I recently received an information request from a small business owner. She's been running her own business for a few years. They've seen success, and they've experienced failure. It is always a struggle to maintain a budget, to keep employees productive, and to maintain technology efficiently to run the overall business. Since we're smack dab in the middle of the holiday season, I thought it would be appropriate to share the correspondence.
Dear IT Managed Service Provider,
I've owned and operated my own business for about 8 years. My current IT company tells me that the only way to support my needs would be to literally react every time something breaks. They charge me for every hour they spend fixing my issues (sometimes it is the same thing over and over again, but I'm charged anyway!) I never see an end to the cycle. I've heard rumors that there's another way; a proactive approach to prevent problems from happening in the first place. Please tell me the truth, does proactive support really exist?
Well, I was taken aback. Of course there's proactive support! I suppose there are those out there who don't understand the true meaning of being proactive. That's a shame. I immediately began my response to Virginia.
Your current IT company is wrong. They are either incapable of becoming proactive or are in need of that billable time spent fixing the same issue over and over again. They aren't thinking about how these issues affect your business.
Yes, Virginia, there really is proactive support. It exists as certainly as email and databases exist. It is when you experience a true proactive approach to service that you'll be able to truly appreciate what your IT Managed Service Provider can do for you. The magic is in the invisibility proactive work has associated with it.
Proactive work begins with the on-boarding process
This is where you and your IT managed services provider get to know each other. Documentation is created, data is gathered, pictures are taken, and labels are made. This process doesn't end until there is an established relationship between you and your service provider. What servers do what? What software applications support your line of business? Who hosts your website? What checklists can be created for a new employee? Who should be contacted in the case of an after hours emergency? It is only after the basic needs are met that a true relationship can grow.
Once some ground work has been accomplished, you'd then want to look for a Standard Operating Environment. What software can be loaded on your desktops? A standardized installation for similar users can make support more efficient, and your workers more productive!
By knowing how your business runs and what equipment you have to run it, regular maintenance routines can be scheduled so that your machines maintain optimal functionality. Updates are tested and applied. Anti-virus is kept up to date. Here's a sure sign that you're experiencing proactive service instead of an invisible elf sitting on a mantel: your IT service provider not only talks to you about industry best practices, but applies them as they fit into your environment with your specific needs.
What needs to be included?
To be truly proactive, to be real, would require some human interaction. Make sure your service provider offers a VCIO - a Virtual Chief Information Officer - who can work with you, know your business, and offer some real strategic guidance for now and your company's future. This Jolly Ol' Elf should come prepared with reports on what has been done to reduce your reactive support needs and costs, and to present a technology summary with details in an easy-to-read manner. Oh, to increase to validity of the magic, you should experience regularly scheduled visit by an "technical account manager" who can get to know your business and its network environment even more intimately than anyone remotely. You will rest assured that this visit will be a exclamation to your proactive experience.
Much of what it is to be proactive is to be invisible. Work is done after hours, and behind the scenes. You won't notice much unless you look for it. What you'll start to realize is that you have reduced or eliminated your need to call the help desk. Your machines seem to magically work better, and are more reliable. Your monthly bill remains steady and predictable with no surprises. Your workers are more productive because their machines are running optimally. You are now experiencing true proactive service.
Is this real? Can this happen? Yes, Virginia, it is.