IT Support Blog for Small Business Owners

Reactive IT Support or Proactive IT Support: What comes first?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Tue, Jul 08, 2014

chicken or the egg resized 600What comes first the chicken or the egg? Much like that question, IT Support is full of conundrums-questions that don’t have clear answers. Two very different and equally important types of work govern IT support. It’s so important for a small business owner to understand the differences so you can manage your company’s approach to IT and expect the appropriate IT result based upon your approach that you choose. In 30 years of IT support I have never met a business owner that understands this basic concept (because they are not IT professionals) and as a result their IT solutions suffer.

The two competing support services in IT support are Reactive IT Support versus Proactive IT Support. Reactive IT Support includes things that have an immediate work stoppage and typically require human intervention.  They are unplanned events and therefor you must react to them. For example here are a few common reactive support issues: a printer has stopped printing, a workstation has a virus, or someone cannot log onto the network. All of these require an employee or a Time and Materials tech to work on to get the employee’s machine business process back up and running again. These unplanned events can easily consume the time of an IT department. Unfortunately working on and solving reactive issues never helps you get to root-cause of the issue and so the IT support issue is often likely to reoccur over and over again. Because Reactive IT Support can be so consuming, the IT employee never has a moment to break away from the drone of reactive service support to start to look at the root-cause of their issues.

The other type of IT Support is referred to as Proactive IT Support which as the name implies is work an IT employee does before something fails to insure that all of the under-the-covers technical things are set up correctly and operating as they are meant to be. Proactive IT Support is all about instituting and insuring that Microsoft best-practices are in place on your workstations, Servers, Active Directory and other technical settings. Proactive IT Support are technical things that you do to insure that reactive tickets don’t occur, for example: Windows patching, Anti-Virus definition updates, scanning, and guaranteeing. Applying Microsoft security best-practices to Exchange, Active Directory, and your Group Policies are great Proactive IT Support topics. Proactive IT Support also focuses on your backups, are they running successfully, have you tested a back up to insure your backups can recover a file, an application or a complete server? Proactive IT Support is always planned and scheduled.  It is always proactive never reactive. Proactive IT Support is always focused on setting up a list of technical things that must be completed and checked on.

I started this blog by saying that Reactive IT Support and Proactive IT Support compete with one another.  What I mean by that is Reactive IT Support always trumps Proactive activities. Reactive business issues will always trump planned proactive IT events.  For instance if Mondays are the day that you have planned to do all Proactive IT Support for patching, and there are Reactive service issues that occur all day long, you are going to handle and remediate the Reactive service issues before you would do the planned Proactive activities. In the mind of the IT employee, they are thinking I have to get these reactive issues solved so that the employees can get back to work and they are also thinking I can delay the proactive patching one day that will not impact anything. So can you see that Reactive IT Support always trumps Proactive IT Support?

When Reactive IT support is done at the expense of not doing your Proactive IT Support, you can imagine what happens? As the Proactive work is deferred and then ignored, the number of reactive issues dramatically increases. If and only if you can get all of your Proactive IT Support tasks competed reliably and on time, only then does the Reactive IT Support begin to drop off and you have a nice and quiet network. Conversely when Reactive issues increase Proactive planned work is not completed and the network slowly drifts away as best-practices decay. As best practices drift, system performance suffers and downtime increases. It is a vicious circle.  That’s why I ask is it the chicken or the egg that comes first? So too for Reactive and Proactive IT Support, which comes first that’s a real IT conundrum.

This complex interwoven relationship between Reactive and Proactive processes is the reason why almost every single IT employee department ultimately fails. You cannot place one person in an IT role and expect them to balance Proactive IT Support (that they fundamentally understand they should be doing) and have them doing 100% Reactive IT Support every day. Over time the network will become so unreliable that the owner will throw their hands up in complete disgust because they are spending money on IT payroll and yet getting unreliable systems and unacceptable downtime.

A business owner needs to understand that there really are two competing types of work that must be done in tandem within an IT department that two people are required at a minimum to get a reliable and good IT result.  No one person can perform both roles, but two people can each be assigned a single role: one focuses on user and system Reactive service incidents while the second focuses on Proactive IT Support tasks. And ideally, an IT manager is in place to inspect that the Reactive IT Support is being accomplished on time and the manager is also inspecting that the Patching, Anti-Virus and Malware and backups are also running and up to date. So there are three people and that covers someone getting sick, taking vacations or going to training. How many small businesses can afford to invest in three fulltime IT people?  I don’t see that payroll investment until you have 100 to 200 employees, and even then the IT manager doesn’t fully understand the need for Proactive IT Support delegation.

I believe this is why IT Outsourcing is becoming very popular with small businesses.  It is simply more cost effective to outsource your day-to-day Reactive and Proactive IT Support rather than self-staffing and doing it yourself. Here at ANP we have specific engineers that handle Reactive IT Support and different engineers responsible for the planned best-practice Proactive IT Support by dividing the labor types and then having strict measurement systems monitoring quality of the work. ANP (and other Managed Service Providers) can promise to you contractually that you will have a high level of network predictability and uptime all for a monthly fixed fee because both the Reactive and Proactive IT Support practices are all being reliably delivered.

