix mentality in an internal IT department, the result can be the same in that the more issues you have, the more you spend, and prevention cannot be a priority.

How Does Break/Fix Measure Up With Results?

No

Fast response time

No. There is a low ratio of technical people to customers or computer users. Staffing is based on utilization of their people, not the needs of their customers.

No

IT understands us

No. They only understand the one issue you are having and only when you call for help, and they do not understand your business

Maybe

Cost effective

Maybe. But only if you don’t have any issues or too many issues. For an organization for 10 computers, this could be the best option.

No

Predictable budget

No. Nothing is being done to prevent issues, so you have no idea what is going to pop up next

No

Plan for the future

No. Nothing beyond the obvious needs to replace failed hardware and outdated software.

No

Comprehensive Expertise

Probably not. The very nature of break/fix creates a jack-of-all-trades culture where they know a little about a lot, creating limitations

Maybe

Just-right capacity

Maybe. You aren't going to have too much and you aren't going to have over capacity, but you might experience under capacity as the break/fix company is fighting other fires.

No

IT innovation

No. There isn't time or expertise available to work on initiatives to improve the business with technology.

Maybe

Security

Maybe. Because they aren't working proactively, you'll probably have to tell them what you want implemented.

No

IT is off my plate

No. You still own it even when you make a call to get help. Your staff still own it, too, as they take their time or a colleague’s time to solve their own problems before making a call, or as a result of issues that never get solved.

How does Break/Fix affect your focus on your business?

You and your staff will have to continually devote time and energy away from your core business in order to handle IT needs.

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Option #2: Managed Services

This term is used to describe an approach that focuses resources on reacting when things don’t go well.

What is Provided:

Patching, monitoring, antivirus management, backup, and a set amount of hours or tasks that will be completed each month. Sometimes that includes an unlimited amount of hours.

Cost Structure:

Fixed fees for the monthly items but no budgeting above and beyond that monthly fee. You could still have major issue could hit with a large price tag that you weren’t expecting.

Experience:

Now you are paying a monthly fee and you may not have as many issues because some prevention is now included in your monthly services, but there are gaps in how IT contributes to the business. You feel like you’re paying more and still not getting a lot.

Business Model:

Many companies that label their IT services as “managed” actually follow a cookie cutter approach that includes set deliverables that are focused on managing the technology hardware and software within a fixed monthly fee. Additionally, you may find that managed services are just a fraction of the total business offerings, which can have implications for the quality of service delivery.

How Do Managed Services Measure Up With Results?

Yes

Fast response time

Yes. You should expect it because you’re paying a monthly fee to receive an expected level of response.

Yes

IT understands us

Yes. They should understand your technology and the business at a surface level

Yes

Cost effective

Yes. If you are truly getting fully managed services with unlimited support, and instead of a block of time that they call managed services

Yes & No

Predictable budget

Yes and no. There should be planning for known costs that are related to updates in hardware and software, but maybe not planning for the business

No

Plan for the future

No. Nothing beyond the obvious needs to replace failed hardware and outdated software.

No

Comprehensive expertise

No. You’re just getting the support that’s included in the set of monthly deliverables

Yes

Just-right capacity

Yes. Services and fees are based upon the size of your business.

Yes and No

IT innovation

Yes and No. Innovation around the latest and greatet technology but not for innovative ways to use technology to help your business.

Maybe

Security

Maybe. The set of cookie cutter deliverables may include some layers of technical security that result from the tools they use, but often there are still holes as they may not have the depth of expertise or time needed to put up the best cyber defense.

Yes & No

IT is off my plate

You shouldn’t have to keep up with the day-to-day activities and keeping the network up and running, but you still have responsibility for how you leverage technology to help the business

How do Managed Services affect your focus on your business?

The results are better than break/fix but now you will be paying more and there is still a disconnect with the overall results that you might be expecting. Moreover, you still own the pieces that could drive the most value for your business.

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Option #3: Internal IT

This term is used to describe IT that is resourced internally but is often supplemented by outside services and vendors.

What is Provided:

Management of network infrastructure, day-to-day maintenance and support, management of outside services and vendors, and anything else that gets put on their plate.

Cost Structure:

You have all the costs that are associated with a full time employee with a salary, benefits and coverage when they can’t be at work. You should also expect to cover ongoing training initiatives to keep staff up to date with skills and knowledge, and the costs associated with tools they need to do their job and keep your network running.

Experience:

Staff appreciate having an on-site person to go to for help but that person or small team can easily get overwhelmed with support resulting in neglect of maintenance and improvement initiatives.

Business Model:

Internal IT works best for companies that are large enough to fill all of the roles that are needed, and have the resources to divert to developing expertise that is not part of their core business. This starts to make sense for organizations that can support a team of about a dozen IT professionals, and they have about 500 employees

How Does Internal IT Measure Up With Results?

Yes & No

Fast response time

Yes and no. They are always on-site but their response time will slow as the organization grows.

Yes & No

IT understands us

Yes and no. They understand your technology and may understand the business at a surface level.

Yes & No

Cost effective

Yes and no. Typically, internal IT support is either over staffed or under staffed and includes costs to various vendors as well.

No

Predictable budget

No. The costs of the internal person is, but when you add external vendors, costs climb quickly.

