Employ your own IT Staff, or do you Outsource?
Regardless of whether you employ your own IT staff, or whether you have decided to outsource your IT needs to an external person or company, there are a few rules which I highly encourage you to follow to ensure you get the very most from both your IT Systems and the IT Staff/Department themselves.
1 | Consult them on decisions
Firstly, and by far the biggest bug bear we have with our own customers, still, and far too often is that they don't consult us before making decisions.
Decisions about their IT Systems.
Decisions that must be vetted by someone who knows something about IT.
It's utterly absurd to look at spending tens of thousands, or even hundreds of pounds on something, before running it past your technical IT department first.
It is a massive issue which has made for some very uncomfortable meetings (for the customer) when they realise the contract they have just signed requires a complete rip-out-and-replace of their IT systems to make it work.
Business owners are busy people, it's a given. I find myself making snap decisions in an effort to focus on more important things - but I would never make a decision that would result in spending money before running it past the relevant people first.
Lets talk a real world example...
“Pete, we’ve just signed the lease for our new offices which we’re moving into next month. Can you please move all of our IT and ensure it all works?”
That sounds like a simple request. Lets see my reply...
“Dear Customer,Thanks for letting me know about your plans to move next month.I’m sorry to say that the location of your new offices has no broadband available.Instead of paying £30 per month for super fast broadband, you only have the option to pay for a dedicated leased line which starts at £400 per month for a service which is half as fast as the one you have in your current offices”
See the problem?
Lets see another example of this is the conversation that usually goes
“Tekkers,We’ve just bought this new program which we need you to install. We’ve already spoken to their technical support team who assure me it’s all compatible, can you install it please?”
“Dear Customer,I’ve checked over the software that you have purchased, however it’s not compatible with your systems and actually explicitly states in the documentation you have sent over that it does not support your systems.I’d suggest you either look to back out of this purchase / contract which you have already signed as if not, it will cost a considerable amount to re-engineer your IT Systems to solve this compatibility issue. “
2 | Give them problems to solve and listen to their expert advice.
You’re paying for IT expertise, please use it and learn from it.
This can be as easy as a subtle change to the types of questions you ask.
Instead of “We need 10 new desktop PC’s, a server and some new software next month”, try leading with “We’re opening a new department next month which will have 10 new staff members. There’s a new application we need to run for them - can you let me know the best way to provide them with what they need?
This subtle change in question may result in a dramatically different result, which could also result in a large saving in terms of expenditure, as they can look at your IT as a whole, and not just solving the one problem you propose.
3 | Training
If you outsource your IT then the good news is, you don't need to worry! Training is (or should be!) taken care of by the Outsource IT provider, who provide continual training and certification to their staff.
If you employ your own IT staff then you need to ensure they have the chance to keep up with the latest technologies and constantly develop their knowledge of using and supporting your IT systems.
If you don't, then their knowledge will drop, and likely their interest will drop too as they're not getting to soak up new information which very quickly leads to an unmotivated member of staff.
This could mean sending them on formal training courses, which result in qualifications, or it could just be ensuring they are reading books or watching training guides. It may require time out of the office, so make sure you have cover from another member of staff or an outsource IT provider to cover their time away if required.
Next comes the complexity and possibility that you will train them up, and they will move on. Which is a common concern, but without training - progress cannot be made. It's also a risk with any other job out there - so why should IT be any different?
Better to train up and continnually improve your IT systems than not train and be stuck with an IT System from the 90's.
To protect against potential loss of investment, you can include clauses in your contracts to ensure any training costs are paid back within a reasonable amount of time following them taking the courses. This at least covers your financial investment into staff development.
4 | Don't expect too much from them
Don't employ a junior, college graduate, uni leaver or apprentice and expect them to take the place of a person or firm who has 10+ years of experience in IT straight away.
This member of staff will be able to carry out only basic tasks to begin with.
Changing paper in paper trays, setting email up on new laptops or mobile phones and moving equipment between desks.
They are not going to be able to repair faulty computers, or know how to troubleshoot and fix faulty software, let alone configure, install and support complex server environments.
We have had inexperienced IT staff cause major disasters with our customers when they've gone to do something which compromised their IT security, and we've also seen outright damaging of their systems. So please take care when instructing junior staff on something which may be out of their area of knowledge.
Check out our IT Support Learning Hub for more information about getting the very best from your IT Support team.