My business Prussia.Net always has clients who resist any long-term IT planning. While researching potential suppliers to handle our increasing workload, I stumbled across the best explanation I’ve ever seen for how the process should work.
Many SOHO and very small business seem to have no plan for their IT at all. Most, actually. They just call for help when something breaks, and only replace computers and other equipment when it’s completely dead. They complain that their computers are slow or unreliable, and yet resist spending anything on preventative maintenance or minor upgrades which could deliver substantial improvements.
Zern Liew and I have discussed the causes of this before. However the two key elements are, I think, a lack of understanding of IT issues and the perception that doing things professionally will be expensive.
Last year Australian IT services company First Focus‘s website presented a 3-phase model for developing professionally-managed IT. They removed it when they renovated the site, which I think was a mistake. But here it is anyway, thanks to The Wayback Machine…
In the Learning phase, [we] will meet with your management team to hear about you. What are your priorities? What would you like to be able to do? How much do you want to spend? How much are IT problems costing you right now? Based on this information, we will create a proposal for moving your business towards a “best practice” IT environment. The proposal will include fixed costs, recommendations and alternatives, and we will discuss it with you in plain English to map out what’s going to happen next. During this phase, we will also distribute a survey to all members of staff in your organisation. The results of this survey will be used as a baseline for measuring improvements in your organization’s Network.
The Stabilisation phase is all about ensuring your network meets a minimum level of reliability and usefulness for your staff. A poorly designed or cobbled together network is only going to cause you an endless series of problems. Our goal is to prevent problems from recurring by fixing the root causes, rather than the symptoms. Critical problem areas are addressed first, and typically this phase may include the delivery of one or more Focused Solutions to address key business objectives.
The Support phase is all about ensuring your cost-benefit. This “phase” is more a continual process, where First Focus ensures your network stays highly organized, documented, and stable. Preventative maintenance, Software updates, and Staff training are the hallmarks of this process. A regular strategic IT review is also conducted in order for First Focus to report to your management team, and in order for the management team to keep First Focus aware of any new business objectives or requirements. We will also survey your staff on a regular basis to help you measure any improvement in your organisation’s Network.
Very sensible stuff. The killer for me, though, was their final paragraph:
There are no shortcuts to this process; we can’t maintain your network to the standards we are satisfied with, until it is in a stable state. And we can’t move your network to a stable state until we understand the business processes and objectives your network must support.
100% correct. Businesses can’t ignore planning and maintenance and then whinge about poor reliability and sudden unexpected expenses when things need to be fixed. And yet this is precisely how most small businesses seem to run. It’s like getting a dodgy second-hand car, failing to check the water levels or change the oil when recommended, and then being surprised when the engine blows up.
Even though First Focus dropped that explanation from their website, they’re definitely a contender for Prussia.Net’s outsourced IT support. Expect my call soon, chaps.