IT Support Blog for Small Business Owners

Using Time & Materials IT Support? Are You Happy With The Results?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Thu, Jul 25, 2013

IT Services,IT Outsourcing,IT supportYou probably don’t realize this—but even though you are not an IT expert you can evaluate the best IT support for your business, and avoid those IT companies that are never going to give you great support, no matter how much money you pay them.

This means you can choose between an IT company that truly wants you to succeed in IT rather than spend endless amounts of money fixing never ending IT issues with an IT company that simply isn’t motivated by your IT success.

Let me show you what I mean:

There are two types of IT support companies; the old business model is a Time & Materials company; here’s how it works: When you have an IT issue, you call them, they send out a technician and they fix your problem, they send you an invoice for a few hours’ work and they wait until something else in your company breaks and you call them in again, and again, and again.  You have probably been doing this for years with your IT guy; so what’s so bad with the Break/Fix model?

Honestly, as a business owner, I like the idea of paying as little as I can for IT support, I would certainly avoid hiring a full-time IT geek for as long as I could.  It seems like the Break/Fix Time & Materials approach to an IT problem helps a business owner avoid hiring their own IT employee; you get IT services on demand when you need them and you only pay for what you use in support time. Isn’t that an ideal way to keep your IT costs as low as possible?

Well maybe not; as we all know things aren’t always the way they seem.

Imagine for a moment you are the owner of the IT provider instead of the consumer of the IT service.  How do you grow your IT business and make more money? Well we already discussed that you have to wait until a client calls with a problem, then you send out your best technician so that you can solve the issue in the shortest amount of time so that the client gets the smallest T&M bill possible.  Hmmm do you really think that’s how old style IT companies approach it?

Or more likely, do they send out the least qualified technician that can solve the pain in the slowest timeframe possible so they can maximize the T&M invoice while clearing up the customers’ issue? Herein is the rub, the IT provider is not financially motivated to work as quickly as possible by deploying the highest skilled worker and searching for the underlying issue that will resolve the problem forever.  After all, for the Time & Materials approach to be viable the IT provider needs you to keep calling them--so they never search for the underlying issues that could reduce your need for T&M support! 

So what does this mean to you as a business owner?

With a closer look, you and your business are really at cross-purpose with your T&M IT provider, you each have diametrically opposed agendas:

  • The IT provider wants to maximize the time billed; you want it completed as quickly as possible. 
  • The IT provider isn’t really motivated in solving underlying causes of issues; you want the problem to never return by solving the root issue. 
  • The IT provider is motivated to send the least capable engineer and you want the most talented engineer in the company working on your network. 
  • The IT provider reactively waits until there is a problem to exploit the pain you are feeling with the IT issue, while you really need a proactive approach to IT issues, where things are solved before they become IT impacting.

It turns out; there is another IT approach that will serve you and your company much better than T&M and I will explain what you need to know to choose the best provider for your business!  Download our Free Report on the Seven Signs that its Time to Call for Computer Support.

7 Signs Its Time Computer Support


Topics: IT Support, IT Outsourcing, Time & Materials, IT Services

Providing IT Support To Your Small Business Is A Team Sport

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Mon, Jul 15, 2013

IT SupportAs a small business grows, owners hire an IT person to support the increasing complexity of their IT infrastructure and growing employee base; typically an owner hires one IT employee.

They hire that person with the expectation that the new hire will be able to provide all the IT support the company will need; my 30 year experience in providing IT services shows me that is an incorrect assumption!

I just returned from a two week Boy Scout backpacking trip in northern New Mexico that I attended with my 17 year old son and ten other Boy Scouts from his troop.  I knew I had to be physically prepared to carry a 45-50 pound back pack and hike 10-15 rugged wilderness miles every day in the blazing desert sun.

I spent 6 months in preparing for the trip; getting the right gear, learning how to use it, hundreds of boring hours on a treadmill and dieting. I was absolutely certain this trip would be a success based upon being 100 percent personally prepared. 

I quickly found out on the trail that hiking with a group is a team sport, no matter how well I had prepared, I was still largely at the mercy of the slowest hiker. Plus, in a Crew of 12 people, everyone has another role; we have a cook, a water gatherer, a bear safety person and so on.  Everyone on the Crew is dependent upon each person performing their role in a timely and effective manner.  

The total effectiveness of the Crew requires many skills delivered by a group of people.  If one person fails to cook diner on time, the whole Crew suffers. 

I believe providing IT support to a company is much the same as hiking with a Crew.  At first blush, we think that IT support can be delivered by one person, so we hire what we feel is an all-around IT generalist.  Once that person is hired, your employees begin to receive a level of support they had never experienced before and the business Owner receives positive feedback (reinforcing that single IT hire approach.)

