CFOs find there are a wide variety of technology support options available today. When looking for support options, it is important to understand the subtle difference and to set the proper expectations for one of the most important service relationships for successful business today.
Break / Fix Model: This is the traditional model of technology support. The vendor builds and supports systems on a time and materials basis or perhaps based on an informal quote with a loosely defined scope of work. If you trust this vendor, you may get a good deal and be happy with the results. The potential for miscommunications is high, however, and the risk of disappointment grows when projects don’t meet expectations and additional invoices pile up.
In terms of ongoing support, the reactive model often results in longer downtime due to little in the way of guaranteed response times. Getting the technician on-site and focused on your issues can take time. Resolution can take even longer. However, this model often offers low hourly rates on a pay-as-you-go basis.
It is necessary to ask the right questions and equally important are the questions the technology providers ask you.
Managed Services: As businesses mature, they begin to appreciate that a more proactive approach to technology support delivers more predictable network productivity. The catch-all phrase for IT companies providing proactive support for a monthly recurring fee is “Managed Service Provider.” The services offered by vendors vary significantly from one to another so it is important to develop a clear understanding of what is being offered. One offer may seem a better deal only to find out that most of the work you require is billed additionally. The details matter and often businesses use this title loosely and are in fact still clinging to the break / fix model, unwilling to shoulder the risk of maintaining network productivity for a fixed price.
Workstation support: Many organizations require support right down to the desktop. It is important to discover every aspect of the offered support for this important element of the business. Does your organization require workstation and end user support? Is the vendor offering it? Are workstation installations included or billed additionally?
Application support: Many organizations have a deep portfolio of industry specific software that runs the business. It is important to know the level of support offered for each package in use by the business. Is the vendor offering application support? Does the support include software updates and new installations? What degree of application support is included? Does the application support include help with industry specific software including coordinating fixes with the software developer?
What questions is the vendor asking? A lot can be determined by the types of questions a provider asks. Are they asking about overall business objectives? Are they asking about applications and business workflow? About the capacity of internal IT support resources? About network uptime requirements? More experienced vendors will delve deeper into understanding business operations and business objectives. This is an indication that this vendor has the capacity and willingness to not only keep a network running but can also assure that the systems supports business objectives. A business may pay more for this level of service but if your business is looking for a strategic technology partner, this is the level of discussion that needs to happen.
Business Strategy and Budgeting: If you are looking for help with budget and strategy, ask about this. Does the vendor provide regular business review meetings? Are these meetings engaging the business leaders and offering to help with budgeting and long term strategy? What is the level of content being delivered at these meetings? Are the reports the same auto-generated “stock” results or are they customized to recent activities of interest? Ask to see a sample report to evaluate the content.
Cloud options: What is this vendor’s position on the cloud? Are they trying to push your organization one way or the other or are they listening to business needs and offering practical options to meet those needs? The cloud is an amazing resource but the level of cloud computing that fits an individual organization requires deeper evaluation and answers to the right questions
There are a lot of questions to be asked by both sides during the discovery phase when starting a long term relationship. Leave some time in the selection process to ensure the correct partner is chosen and for the right reasons!