How Effective is your Technology Support?
How do you know if your IT staff or technology service provider is right for your business? Do they really understand the fundamentals? Are they following best practices?
Many owners and C-level executives resist getting into the weeds when the topic is technology. They hired an outsourced vendor or in-house support staff to take care the technology so they don’t have to. Many think that as long as the computers work all day and haven’t been breached, all is well. They don’t need to know the specifics…or do they?
Some will say “I’m just not an IT person”, while others are truly concerned that the people entrusted to maintain these critical systems may not know what they are doing. What level of involvement is appropriate to assure the health, productivity and security of the technology environment?
Even if you don’t doubt the ability of your experts, here are some key questions to ask to shine some light on the situation. The answers will quickly demonstrate if the most fundamental aspects of your company technology are understood and correctly managed. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know much–if at all–about data wiring or a network diagram because the answers (or non-answers) will tell you all you need to know.
These key questions should be easily answered by any competent technology support group and backed up with documentation and details. If paperwork doesn’t exist or hasn’t been updated in a long time it may be time for a change.
- Can you show me the certification and documentation for our data wiring?
- I’d like to see our detailed network diagram with a list of the critical components.
- Would you show me our technology licensing and warranties and their expiration dates? (Hint: nothing should be expired)
- Show me the logs for the backup system with proof we can restore data in a timely manner.
- Describe the credentials or certifications of anyone who works on our technology.
- Is our technology support agreement all-inclusive? If not, what specifically will be billed extra? If the monthly cost is artificially low, look closely at the exclusions.
- Will a live person answer the phone? And more importantly, will I have to repeat the issue to every person who works on it?
- Do you partner with us to create a strategy to improve the technology? If so, ask for examples. If not, they view their service as a commodity purchase that doesn’t offer value beyond the basic agreement to keep things operational.
- Do projects have a detailed fixed-price quote with a scope of work or are they just estimated? With estimated projects you may face “sticker shock” as the final cost balloons due to a scope that was created “on the fly”. Poorly written proposals can obscure what is included and what is billed separately or not at all.
- What is the cost for afterhours support? Technology breaks at night, on weekends and holidays. If there are additional charges for afterhours work they can add significantly to the cost of services.
- Do they provide value when meeting with our management team? Reports that are dense with data that hasn’t been distilled into actionable information don’t help you make informed decisions. Without analysis it is difficult to tell if the technology is aligned with business goals to drive improvements.
- Is full application support included in the price? Solving problems with applications is labor-intensive and requires specific expertise. If this service is billed separately it will add cost and, when absent, the staff will lose valuable time trying to solve software issues.
- Is coordinating with related vendors such as ISP, phone, and wireless covered? Your technical support should have the expertise to deal with your other vendors to make sure things work.
Engaging your internal IT staff or outside provider in a conversation at this level will verify if you have technology support that contributes toward business success.
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