In the end, who cares if it was the chicken or the egg that came first?  What matters is you have a reliable and cost effective IT solution. By understanding the underlying forces that compete for your IT employee’s attention, you can manage your way to a reliable and predictable IT network environment! Want to learn more about how to run your small business IT department? Sign Up for our Webinar below by clicking on the box.

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Topics: IT Support, IT Outsourcing, Reactive IT Support, Proactive IT Support, IT Solutions

5 Ideas for Creating your Operational Efficiency using IT Outsourcing

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Thu, Jul 03, 2014

Operational Excellence using ITOperation efficiency is one of the key goals an owner should be working on to be competitive in today’s business climate. Customers expect instant access to information, quick service, and superior delivery. If you have not mastered operation efficiency, you most likely are not meeting your customer’s expectations and risk losing market share to your competition. I believe IT plays a huge role in achieving operational efficiency.

Operation efficiency isn’t just about reducing costs; to the contrary, it’s about leveraging all of the assets available to you as an owner. Companies who focus on solely cutting costs to improve operation efficiency usually end up under performing their competition. They become too focused with cost reduction and lose sight of adding real business value to the customer, which in return improves customer satisfaction, recurring revenue, increased market share and dramatic business growth.

The following are 5 IT and organizational best practices to help your business increase operation efficiency and deliver more value to your customers and business:

  1. Collaborate more: Work on making it easier to collaborate between employees, suppliers, and customers. Improving collaboration is a sure-fire way to boost your efficiency while also reducing costs. Using IT to integrate Voice over IP, IP video, Instant Messaging, and data and wireless provides the kind of interactive calendaring, videoconferencing, IP communications and other technologies your business needs to provide instant and easy communication with all parties. No matter if you are in or out of the office. Look for an integrated tool for unifying all of these communications methods within a single desktop application. I have described the idea of a unified desktop application here.
  2. Provide customers and vendors with secure, consistent access to information: Easy access to your IT information may be the difference between holding onto a long time client and losing them to a competitor. Do you have a secure web portal for your clients to track orders, and invoices? Do you have a portal for your vendors and clients so they can self-serve? If your company network is frequently down, sluggish, or unsecured, your competitive advantage may be lost. Your employees also need an easy virtual-private-network access to your IT network. To achieve a high level of access to IT information, your employees must be able to have access to your environment at anytime from anywhere. An easy to use, reliable and secure infrastructure provides your business with maximum agility by providing reliable, secure access to business IT intelligence.
  3. Streamline client communication: 
Communicating with clients helps keep them satisfied and can help turn them into raving fans. Few things are more important to your bottom line as satisfied clients. Integrating your phone system to your customer relationship management (CRM) application is one way to improve client communications. This integration is an easy IT solution to implement; when a client calls, a pop-up window of the customer contact appears on your employee's computer screen. Before the second ring, your employee answering the call has access to information about the client calling, such as current orders, recent returns and much more. There is no more need to ask your client what their account number is. The data is already on your employee’s screen before they answer the call.
  4. Create efficient and effective processes with your vendors: 
Vendors are critical to all growing businesses. Successful partnerships are created when you are able to integrate your company with the vendor. To do this, you will need to create efficient and effective processes that bring you and the partner into a seamless distribution channel. Operationally bringing your vendors into your IT systems via a secure virtual-private-network tunnel is a fast and inexpensive means of allowing your vendors and your company to share critical information in real time.
  5. Outsource low priority functions: 
Is it the best use of an employee's time to manage your network, security, communication systems or other non-core functions of your business? Often, a more efficient option is to outsource such tasks to an IT managed service provider (MSP). A service provider has the expertise that your business may lack, but desperately require. An MSP can provide you with instant expertise without the need to spend time or money developing that IT expertise in house. Outsourcing enables your employees to stay focused on productive activities related to your business's core functions and competencies.

IT operation efficiency is the cornerstone to all successful growing companies and is not a onetime project. Continuous review and improvement of your IT operation will help you and your company outperform your competitors and dominate your industry.

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Topics: IT Outsourcing, Operational Efficiency, Unified collaboration, secure web portal, virtual private network tunnel, outsource IT

How do you insure IT Outcomes occur when IT Outsourcing?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Sat, Jun 21, 2014

IT Outcomes healthy or unhealthy?This month we have been looking at the outcomes that come from IT outsourcing, the last two blogs have talked about the potential business outcomes you might expect if you outsource your IT; but what about the IT outcomes? Outcome based outsourcing is the Holy Grail of IT services; achieve a healthy or unhealthy result.  Our clients would all agree that if we can tie specific business and IT results to our outsourced agreement everyone would be happier in the end.

The trick is that many IT outsourcers focus on the inputs rather than the outputs.   Consider the US healthcare system; today doctors are still incented to perform tests and procedures with few financial rewards tied to the ultimate goal: a healthy patient, I believe the same is true today in many IT companies.   Let me give you an example, today many IT companies want to sell you the business owner a “block of hours,” which is a prepaid amount of man hour labor. How does approaching your company IT with a third party and a bunch of man-hours assure you of any type of IT outcome? The truth is it doesn’t, the business owner is lured into thinking he can control his third party IT expense, but they fail to see that the money is going to fixing things, not delivering a great holistic IT outcome. As a result, that block of hours contract wastes money fixing reactive issues as they come up. The great IT outcomes are never realized because all the money goes to fixing the problem of the day and is never placed where it really matters; under the covers deep inside how your network is configured. 