After making the IT hiring decision,  is everything IT really all right?, I mean after all, as the Owner, do you have the time or the knowledge to evaluate if everything related to the company’s IT systems are correctly set up and optimized?

Back in the day, a small business IT support employee needed to know about Windows Operating Systems, Windows Servers and they could support 95% of the IT environment.  Today technology has crept in and with that has come additional IT complexity.  Today you need to be able to support the servers and desktops, but also Firewalls, VPN’s, VoIP telephones, Wide Area Networks, Local Area Networks, Wireless, VMware, and Storage Area Networks, to name a few…. Advanced Network Products has 11 engineers who each specialize in each narrow technology subset.  There is simply too much to know about Firewalls or any other IT specialization to expect an $80,000 a year IT generalist to know and understand.

IT has certainly become a team sport, with so many new technologies to understand and support; it’s become extremely specialized.  Imagine breaking your hand and going to your primary care physician and asking him to set your hand in a cast.  The doctor would first send you to a radiologist to interrupt the x-ray that was taken by an X-ray technician, then to an orthopedic doctor to read the x-ray and cast your hand.  The same is now true in IT, there are so many diverse and complicated technologies, you need a stable of IT specialists.

Before you take the plunge into hiring your first or even your second IT employee, consider IT outsourcing; you get access to a much larger pool of IT talent, all focused on specific areas, and typically at a much lower cost than hiring your own team.  Plus the outsourced team comes at a fixed monthly fee, they never ask for a vacation or a raise and they never call in sick.  IT has certainly become a team sport, how is your IT team?

6 Essential IT Outsourcing Strategies

Advanced Network Products - Delivering IT Peace of Mind

Topics: IT Support, IT Outsourcing, IT Services, IT Staffing, Teamwork

IT Support Graduates From The Traditional Time and Materials Approach

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Fri, Jun 21, 2013

Time and Materials Contract for ITThere's new way for CEOs and business owners to purchase IT support that's faster, better and less expensive than the old time and materials approach.

It’s called Selective IT Outsourcing, or sometimes referred to as managed services, where you negotiate a fixed fee per month based upon the number of workstations, servers and printers that you have in your company.  For this fixed fee you get a specific set of written IT recurring deliverables that insures your IT infrastructure becomes reliable. 

Instead of the reactive time and materials approach, now your IT service provider proactively works on everything in your IT network to ensure nothing ever breaks! 

Imagine an IT company where you never have to tell them to fix anything, they just go and do it, and they do it faster than trying to do it yourself. Your employees are happier (and more productive) and you never have to deal with the financial and technical uncertainty from the time and materials approach.

If we look at this from the business owner or CEO's perspective Selective IT Outsourcing allows you and your IT provider to both be working on the same team. Now the support your IT services firm provides becomes so proactive that neither you never have to worry about any service issues or any increases in expenses related to supporting your business.

Both you as the owner and the IT outsourcer are working together in tandem for the same result: your company has an excellent IT infrastructure that requires virtually no unplanned support. Your employees are happy and they are highly productive because all of your IT assets are working. Best of all you are enjoying a fixed fee engagement that is far less than hiring and doing IT yourself! 

While we know you only care about the business owner's perspective, it might be interesting to see how this fixed fee approach benefits firms like ANP and how in the end, that benefit actually comes back to helping you and your business.  

So let’s look at this new approach of Selective IT Outsourcing from the IT company's perspective: There is no longer wild revenue variation every month because all of their billing is fixed fee and recurring. 

Now they hire the most talented and expensive engineers they can find—why? Because they are incented on a fixed fee basis to get your IT infrastructure to run at its absolute best and that only happens with the best engineers working on it.

As a business owner, CEO or decision maker you want to look for IT services firms who offer this fixed fee model not because they hire the best people, but because by hiring the best people you get the best level of service for your business.

As a way to compare the old and the new model, let me pull back the curtain and show the inner workings of an IT services firm. In the old Break/Fix IT model your IT support vendor was actually incented to ONLY deal with the surface issues. If they went deeper the expenses could become significant from a time and materials perspective, so most of the time, support teams simple made the problem go away, instead of fixing it for good.

In the new model, your IT team is incented to keep all your laptops, networks, systems software and hardware running at peak performance! Since you don't incur additional costs if issues crop up, its in their best interest to proactively keep issues to a minimum. The IT provider is more profitable if they are able to keep your network running so well they don’t have to invest in additional unforeseen labor.

While most IT providers probably don't want you to know or even understand the behind the scenes at their firms. ANP is different. Our goals are your goals. To have your business run smoothly and for us to working, every day, to ensure your network, equipment and software are constantly running predictably and smoothly.

7 Signs Its Time Computer Support

Advanced Network Products - Delivering IT Peace of Mind

Topics: IT Support, Break Fix, IT Outsourcing, IT Services, Outsourced IT, Managed Services, Managed IT

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