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The Four Common Mistakes Small Businesses Make When Outsourcing IT Support (and how to avoid them!)

By Corporate Computer Services, Inc.

Outsourcing is a great way to get professional services at a fraction of the price of hiring someone or a department full time. Your company may or may not be at the point of outsourcing information technology (IT) support. However, as your business grows, there is a high probability that outsourcing will become a realistic solution for you, whether it is information technology, human resources, accounting, or even sales and marketing.

For years, businesses have been outsourcing specific functions related to accounting, law, and human resources. Outsourcing is a popular business model because it allows a company to remain focused on its core competencies, while the experts handle theirs. And it appears once a company tries it, they can't get enough. According to the Outsourcing Institute, more than 30 percent of the companies presently outsourcing various business functions are actively searching for additional outsourcing opportunities in other functional and more business-process oriented areas. One of these areas is information technology (IT).

IT outsourcing has grown tremendously in the past ten years, first among large companies and now small to mid-size companies are jumping on board. Some companies have a full-time IT department and use outsourcing to handle specific projects. Others outsource their entire IT functions, including day-to-day issues and large projects. Whatever the case, the chances are good that your company will call upon an IT partner to execute a project at one time or another during the life of your business.

So how do you make the right decisions in regards to IT support for your office? What are some ways you can guarantee a successful outcome? How do you oversee the outsourcing relationship? The information provided, while geared specifically toward the outsourcing of IT support, can be applied to other outsourcing relationships as well.

Anytime you are enlisting the help of experts, it is easy to make certain assumptions and mistakes, so we'll address what these are and how to avoid them.

Four Common Mistakes Small Businesses Make When Outsourcing IT Support

Mistake #1: After choosing an IT support provider, you no longer need to be involved in the management of them.

As with any department you manage, your IT support provider will need oversight as well as clear and consistent communication. When you stop being involved with your IT support provider, expectations are not clearly communicated and problems are more apt to arise. Additionally, without communication, your strategic, long-term plans may not be included in preparation for future technology spending.

Communication is a two-way street. If you are not involved in setting expectations or communicating questions as they arise, communication and, ultimately, the business relationship suffers. Clear communication is even more important when you have multiple technology vendors including specialized software, email hosting, network administration etc.

The Remedy: Have a good flow of communication between your company and theirs and plan to stay in the loop.

Here are some practical things you can do to ensure good communication and proper management before you begin a support provider relationship.

  1. Designate one point of contact from your company to be the liaison between your IT support provider and employees.

  2. Request a short term and long term technology plan for your office. This will help ensure that you are on the same page from day one.

  3. Have your employees get their questions and/or needs to you prior to your IT support provider's visit. Better yet, ensure the outsourced IT provider has a system for dealing with these requests in a centralized and systematic helpdesk that can be pre-prioritized by you or your company's contact person.

  4. Expect that there will be mistakes and misunderstandings on both sides, and then be willing and ready to apply the appropriate remedies constructively.

  5. Finally, request documentation from your IT support provider after every single visit and then review it. This helps you measure whether they are accomplishing what you expect of them. If documentation is not offered, ask for it. If they won't provide it, find another company who will.

Mistake #2: Assume that there will not be anymore challenges or issues with your computers once you hire an IT support provider.

Many companies have hired IT support providers only to be disappointed that there are still things that seem to pop up on a regular basis. However, just because you have outsourced your IT support to a company with a good reputation and track record does not mean you won't have any more challenges or issues ahead of you. It just isn't realistic.

Computers are machines. User errors, hardware failure, software corruption and regular maintenance issues are the norm, not the exception, even for the best of networks and IT support providers. That is why large companies have whole IT departments. In fact you may even have more issues to address initially because someone is now actually paying attention to your needs and making you aware of them.

The Remedy: Prepare for challenges and routine issues then formulate a plan with your IT support provider to address these issues.

Get a clear understanding from your IT support provider about the issues he or she will need to address first, and find out what is required to address them. Also having a long term view of your network will alleviate many of the "disappointments" you may have with the reality of needing an ongoing network maintenance program.