As a business owner, ideally you can see the difference between reactive IT support and proactive IT support. Reactive support fixes IT things as they break and proactive support is what an IT outsourced agreement focuses in on, proactively doing the IT best practices that keep your network and IT running at peak efficiency. Lets go back to healthcare, we ultimately have two choices in our life regarding our health: be reactive and wait for an issue or become proactive and focus in and do what we are told are the healthy best practices.  You can sit in a lazy boy and drink beer and eat Twinkies and reactively get rushed to the hospital when you inevitably have a heart attack and hope for the best, or you can proactively watch what you eat, exercise and really focus on health lifestyle best practices because you know you will end up with a longer lifespan and a higher quality of life.  Believe me, the same is true with your IT, become reactive and lazy or work at becoming proactive and healthy. Yes it’s harder to be proactive, yes its time consuming to do the necessary work, but the IT results are guaranteed.

So if you can take that leap of faith with me and see that becoming proactive with your IT will insure you of a better result; then let me show you how to insure you get that great IT result with an IT outsourcer.  The IT best practices are well documented: patch your windows servers and workstations, install anti-virus software make certain it is updating and scanning, quarantine all of the files that anti virus software finds, monitor your server logs, daily monitor your back up software, test file restoration etc. The question is not what we should be doing, it is insuring that not only does it happen but also it happens transparently and with a “Service Level Guarantee.” You should look for an IT outsourcer that can produce a monthly report that shows you how effectively all the best practice work is occurring. And more importantly, when it doesn’t occur, you can ask for your money back! 

I think you should be able to go further than that; focus in on the reactive things that often do breakdown and expect a higher level “Service Level Guarantee,” on that type of work.  For instance if your cable modem goes off-line, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, your IT outsourcer should be able to notify you the device went off line within 15 minutes of it occurring, the outsourcer should be able to email you what their resolution plan is (for instance calling up Verizon or Comcast and getting a service incident opened and trying to get a dispatch time) and finally the repair and resolution time should be documented and completed in less than some guaranteed period of time.   Each of these three steps should have a contract time limit, and they should have a money back guarantee if the time performance is not met.  Investigate if your potential IT provider is willing to commit to performance guarantees, beware the small providers who don’t have the staffing to commit to a higher level of deliverables.  This is the way, you as an owner, can insure your IT outsource agreement does in fact tie IT outcomes to your payment of money each month. 

As a business owner, you can get a much higher level of IT performance out of your company infrastructure if you are willing to commit to proactively applying IT best practices, to insure you achieve the IT best practices, consider outsourcing to an experienced IT outsourcer, once you have found an experienced company, take a look at their contract and see if you can find a written service level guarantee that promises a certain level of performance or your money back.  If you shop carefully you can achieve the Holy Grail: you can tie IT outcomes to a performance based IT outsource agreement! If you would like to meet and discuss IT outsourcing click here to set up an appointment. If you are not ready to meet, click here to sign up for a free whitepaper on IT outsourcing: 6 Essential IT Outsourcing Strategies.

 

6 Essential IT Outsourcing Strategies

Topics: IT Outsourcing, Service Level Guarantee, IT Outcomes, IT outsourcer

Three Additional Strategic Outcomes from IT Outsourcing

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Thu, Jun 19, 2014

IT Business OutcomesAre outsourced IT services right for your business? Possibly, I have listed three more business outcomes that you may try to achieve when outsourcing IT managed services. You have probably heard before that the CEO should be working “on,” the business not “in,” the business.  The same is true while outsourcing your IT services, the time that is freed up for your staff and yourself should be directed to important work outcomes.  IT outsourcing can provide a strategic, cost-effective solution if your management team is focusing “on,” your business outcomes.  The business outcomes can be segregated into three areas of business operation, first are the CEO focused business outcomes, and second are the strategic accounting and operational outcomes and finally specific IT business outcomes. In this blog I will discuss the final three of seven business outcomes (the first blog describes the first four business outcomes) you can read the first blog here.

Outsource your IT to maximize Return On Investment and manage costs.

When you add up your IT salaries, annual software licenses, hardware upgrades, is it a significant cost to your business?  Most business owners will agree IT is expensive.  Owners demand confidence that their IT investments are delivering sufficient business value.  Many owners wonder if they can improve IT availability at a lower cost than doing IT themselves.  Typically an IT Managed Service Provider can lower your IT costs and improve service levels.  I have seen savings range from 30 to 60 percent annually versus doing IT internally.  The savings come from adding discipline into the IT operations, and that includes financial discipline.  You will begin to predict your IT budget accurately and control costs because everything will be documented and planned.  Do you need standardize on a single laptop model or desktop to control costs?  Should you be leasing or buying your hardware? These and many more questions will be discussed, evaluated and answered through IT outsourcing.  Look for a client Chief Information Officer as part of the outsourcing engagement; insist upon an MBA to periodically hold business conversations with the owner that can help establish a link between your personal business goals and the strategy needed within IT to achieve those business goals.

