Do you tell your IT provider what you want?

Often when we have a problem with IT within our business we leap straight to a solution. We then seek prices for that solution from multiple sources and proceed to delay, avoid or – believe it or not – often do nothing and, in some cases, implement.

The reason we delay is that we lack conviction that the solution divined will actually solve the problem, and when we do implement, it is often driven by lack of alternatives and a strong imperative.

In a small business where problems and solutions appear simple this can be good enough to keep the business growing. As a business grows and becomes more complex, this often leads to a partial solution rather than a total or right solution, in turn leading to cost blowouts or simply failing to deliver against the greater requirements of the business.

All too often prospects believe they must tell us what they “need” and expect us to deliver a price for a product or service as our first engagement. This is a sale and would seem like a great place to start working together – the old foot in the door position we often look for as business developers.

Unfortunately, all too often the sale is either a partial solution or not the right solution to the underlying issue(s) and so the first action is underwhelming. In some cases it does not even lead to a motivation to change suppliers and we watch people fall into the trap of proceeding with the wrong solution with the old supplier and then wonder why the outcome fails to deliver against the business need.

My comment is that when you go to market to improve your business systems, take your problem to people and seek a better solution. Here is the rub though: in IT there are multiple good solutions to any problem. How do you select the best solution from a bunch of different suppliers if you are not an IT expert?

Right now IT is more complex than it has ever been due to the pace of change and the range of options. This is leading to more difficult decisions on each project. We are faced with multiple devices: smartphone, tablet and PC for personal use and “on premise”, “private cloud” and “public cloud” for our server or back-end solutions.

Throw in complex internet and private network solutions that can now incorporate phone and video solutions and no one decision is simple. I have not even mentioned the range of applications that we need to engage with to run a competitive business.

There is a smart solution to this problem but again it is a fraught path. Make use of a fractional CIO: a person with sound IT knowledge appropriate to your scale and industry who can sit in on the decision process from inception to implementation to ensure your business gets what it needs.

The reason this is fraught is that without sound understanding of IT any bloke who can sling a few technical sentences at you can sound like an expert.

Selecting a good advisor is key to your success.

You probably do not want to employ this person as they will only need to be there for a few consultations over a couple of months while the projects are being carried out. If they have the strategic skills you require they will not work well as a tactical resource delivering the solutions.

I only need to look at my own team to see the different personalities and capabilities required at each of these levels. The typical job ad reads IT leader/strategist who does not mind rolling their sleeves up. Problem is that to get a good strategic overview one needs to move away from the detailed technology and the day-to-day problem-solving. I know it took me years of middle management in technical environments to make the break from tactical resource to strategist.

If you are not happy with the solutions that are presented, communicate your issues with the providers so they can better learn about the problem you are trying to solve.

So the message here is simple and kind of obvious: get help in taking your problem to market in a way that allows the providers to innovate on your behalf to ensure you get a well thought-out solution that can help your business to achieve the success it deserves.

Make use of a good advisor to ensure you select the best solution.

David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.

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