Pam Butler, CEO of Aegis Computer Services in Tallahassee, Fla. contends that managers of small businesses must be ready to make fundamental changes when they are working with an IT support provider. "Don't apply a tech Band-Aid to a flawed process," she says. "It might solve a problem temporarily, but a more cost-effective approach may be to replace the process entirely."

Just remember that your IT support provider is there to assist you. Don't shoot the messenger just because they are the bearer of "bad" news, because it probably is a realistic assessment of your situation.

Mistake #3: Assume the IT support provider with the lowest price per hour is the best choice.

When choosing an IT support provider, you will have various options. As a small business, keeping costs down is important, so you may be tempted to settle for the lowest bidder. Just remember: You get what you pay for. If a company provides you a quote that is substantially lower than the others, ask why. Perhaps their employee(s) lack necessary certifications or training, they don't have a staff or tools in place to ensure your needs are taken care of in a timely manner and that things don't fall through the cracks. If this is the case, you may end up spending more in the short and long run by going with the lowest price per hour.

The Remedy: Let best practices and value determine your decision, not price.

Look for an IT support provider that uses best practices (agreed industry standards), has industry certifications that are relevant to your needs, and a support team with the infrastructure to handle a variety of issues day and night.

Remember, a lone ranger is ultimately just that, a lone ranger. He or she may cost less initially, but will this one person be available for problems you may encounter? Will he or she have the knowledge to deal with the technology issues your company faces? Will he or she have the time to help you plan strategically for the future? "Known by some in the industry as 'trunk slammers', since their cars are often their offices, individual consultants can be more than capable of dealing with a basic problem, but then fail to provide consistent support," explains Janet Shaver, founder and co-owner of San Francisco-based Synergy Business Solutions. By choosing an IT support provider with several employees including a support staff, you have a better chance at your needs being taken care of in a timely fashion.

Because not all IT support providers are the same, you need to look at the whole package before making a decision on price, especially if the company with more personnel, certifications, training, accountability, infrastructure and systems is only $10 - $30 more per hour. Making the wrong decision can be a costly and time consuming distraction to running your business, one that will end with having to make another IT support provider decision.

Mistake #4: Assume technical skill or "geekiness" is all you need.

How many times have your eyes glazed over as someone explains why you are experiencing various technical problems with your network. IT support providers who lack the ability to communicate in a non-technical manner and that don't have a long term strategic view of your company's business goals will cost you time and money while frustrating you and your employees.

The Remedy: Hire a company of professional IT consultants and not just a "fix it guy."

Believe it or not, there are IT support providers who not only understand technology, but can explain it to you in terms you understand. Be sure to find a company that will provide this balance. "At our company," says Bradley den Dulk, Director of Marketing at Corporate Computer Services "we make it a goal that our IT Professionals are more than just technical experts. It's important that they are experts in communication to business owners, managers and employees as well as consultants that care about the goals and success of that company."

It is crucial that you are comfortable with your IT support provider because he or she will spend significant time with you and your employees. Additionally, this person will help you make strategic decisions for future technology investments, so you need to be able to communicate well together.

Conclusion:

Whether you are looking for an IT support provider for the first time or are looking for a new one there are some things you can do now to avoid the mistakes many small companies make. If you can begin to view your IT support provider as an extension of your own company, you will be in good stead to avoid these common mistakes.

Like many other professional services that assist companies, the bottom line in looking for an IT support provider is finding a company with the right qualifications as well as the dedication to making sure you are taken care of to your satisfaction.

About Corporate Computer Services, Inc.

Corporate Computer Services, Inc. is a professional outsourced computer service company serving small businesses in Orange County, California. Our specialties are network planning (network consulting), network projects, and ongoing network/computer maintenance. We pride ourselves on not only delivering the results you expect, but also being knowledgeable, systematic, accountable, trustworthy and easy to work with. To speak with a Support Advisor about the the computer support provided by Corporate Computer Services please call us at (949) 336-7227 x 3111.

Copyright © 2017 Corporate Computer Services, Inc.
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