Outsource your IT to leverage IT as a strategic asset.

Speaking of IT strategy, how do you leverage your IT systems in a competitive manner?  Is it possible to look at your current IT applications and consider if you have deployed the best software to align with your business goals?  Through IT outsourcing you will have access to an IT expert who can help you evaluate if you have the appropriate applications and systems in place.  Time after time, we see business owners who recognize that their company’s IT has degraded in performance and in its usefulness to the business; the owner does not know what to do next.  As an owner you need to be ready to respond to changing business conditions, and that often means, upgrading your Line-of-Business application, or at the minimum, evaluating if your IT applications are serving you and your employees.  Many CEO’s and owners see their industry is in rapid change, we all saw in 2008 how quickly the national economy can impact our businesses. Owners need access to IT experts that can accommodate the industry or economic conditions as they evolve.  How can your IT systems that are 5 years old be serving your business properly five years later? Surely something could be upgraded, or enhanced to add additional value. If you decide to outsource your IT, make certain that the IT outsourcer will provide you with an IT thought leader, who can bridge your business strategies with your IT systems and evolve your IT department into a strategic asset. 

Outsource your IT so your business delivers first-class products and customer service.

Gone are the days of paper ERP systems and clients calling in on the phone.  Today, to remain competitive, your company needs an excellent web site, an email domain, and ideally a web portal for your prospects and clients to interact with your sales and delivery teams. You need to be able to respond quickly to customer needs and expectations. Your IT systems are an extension and a representation of your company to your employees and your customers.  Your company will be evaluated on how efficiently work can be completed. Ideally, you have automated tasks so you can provide a value-add to your clients. Hopefully you are leveraging the Internet and have a web portal so your clients have more than a phone call means of connecting with your company. Today in this globally competitive world, you need to provide your clients multiple channels to interact with your company: ANP has video conferencing, Instant Messaging, Chat, email, service ticketing and a phone call: that’s 6 different ways to interact with ANP… are you offering a client multiple ways to communicate with your firm? Don’t make the mistake of expecting that everyone is going to want to communicate in a way that you prefer! These are reasons why it might be time to consider IT outsourcing, its not just about the block and tackling of IT, an IT Service Provider can help you work through new ways to enhance your products and services for your clients. 

I need to say your mileage may vary; every company has different circumstances and will have different business outcomes.  I can state our clients are able to achieve most of these business outcomes.  ANP's clients are seeking effective business IT solutions that will help increase company: revenue, competitiveness and productivity and enable the company to scale for the long term.  If you shook your head and said, "Yes, that's us" when reading our list of business needs, then this is a clear indication that outsourced IT managed services can deliver strategic value to your organization.  Outsourced IT managed services will play an ever increasing and critical role in the small and mid-size business marketplace.  As more organizations take advantage of performance and productivity-enhancing technology and applications without the distraction and expertise required to manage them, IT outsourcing frees up valuable time for the business leaders. The question for you is not whether to use them - but how and when? Want to get started, click here and sign up for a free 7 step strategic review. I you are not ready to talk yet; you may download our free white paper on the 6 essential IT Outsourcing Strategies (found below.)

6 Essential IT Outsourcing Strategies

Topics: IT Support, IT Outsourcing, Business Outcomes, Strategic outcomes

Four Strategic Outcomes to Focus on when IT Outsourcing

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Wed, Jun 04, 2014

IT Business OutcomesAre outsourced IT services right for your business? Possibly; I have listed seven business outcomes that you may try to achieve when outsourcing IT managed services. You have probably heard before that the CEO should be working “on,” the business not “in,” the business. The same is true while outsourcing your IT services, the time that is freed up for your staff and yourself should be directed to important work outcomes. IT outsourcing can provide a strategic, cost-effective solution if your management team is focusing “on,” your business outcomes. The business outcomes can be segregated into three areas of business operation, first are the CEO focused business outcomes, and second are the strategic accounting and operational outcomes and finally specific IT business outcomes. In this blog I will discuss the first four of seven potential business outcomes.


Outsource your IT so the CEO can focus on increased revenue and profitability!

By outsourcing your IT you may dedicate 100% of your payroll and employee resources to your core business rather than to IT functions and support. Through IT outsourcing you can begin to view and use IT as a strategic asset within your company. Outsourcing your IT is an effective strategy for gaining efficiencies and reducing costs. A typical IT outsourcer will automate specific recurring tasks during your IT outsourcing agreement, which will increase IT availability and increase network predictability. Through IT outsourcing, you will develop a short and long term IT budget. If you outsourced your IT how much time can be freed up for you and your management team and employees to focus on the core business?


Outsource your IT to insure you successfully transition to a new technology to enable a faster growth rate.

Many CEO’s from our clients share with us their growth targets will require them to implement a new technology; by outsourcing your IT you can be assured the technology will be deployed successfully. Other CEO’s tell us they are growing quickly and don’t want to add headcount, they need to improve employee productivity through IT automation or a Line-of-Business application deployment; outsourcing your IT will insure the application is deployed correctly -- the first time. We have had clients merge or move operations with another company, outsourcing with tight planning can mitigate the risk out of business consolidation. Through IT outsourcing you can also easily expand into new states or countries; an IT Service Provider can typically support client locations in Europe, Asia and Africa 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

Outsource your IT to manage risk and ensure business continuity.

