What we need from IT is reliability
What level of reliability have we come to expect of our computer systems? We look at three 9s or five 9s for our cloud solutions, that is 99.9% or 99.999% access or up time.
These days we do not expect our computers to crash and need re-booting very often, if at all. It is not that many years since we took a few reboots each day as normal so we have learned quickly to rely on our PCs, networks and servers to be there for us. Yet when it comes to our service providers or in-house IT department is it as good as we need it to be?
Do you have friends who agree to a meeting or a dinner only to stand you up and then offer a lame excuse next time you chat? Do you book many more events with those friends?
Yet we all have the experience of being let down by service providers in business. In our business at the moment we are observing understaffed service providers promising a great deal and delivering little in a timely manner, from accountants to lawyers to tradespeople.
I put the trend down to one of two things, either service businesses trimming off excess staff to weather the downturn in services spending across the economy or simply a poor focus on quality of service.
If this is your experience you may want to consider how you are feeling about the way you are being treated. If most of the areas are covered you may put up with a slow service, but if the drivers of quality service are missing it may be time to question the model of service you are engaged in.
You want your service providers to be reliable across the quality of their service and their advice.
You should be able to rely on them to:
- Place your needs first, above their need to make money
- Be there when you call
- Arrive when they say they will
- Provide suitably educated and experienced people
- Take on your problems and own the resolution of them
- Provide creativity in resolving business problems
- Take pride in the work that they do
You will get a good return on investment from your service provider when you build a trusted relationship. To do this the service provider needs to offer you the best value solution to your problem, not sell you on the thing they make the most money from. The salespeople who set out to stitch you up with a high margin solution will quickly move on to other targets as you realise you have been poorly advised.
You need to be able to rely on your service provider to be there when they are needed. Dodging phone calls or being absent for any reason will have a cost impact on your business when you can't get speedy problem resolution or attendance on site to resolve physical issues.
Having suitably qualified staff is important. When you engage with a law firm you know you are being looked after by a qualified expert, similarly when you engage with an accountant. Your work may be done by a junior staff member but you know they have minimum levels of education and experience and that the work they do is checked by senior members of the team. In IT there is no registration process for ensuring qualifications are in place.
Sending problems back to you to resolve will also add to your workload. It is not the level of service you want. This calls for a level of responsibility from your serviceperson or people and, let's face it, no one wants to take responsibility for much these days and so trust can quickly be eroded here.
Creativity is a difficult thing to asses in technical environments, you don't want anything too crazy or risky, but you want quick solutions that will hang together and integrate into your environment well. Finding people who can do this well is a challenge as it takes a mix of good education, good experience, and good judgement on the part of the solution architect.
Pride is something one cannot fake. If one is passionate about their work and enjoys getting good results, pride will follow. It takes a powerful environment to create pride in problem-solving when there is a new problem every day. Helping your service provider to be proud of the results is a two-way deal. You need to remember to recognise their good work to ensure their pride in creating solutions is maintained.
If you can rely on your service providers across this range of needs you have a trusted partner who will look after you and your business. This leads to confidence and lets you focus on building your business rather than worrying about the back office issues. Do not underestimate the importance of the human factors and trust in having reliable IT systems.
David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.