As an IT Managed Service Provider (MSP) we are regularly meeting with and consulting with various businesses in the SMB space. From manufacturers to not for profits, all declare that they are 'not tech savvy' people as they venture away from the comfort of what they know and understand. This self declaration often leads people into decision making patterns which greatly limit their capacity to make clear, confident decisions.
There are 3 common mistakes people make when evaluating and investing in technology and IT providers. All 3 ultimately stem from wanting to protect the business from being misled or oversold. All 3 however come from the false assumption that not being 'tech savvy' puts the buyer at a disadvantage. The truth is that investing in technology and/or a new provider is a business decision, not a technical one. As such, a business leader should be well equipped to make confident decisions provided they are put in the right context.
In this article we would like to highlight these common mistakes and our advice on how to overcome them.
Many businesses understand when they have a problem with IT, but fail to spend the time to evaluate what that problem means to the business. Likewise many business owners are aware of gaps in their providers services, but don't evaluate what the business is missing out on by those gaps not being filled.
Most often this is due to poor consulting & advisory services on the part of the IT provider. In any case, all business leaders should be able to ballpark the value of certain issues and lost opportunity. Failure to do so results in impossible decisions being made, often leading to under investment and ultimate failure of the initiative.
As an example, in a business with 20 staff, would you invest $50k to upgrade technology that will increase speeds and reduce user frustrations?
If your answer is a straight forward yes be sure to give us a call, but all jokes aside this is an impossible decision to make. What will the increased speeds mean? In what way does improving staff satisfaction improve the business? Without exploring these effects you cannot easily determine the right course of action.
As a consequence, many business leaders feel 'forced into' IT spending based more on the implied seriousness by the vendor, rather than quantifiable commercial measures. This commonly leads to the seeking of alternative quotes and lower cost implementations of the 'same thing'. Further complicating the decisions and leading to underwhelming results.
Alternatively, what if you were faced with a decision to invest $50k to upgrade technology that will allow you to save 30-40 hours a month of lost productivity, reduce staff turnover and attract top talent. What if those same improvements also allowed you to shorten turnaround times with clients, improve your customers experience and attract more referrals. Such a change could be worth $200,000 a year to the business, which would not only make this purchase a no brainer, but could warrant even more investment.
The point is you can't evaluate ROI without understanding the potential return. Not being tech savvy should not preclude you from making sound investment decisions.
We would recommend any organisation seeking to change provider or invest in a major upgrade to first spend some time with internal stakeholders brainstorming the 'what ifs' and benefits that would justify a change. This need only be a 30 minute meeting, but simply defining some goals will make evaluations significantly easier and more effective.
It's amazing how often we get asked 'how much do you charge for your services?' before we have been asked anything about what our services are or include. It's unclear why this is but whatever the reason, it is generally counter productive.
Such questions further anchor the persons thought processes and lead them away from logical decision making. It is almost laughable when someone objects to higher pricing immediately following their negative review of the incumbent provider citing being poorly trained, poorly resourced and slow to respond to issues. In reality, skills, experience, and capacity are directly related to cost. Whilst sometimes possible, it's generally accepted that you need to invest more to get better outcomes.
Whether it be a new car, a kitchen appliance or a drink in a restaurant, it doesn't make sense to start with price. You should first assess what you need, find an option that best suits those needs and then be willing to make sacrifices depending on cost constraints and/or diminishing returns.
This behavior is a common cause for businesses repeating past mistakes. To reference one of the most misquoted and overused phrases in business; repeating the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.
It's incredibly common to hear that someone is looking to compare 'apples with apples'. This approach is undoubtedly taken to simplify decisions around complex offerings. This however is contrary to the fact that decisions are only made easier when there are clear differences between options. By restricting the scope to a set of common attributes, options tend to look very similar, making choices harder.
This also feeds the untrue narrative that all providers are kind of the same. As a result, many people believe MSP's are best evaluated according to comparable attributes such as price, company size, response times and industry experience. In reality these attributes are only indicators and have no direct effect on results, service quality or inherent capabilities.
Suppose you were after a new car with an automatic transmission, cruise control, reversing camera & automatic wipers. If you decided to blindly evaluate vehicles based on these attributes you would soon find yourself in a difficult situation. Compatible solutions could include compact hatches, SUV’s, vans, and luxury sedans. All things being equal you would only be left with price as an evaluator; most likely selecting the one just a little more than the cheapest. Congratulations, your new daily city driver is a commercial van.
Of course this example is a little ridiculous, but it hopefully provides an adequate analogy of how dangerous it can be to focus on minor factors. Instead you should look for differences in capabilities, approach and results delivered to customers as it pertains to what you are looking for. Rather than asking if they are familiar with Microsoft 365, ask what challenges they have seen clients have when adopting 365. Avoid easy to answer yes/no questions like 'can you help us with advice?' and instead ask what approach they would recommend towards creating an IT roadmap.
These sorts of questions will give some insight into the MSP's inherent capabilities and work culture. Just like interviewing for a new hire, you should focus on understanding their traits, personality and fit with your business rather than simply their quantifiable achievements.
In summary, all of the mistakes above are not exclusive to technology decisions, they are simply more common when people feel out of their element. Technical decisions are ultimately business decisions. If you're being presented recommendations in overly technical language and are finding it hard to make decisions, you may need to make a change to either your perceptions, or the provider you're working with.
At Sensible, one of our core value propositions is in helping businesses make better business decisions. There are several elements to our service delivery model that allow us to make this happen. If you would like to gain a different perspective or learn about how your business could work differently with an alternative approach to IT then please get in touch.
Simply give us a call or book a time directly here: https://calendly.com/ray-sweeney