There are so many potential risks to manage within your IT department: Do you have a business continuity plan in place in case of a man made or natural disaster? Do you know how long it would take to resume normal IT operations after a data disaster? Does your business need to conform to the HIPPA or PCI standards? Perhaps your documents and files include both internal and client sensitive documents and data; are you required to have secure data, secure transactions and communications? Or perhaps your business has a small IT department and you want to secure the systems from being compromised if an IT employee leaves or if the department is dismantled. Or you simply want to protect your PCs and servers from the latest viruses and malware threats. Outsourcing your IT to a managed service provider will provide answers to all of these questions and deliver the business outcome you need.


Consider Outsourcing your IT to improve your IT infrastructure’s availability and service responsiveness.

The most common reason our clients outsource their IT is because the owner feels his business has outgrown the current IT provider. The vast majority of IT companies are 1 or two possibly three employees; when one of the three is sick or on vacation, it becomes impossible to adequately support all of their clients. The owner calls us exasperated in how long it is taking to get service. The IT requirements of a growing business steadily increase; another common issue is that the current IT provider does not have the knowledge and skills to help the business grow in their IT maturity and IT complexity. If you have a business where you operate 24 hours a day, or you have both national and international offices, you need an IT provider that operates a Network Operations Center 24 hours a day 365 days a year. No matter what time it is in the world, a larger IT Managed Service Provider will be open for business and ready to answer your employee’s questions. Shop for an IT outsourcer that can provide a written Service-Level-Guarantee on response time, and resolution times; insist the Service Level’s provide a money back guarantee if they are not meet. By placing the new IT outsourcers “skin in the game,” you can be assured you will achieve a higher level of responsiveness and availability and thereby achieve the business outcomes you require.

In our next blog we will look at the other 3 business outcomes you can expect from IT outsourcing. If you are ready to speak with ANP fill out our form here. Or download our free white paper on The seven sign its time to call for computer support (found below.)

 

7 Signs Its Time Computer Support

Topics: IT Outsourcing, Service Level Guarantee, IT Strategy, IT Business Outcomes, IT Strategic Outcomes

Developing a Small Business IT Strategy

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Thu, May 15, 2014

IT StrategyBefore the introduction of Information Technology, there were many organizations that have been more successful than others. These companies have had a better product or service offering, a positive customer focus, and very probably close employee involvement in its development. Today, these qualities need to be fused with a complete understanding of the value of IT to maintain or repeat this level of business success.

Small businesses that fail to capitalize on the strategic value of IT, often stemming from the owner’s disengagement, are those that have failed to appreciate the businesses ability to create competitive advantage. This problem is further compounded by the absence of a well communicated and clearly defined IT strategy, and the consequent failure to correctly align a company’s resources - including its IT - with the strategic objectives of the organization. The consequences of a missing IT strategy can be huge and will often result in missed opportunities to use IT to accelerate and achieve critical business performance improvements.

A further consequence, stemming from a lack of owner and management interest in technology, is the creation of an IT department that lacks knowledge of business strategy, resulting in an inability to align IT resources with the business objectives of the organization. Any combination of technically disengaged owner and a technology focused IT department will effectively block any chance of the company leveraging IT for real business gain.

Small business owners have been told by management gurus that ‘having an IT Strategy’ has joined the ever-growing list of items which demand management attention. Despite the dire warnings and the consequences of failing to respond to the challenge, owners have been given no direction on what an IT Strategy might mean, or how you go about creating one. This blog attempts to briefly answer the question what is an IT strategy?

So what exactly is IT strategy? An IT strategy is a plan to guide their organizations on all facets of technology management, including IT cost such as in-sourcing or outsourcing, IT payroll, IT hardware and software, IT vendor management and all other considerations in the IT environment. Developing and executing an IT strategy requires strong business leadership; the small business owner needs to work closely with managers, as well as, with other stakeholders within the organization.

Many small businesses choose to formalize their Information Technology strategy in a written document or balanced scorecard strategy map. The plan and its documentation should be flexible enough to change in response to new organizational circumstances and business priorities, budgetary constraints, available skill sets and core competencies, new technologies and a growing understanding of user needs and business objectives.

I have observed many situations where the business owner was supposed to document an IT Strategy in a short period of time, in order to prepare the following year’s IT budget. Very often, they lack supporting business information in order to achieve this task. The result is a weak or no IT strategy, sometimes ignored by the user’s community, the key stakeholders.
A weak IT strategy can be costly and wasteful, especially for resource-constrained organizations that operate without an IT budget. It also implies that organizations cannot respond to changing business requirements rapidly enough. The absence of strategic thought causes organizations to be inefficiently reactive, forcing them to work in a constant state of catch-up. So how do we avoid becoming reactive, can we convert to a proactive approach to IT? Yes of course, begin by developing an IT strategy and connect the strategy to an annual IT budget.

