I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of people don’t enjoy going to the dentist. I’m one of those people. But, what I enjoy even LESS than going to the dentist, is feeling like I AM the dentist. When do I feel like a dentist? When I visit small businesses, and see poor abused business owners fretting that I’m about to deliver bad news that will lead to a lot of pain. It’s not pleasant for me, or them.
So, why do small business owners feel this amount of dread? I think it’s because there are so many poor practitioners in the SME IT space that consistently give poor service and poor advice, both of which lead to expensive solutions, that the poor business owners out there are simply afraid to ask for help.
Excuses are just one symptom of poor service, and range from:
- “Sorry, I can’t make it out there for a couple of days because I’m busy (on the golf course)”; t
- “Oh no, you can’t use that technology – you will need to buy a new one”; an
- “Yes, we can do that – but it will take six months to deploy.”
If you are getting excuses like these, and don’t feel they are justified, it is time to look at the quality of the relationship you have with your IT company – and the capabilities of that company. The excuses you’re getting should give you a good clue as to the company’s capabilities. Worth noting here is the fact that sometimes it’s the external IT guy, or even the in-house IT person, that will feed you excuses. Either way, it’s time to reexamine your choice of service provider.
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Out of fairness, IT is complex and some of the excuses may actually be good valid business reasons, based in science and technology. But, I do want to let you know a bit about what goes on behind the scenes. So, here come my excuses…
Before I start though, if the service you are getting shows that your IT solution is not handling the following issues to a standard that meets your requirements, I would like to assure you that there are other providers out there who will meet – and even exceed – your expectations. I wish that I could point you to a register of those companies, but unfortunately I’m not aware of any such register.
Back to those excuses though… IT companies have a lot of issues to manage, including: staff levels, technical training and capabilities, queue management and resource planning. Smaller IT companies have only a few technicians, and will use the same people for routine maintenance, break fix work, and projects.
This can lead to having all staff deployed, and none left to field an urgent requirement, or having certain skills contained in individuals who are needed on more than one job at a time. Rarely does a customer order an IT project weeks before they need it run to allow the IT company to allocate their hours appropriately.
So, if you are calling today to order the project that was quoted weeks or months ago, you may expect a stream of excuses on delivery time to follow the “Thanks for the order”.
There are, of course, also some very large players in the IT game who control the supply chain, and we are yet to see them correctly predict stock levels for small business equipment in May, June or December. So, there can be real delays in accessing the equipment required. Stock levels are kept to a minimum, as the products have a shelf life of six weeks before a new model is released. Therefore, planning your orders before you need them is essential.
Specialist skills reduce the amount of time it takes to run a project. If the technology specialist is deployed on a large project for days or weeks, using a substitute may get the job done – but may take up to four times longer as the skilled (but undertrained) technician learns on the job. In IT, pressing a button only takes a few seconds, but learning which buttons to press and in which order, can take years of accumulated knowledge and thousands of dollars worth of training. Deploying a good PC technician to set up a new server in a couple of days is probably not going to get you the results you are hoping for. Using a server tech who did one last week, and one the week before, will give you a more predictable outcome – and less excuses.
So, to some extent, we get the excuses we deserve when we either ask for unreasonable things, or allow bad relationships to continue.
To get to a place where you can trust the advice you are given, and not feel like you’re receiving a bunch of excuses, you need to:
- Be realistic about who you need, and what you need;
- Enter into a relationship with the right people, with the right capabilities; and then
- Ensure they will be accountable for the work they take on.
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David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.