No

Plan for the future

No. They often do not have the capability until there is a full-fledged team. Additionally, the IT staff may not have expertise in creating strategy.

No

Comprehensive expertise

No. Not until there is a full IT team.

No

Just-right capacity

Never. Capacity is always over or under, and gaps open up whenever there is staff turnover.

Yes & No

IT innovation

Yes and no. Innovation around the latest and greatest technology, but often not for innovative ways to use technology to help the business.

Maybe

Security

Maybe. It depends on the expertise of the IT team, and if they devote the time and resources that are needed to keep up with changing technology.

Yes & No

IT is off my plate

Yes and no. It depends upon who is overseeing IT and who is providing technology innovation.

How does Internal IT affect your focus on your business?

You commit to diverting resources away from the focus of your core business to developing and maintaining an IT team that won’t get all the results you want.

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There Has to Be Another Option

How do you find the best of all worlds? You need to find a different approach.

None of the three options we just analyzed are going to provide you with all of the results that add up to the best IT experience.

There has to be another option, and there is. It's an --

Outsourced IT Department

Let’s analyze this approach with the same results criteria that we used for the previous three.

Pretty young lady taking a decision with scale above her head-699968-edited.jpeg

Option #4: Outsourced IT Department

This term is used to describe an approach that provides a fully functioning IT department.

What is Provided:

The outsourced IT department handles the day-to-day issues, but focuses on proactively implementing best practices to prevent issues from happening in the first place. They also bring the capability to leverage technology in a meaningful way that ultimately increases the revenue per employee.

Cost Structure:

Fixed fees cover unlimited user support as well as ongoing proactive initiatives. The IT provider collaborates to create and implement IT strategy that creates predictable costs for IT investment in the future.

Experience:

The proactive nature of this model assures that the technology framework on which business processes are built is predictable and reliable. Staff experience less disruptions but when they do have a problem, support is readily available. A dedicated vCIO meets collaborates with management to create IT strategy that aligns with business goals.

Business Model:

The focus of the IT company’s business is on providing an outsourced IT department. They leverage expertise, tools and knowledge that are customized for each client’s unique needs and circumstances.

How Does an Outsourced IT Department Measure Up With Results?

Yes

Fast response time

Yes. The need to respond reactively to issues is minimized.

Yes

IT understands us

Yes. From both technology and in-depth business standpoints.

Yes

Cost effective

Yes. IT is focused on the area that has the highest ROI which means not only reducing issues to keep staff productive, but leveraging IT in innovative ways to improve business outcomes.

Yes

Predictable budget

Yes. Fixed monthly fees for proactive and reactive services, and an IT roadmap lets you know what to expect in the future

Yes

Plan for the future

Yes. IT strategy maps out where you are going and tactics to get there.

Yes

Comprehensive expertise

Yes. All the roles are filled

Yes

Just-right capacity

Yes. It will scale with your business

Yes

IT Innovation

Yes. They will bring you ideas and expound on the ones that you have.

Yes

Security

Yes. They have experienced staff and have allocated resources towards the tools needed to implement the most effective technical security tactics.

Yes

IT is off my plate

Yes. You focus on what you do best.

How does an Outsourced IT Department affect your focus on your business?

IT becomes a key business function that allows your people to focus on what they do best, while enabling your business goals.

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IT Becomes a Business Function That Helps You Meet Your Goals

It takes a shift in mindset to go from viewing IT as a piece of overhead to seeing it as a critical business function. It takes another shift to recognize that IT could be a business function that enables your business goals.

All you need to do is to look to your business plan to pull out some possible ways that technology can enable your business. You might find unrealized business goals there, or goals that you didn’t think were achievable through leveraging IT. You might have some goals that just don’t have a clear path to success.

Example Business Goals:

  • Streamline information flow
  • Enable remote work force
  • Increase sales
  • Decrease costs
  • Increase revenue per employee
  • Streamline business processes

Double exposure of businessman hand working with new modern computer and business strategy as concept.jpeg

Change the IT Conversation

Change the IT Conversation

Think about the way that you may have evaluated and purchased or resourced IT support in the past. Did your evaluation process revolve around questions about deliverables? If it did, it’s no wonder. That’s the way that many IT companies sell their services. Just look at a few IT provider websites and see what you find – cloud services, backup, mobile device management, network maintenance, hardware and software, etc. The questions that you ask when you are making your purchase decision based on products and services is not going to lead you to better IT results.

In order to uncover the value that the IT provider can bring to your business, you have to ask different questions. You have to ask, “What results can I expect from your services.” If the person on the other end on the question goes into a deep technical discussion in their answer, that’s a red flag. If all they want to talk about is their cool tools and technical stuff, changes are they’re missing it on the business end.

IT can enable your business goalsThe other question you should ask is, “What can IT do to enable my business?” And that is going to give you an entirely different conversation – one that should be about where you are today, and where you want to go tomorrow.

Choosing an IT solution is less about fixing the technology and more about improving your experience, and that drives the kind of value that you’ll receive.

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Next steps

Thriveon provides businesses in Minnesota with an outsourced IT department along with business level IT guidance that helps companies leverage technology to get better results and achieve their business goals. Read some client testimonials and case studies on our website. If you are ready to explore how our proven process can use technology to move business forward, please call us at 855-767-2571 or complete the form on this page and we'll get back to you right away to arrange a time to get a conversation started.

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