A small business IT Strategy should answer the following questions:

  • Should we consider outsourcing our IT Strategy development and IT Support?
  • Are we doing the right things with technology to address the organization’s most important business priorities and continuously deliver value to the clients?
  • Are we making the right technology investments?
  • Do we measure what is the real value to the organization derived from that technology?
  • Is our current Information Technology agile enough; flexible to continuously support a successful organization?
  • Is our Information Technology environment properly managed, maintained, secured, able to support the clients, and is it cost effective?
  • Can our strategy support current and future business needs?

We often find that many small business owners do not feel they have the knowledge to answer these IT questions. For many small business owners who feel that their focus should not be detracted from their prime business, the benefits of IT outsourcing should definitely be explored. A professional IT outsourced company will possess the business and technology skills necessary to ensure that the full benefits of IT are realized. It is commonly believed that an IT outsourced contract only benefits costs and, in many cases, this can be the case, however, in the best examples, an outsourced IT contract can have much greater benefits for a small business including offering a guaranteed way of ensuring the full strategic benefits of IT are properly realized.

Topics: IT Outsourcing, Developing a IT Strategy, small business strategy

The Pros and Cons of IT Outsourcing

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Thu, Mar 20, 2014

What does IT Outsourcing mean?

IT Outsourcing is the process of assigning a company’s business IT processes to a Managed IT Service Provider. For larger companies the outsourcer might be offshore to leverage lower labor costs. Smaller businesses with less than 100 PCs can typically gain great advantages by outsourcing to a local IT Service Provider. However, the path to a great IT Outsource engagement does come with some business risk, which can be mitigated if you know what to watch out for. Let’s take a look at IT Outsourcing and discuss how to stay out of trouble.

What are the effects of IT Outsourcing?

IT Outsourcing is the delivery of a defined set of proactive services that are remotely delivered on a fixed-fee basis and prepaid on a recurring basis. Across industries IT Outsourcing is primarily undertaken to enable companies to generate better revenue recognition and to provide them an added competitive differentiator. While always done with the best of intentions, IT Outsourcing has a telling effect on a company’s products and services, either enhancing or lowering their quality. The goal is to have the IT Outsourcing provide you with a competitive edge. And, based on how effectively the IT processes are managed and delivered, IT Outsourcing can also result in easier management and better productivity.

What are the pros and cons of IT Outsourcing?

IT Outsourcing can provide enterprises a competitive advantage by delegating their IT business process to a Managed IT Service Provider who can deliver better quality and improved IT innovation. While this is a fair picture of the desired outcome, managers need to consider the possible shortcomings and negative outcomes of the process and the corresponding impact on the company. To best analyze the opportunities presented it is essential to reflect upon the advantages versus the disadvantages of outsourcing.

The pros of IT Outsourcing

The pros of IT outsourcing often positively reflected by enterprises across industries include the following:

  • Increased operational efficiency.
  • Reduced and controlled operating costs.
  • Cost-effective access to Enterprise-level support.
  • Minimized downtime.
  • Freeing of management time, enabling the company to focus on core competencies while not being concerned about their vendors.
  • Peace-of-mind with the knowledge that the IT environment is being monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The cons of IT Outsourcing

Often weighed with the advantages of IT Outsourcing, the following represent some of the possible questions a business owner should consider and try to mitigate, before engaging in an IT Outsource engagement:

  • How many employees does the Managed IT Service Provider have? (Watch out for just a hand full; employees get sick and go on vacations. You need more than 10 engineers if you want a true Enterprise-level service.)
  • How long has the Managed IT Service Provider been in business? (Look for longevity which demonstrates the IT Service Provider’s business skills.)
  • Does the Managed IT Service Provider have engineers staffed in the office 24 hours a day, 365 days a year? (Does your equipment break only during business hours? Look for staffed weekday nights and weekends, not engineers merely on-call or dispatched after an event is detected.)
  • Does the Managed IT Service Provider have a written repair time performance guarantee? (Look for a written Service Level Agreement that provides a written response-time and repair timeframe with a money back guarantee if the commitments are not met.)
  • Does the Managed IT Service Provider include IT consulting as part of their fixed-fee service? (You will need help budgeting and also need performance reports and risk assessments; make certain they are all included on a periodic basis.)
  • You are not an IT expert so how do you evaluate the abilities of competing Managed IT Service Providers? (Look for the audited Industry standard for IT Service Providers. They should hold an SSAE16 Type II audit, which will insure you the provider has been audited by 3rd party IT experts.)
  • The Managed IT Service Provider will on occasion have their employees at your office, so to protect the security of your employees and of your data, request to see 3rd party background checks of all of the Managed IT Service Provider’s engineers.

 6 Essential IT Outsourcing Strategies

Topics: IT Outsourcing, IT Service Provider, Managed IT Service Provider, SSAE16, IT Consulting

The Top 10 Reasons to IT Outsource Versus “Doing IT Yourself.”

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Tue, Mar 18, 2014

Top 10 reasons to IT outsource

Most of ANP’s new clients are “doing IT themselves,” before we meet them. Once we complete an assessment of their IT environment they are surprised to find out how many serious things are not configured correctly or not configured at all. We have been providing IT outsourced services since 1998, and we have learned a few things along the way. Let me share with you what I believe are the top 10 reasons why a small business owner or a non-profit Executive Director should be considering IT outsourcing.

Given below, as reflected by ANP’s clients, are the top 10 reasons to outsource your IT:

  1. Lower operational and capital costs are among the primary reasons why companies choose to outsource their IT. When properly executed, IT outsourcing has a defining impact and can deliver significant savings to a company. In addition, rather than get Time & Materials IT invoices on an unplanned basis, you now get a fixed-fee invoice every month; it is so much easier to plan your IT cash flow.
  2. Perhaps most important, you can gain some peace-of-mind that your IT is being run by using industry best practices. I opened the blog sharing with you that most owners are really surprised how bad their IT situation is. By outsourcing your IT you can become confident in knowing that all of the data security, patching, antivirus updating, disk defragging and daily backups will be monitored, proactively managed and completed.
  3. Many times our new clients recognize the existing IT foundation is in big trouble, and in order to build an organization that can scale and grow, a strong IT foundation must be in place. Once you outsource your IT you will have access to the advice of professional IT experts. They will analyze your basic IT foundation and make recommendations. For example, during a new engagement ANP often finds a Local Area Network (LAN) in which LAN switches are daisy-chained throughout the company. Over time, this common practice will cripple the LAN’s ability to work correctly and everyone will slow down to a crawl. Placing a couple of new LAN switches in a few closets can completely turn that condition around.
  4. If you were to consider how much time you and your staff are spending on IT today, what would you estimate the value of that lost payroll to be? If you outsource your IT to a third party, you immediately re-gain time which you and your staff can use to focus on growing your business.
  5. IT outsourcing can also help a small business build a 3-year and 5-year IT budget. You can actually plan to replace old PCs and laptops in a scheduled and controlled fashion, rather than wait until a salesperson’s PC blows up and you find them screaming in your office to spend an unplanned $1500.
  6. Outsourcing your IT will also free up internal IT resources that were doing mundane support desk and patching tasks, allowing them to be put to more effective use for other strategic IT purposes.
  7. IT Outsourcing can also be used as a strategic planning tool before a business sale. If you are planning to sell your business as a strategic platform, your IT must be performing at a high level. Once an offer for sale has been made, an IT professional will be sent in during a diligence period to evaluate your IT processes and they will assess the overall condition of your IT department. Outsourcing a year before the business sale will insure you get a great bill of health!
  8. Outsourcing also enables companies to realize the benefits of re-engineering their whole IT server farm. My experience has been that many companies have deferred their IT spending so long that the servers running the business are too old and way overtaxed, impeding the ability of each PC on the network to do the simplest of tasks.
  9. By delegating responsibilities to an external IT service provider companies can wash their hands of IT functions that are difficult to manage and control while still realizing their benefits.
  10. Some companies also outsource IT to help them expand and gain access to new market areas, by taking the point of production or service delivery closer to their end users. For instance, do you want to move into South America or the Mid-East? ANP has deployed WAN and LAN networks throughout the world.

To summarize: Companies undertake IT outsourcing for a variety of reasons depending upon their vision and purpose. While this may vary from company to company, all of our clients have found outsourcing their IT to be a fruitful and successful component of their business strategy. You should consider it as a potential strategy for your business!

6 Essential IT Outsourcing Strategies

Topics: IT Outsourcing, Managed IT Service Provider, IT Peace of Mind, IT infrastructure

What is the Advantage of IT Outsourcing for a Small Business?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Thu, Mar 13, 2014

IT OutsourcingAs a business owner you are always focused on the key activities of growing your company, but you also need to deal with your non-core business functions efficiently, such as your IT operations.  IT outsourcing is a tried-and-tested approach and is recognized as a long-term competitive strategy for business success.  IT outsourcing helps you get your focus back on your core business and control your IT CAPEX and OPEX costs at the same time.

If you find yourself asking the following questions then IT outsourcing might be for you:

  1. Are my Information Technology systems set up correctly?
  2. Are my employees as efficient and as productive as possible?
  3. Is my IT infrastructure ready to support new business and new employees?
  4. Is my company data as secure as possible?
  5. Is my reactive approach to IT service and repair cost effective?
  6. In the event of a fire or flood are my data backups capable of restoring my business systems quickly? 

Key Reasons to outsource your IT; consider the following top reasons cited by companies that have successfully outsourced their IT operations:

Control Your IT costs: ANP’s clients report IT outsourcing can save them as much as 43% over their traditional reactive Time & Materials approach to IT service. Typical PCs can be supported for $50 a month and Servers cost $150 per month.  By converting to a outsourced IT fixed fee all you can consume model, the business owner can realistically set an IT budget and be assured it will not fluctuate during the year.

Lower Your Infrastructure Investments: By outsourcing your IT you can avoid the need to purchase PC and server management toolsets.  You no longer need to renew annual antivirus subscription contracts.  You no longer have to rely upon slow to dispatch T&M service; which can blow your monthly IT budget. 

Focus on Your Business: Focus on your core business.  Redirect your organization’s internal resources toward mission-critical activities. By outsourcing  your IT functions you and your employees never have to worry again about a windows patch, a virus quarantine, or a damaged disk drive.

Accelerate Migration to New IT Technologies: Migrate to new IT technologies with minimum downtime and increased productivity and quality by outsourcing IT projects o an IT outsourcer to jump start your company advancements.

Get Access to Best-Practices Capabilities and Improve your IT Availability and Performance: Imagine the peace of mind you would have knowing that every Microsoft best-practice is set up and being maintained in your own company’s IT infrastructure?  Compliance to Microsoft best-practices insure that your company’s IT will be more reliable and secure.

Enjoy Deep IT Experience & Knowledge: An IT outsourcer will typically have a staff of IT expertise that is aligned by technologies and very deep in experience.  At ANP we have Firewall, Router, Server Virtualization, and VoIP IT engineers.  Each engineer’s salary is shared across thousands of devices so a small company has access to a level of IT engineering talent that would not otherwise have access to.

No more IT Sick Days: Once your outsource your company’s IT to a fixed fee Managed IT Service Provider, you will never worry about another IT hiring, sick day, vacation day or training request.  You will never have to hire another IT employee. 

Enhanced Business Continuity: Get protection from natural calamities, accidents, fires, or technical crises.  Disaster recovery and data back ups and detailed back up plans provided by the Managed IT Service Providers will help you to respond rapidly and get operations back on track quickly.

IT Outsourcing as a business model:

Though there have been a lot of controversies regarding outsourcing, the overwhelming advantages of IT outsourcing speak for themselves.  More companies are drawing up plans to outsource their IT work to Managed IT Service Providers such as ANP.  Many companies now base their entire IT business plan around the delegation of functions to external IT service providers; for example many company’s now don’t see the value in owning an operating an email server.  According to some experts outsourcing is not simply a way of cutting costs; it is now a successful and valid business model.

6 Essential IT Outsourcing Strategies

Topics: IT Outsourcing, Managed IT Service Provider, IT Peace of Mind, IT infrastructure

What is the Better Business Approach? In-source or IT Outsource?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Tue, Mar 11, 2014

IT Outsourcing BenefitsOutsourcing is a common business buzzword these days, as more and more cost and quality conscious small business owners are turning to Managed IT Service Providers for outsourcing their IT business processes. So, what exactly is IT outsourcing and what are the benefits of having a Managed IT Service Provider operate your IT infrastructure for you? This blog looks at the benefits of outsourcing your IT and the value proposition offered by a Managed IT Service Provider like ANP.

What is IT Outsourcing?

IT Outsourcing refers to the way in which a small business Owners and non-profit Executive Directors entrust their organizations IT processes to a Managed IT Service Provider. Any IT business process that can be done remotely can be outsourced. This includes functions like managing and monitoring your Servers, your firewall, Internet connection, PCs and backups. Plus, your employees have the ability to call and request Help Desk support during business hours as well. Some of the IT processes that can be outsourced to IT providers like ANP are Microsoft patching, Anti Virus updates and scans, malware scans, disk drive de-fragmentation, Active Directory policy creation and enforcement, proactive support such as, UPS battery testing, Backup file recovery testing, and system log reviews to name a few.

Benefits of IT Outsourcing to a Managed IT Service Provider

There are many benefits of outsourcing your small business IT to a Managed IT Service Provider. Some of them are: 

  1. Cost advantages: The most obvious and visible benefit relates to the cost savings that IT outsourcing brings about. 
You can get the job done at a lower cost and at better quality as well. We find that many of our new clients have been using Time & Materials reactive support and when we ask them to consolidate a years worth of T&M invoices they are often surprised how much they are spending and how many times a single IT issue is worked on. There is a cost savings of around 30% by outsourcing your work to Managed IT Service Provider. Plus, the quality of the services provided is high thereby ensuring that low-cost does not mean low quality. 
  2. Increased Uptime Less Downtime: 
When you outsource your IT needs to an outsourcing partner like ANP, they bring years of experience in IT best-practices and expertise in delivering greater reliability and uptime for your IT infrastructure. Thus, they can do the job better with their knowledge and understanding of your IT than doing-IT-yourself. This leads to an increase in your employee productivity and efficiency thereby contributing to the bottom-line of your organization. 
  3. Focus on Growing your Business: Outsourcing your IT processes will free you and your employees energies and enable your company to focus on building your brand, growing your business, and move on to providing higher value added services to your customers.
  4. Unlimited Access to Skilled IT Engineers: When you outsource your IT, you never have to worry about IT employee vacations, or calling in sick, or asking for a raise or an expensive IT training course.  IT Service Providers like ANP take care of the technical staffing needs with their pool of highly skilled engineers. The IT engineers employed by ANP are well educated in the respective IT areas of expertise and have over a 200 combined years of experience in handling small business IT issues of all kinds.
  5. Fixed Fee Predictable IT Budget: Apart from the cost advantage to outsourcing, the other benefit has to do with the ANP’s approach to Fixed Monthly Fees. For a flat all-inclusive monthly fee, you can have your PCs and Servers completely supported 24 hours a day.  Plus receive unlimited Help Desk access during business hours. 
  6. IT Peace of Mind: What is the value to a business owner to rest assured that his IT systems are secure, available and being run by professional IT engineers? Imagine never having to worry about the back up or if your systems are set up correctly.  By outsourcing your IT to professionals, you can enjoy peace of mind!
6 Essential IT Outsourcing Strategies

Topics: IT Outsourcing, Managed IT Service Provider, IT Peace of Mind, IT infrastructure

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