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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.

 

Mistake #1

Not evaluating the value of the objectives in mind

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.

 

Mistake #2

Evaluating pricing irrespective of capabilities

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.

 

Mistake #3

Looking for similarities, not differentiation

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.

 

Summary

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

As we are all still trying to understand what the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be, many organisations are taking a hard look at their operating costs and looking for potential cuts. Protecting cash flow is vital right now. At Sensible we want to help you implement strategies that can help reduce your IT costs and set you up with a system flexible enough to support your business through the many changes (or pivots) you might be making to position yourselves to thrive through it all. We want to offer you guidance and support through these times, and potentially help you save some money.

Step 1- Do an Internal Audit

Take a look at your current technology solutions. Take stock of everything you are paying for and ask yourself these questions:

• Is this the right system for my business? Does it accomplish all I need it to?

• Are we currently utilising all the tools we are paying for? Can we cut any?

• Do we lack internal processes? Are there ways I can improve efficiency and save our employee’s time?

Step 2- Cut Any Redundant or Unnecessary Services

The easiest way to reduce costs is to get rid of what’s not working. Many companies have a habit of purchasing a new tool or service to meet an immediate need. Little do they know they usually already have a tool that could meet that need, it’s just not being used properly. Here is a free tip: Do you have Office 365? Most companies get this package so they can use programs like Word and Excel, but don’t fully utilise the other apps that come with it. Microsoft teams can easily replace Slack and Zoom, and Sharepoint or OneDrive can do the job of Google Drive and Dropbox. You’re already paying for Office 365, and the tools themselves are more powerful, providing integration of your information and files across all the apps. You might simply need some training or guidance on how to implement these tools into your business processes, and we can help with that.

Step 3- Evaluate Whether It’s Cost Effective to Manage Your Own IT

Is IT your core skill set? Will you ever be as efficient and skilled as a complete team of specialists? Often your time will be better spent doing what you are best at, then wasting countless hours trying to learn an entirely new skill set. Additionally, can you really afford not to do IT the right way? Payroll and training costs alone can be a nightmare. Outsourcing a portion of your IT needs to a 3rd party resource like Sensible can help you simultaneously improve your technology management, and potentially save money. If you’re currently relying on an internal IT manager or a small internal team, are they struggling to keep up with the tsunami of complex and ever-changing technology needs and services? Important competitive projects may be delayed while your team has to complete training, and you become the test environment for their new skills, increasing your risk. Sensible offers a full-service solution for your IT needs, resulting in a higher standard than most organisations can achieve in-house.

Step 4- Don’t Pay for Quick Fixes, Invest in A Reliable Solution

How does your current IT resource handle your technology needs? Are you currently working with a “break-fix” style of management, where you pay for problems as they occur whether or not they happened before? Or are you paying a predictable monthly fee for a process that analyses your business, looks for opportunities to improve your staff productivity and tries to prevent problems in the first place? We believe you should engage a provider like us, who trusts their systems to offer you unlimited support for a fixed fee. Those quick fixes add up quickly, and with the right solution, you can eliminate them.

Step 5- Plan for The Future, Secure Your Information

As we are working remotely, it is more imperative than ever to understand how to protect your data. Protecting your finances, your reputation, and your Intellectual property can be costly, mainly if not implemented properly. However, it is even more expensive if you don’t protect them adequately at all. Adhering to compliance regulations can be costly and often means implementing and maintaining a stringent security infrastructure- do you have the expertise to do this most cost-effectively?

We could cover many more steps to take, but these are the areas where we think you can make the most impact on you and your business. If you’re hesitant about tackling this problem on your own, that’s okay! We encourage you to contact Sensible. We can help you identify these problems and guide you on how to solve them. Give us a call!

When it comes to increasing your employees’ efficiency and productivity, technology can provide countless opportunities to streamline workflows, eliminate redundant processes and reduce costs within your organisation. If you’re looking to stay ahead of the competition, you need to ditch the traditional ways of working and implement technology to your practices to encourage more employee productivity and efficiency - here’s how.

CHANGE OFFICE COMMUNICATION

Skype_for_Business_small
Skype for Business is what we use for staff IM and video conferencing at Sensible.

In order to increase efficiency, set up instant messaging software such as Skype on your employees’ workstations. This allows them to send instant messages to correspondents instead of having to get up from their desks to see whether the person is available. Of course, if you need to discuss big projects or issues, face-to-face communication is likely the best choice. But you can simply send a quick message for more trivial conversations, saving precious minutes and allowing you to get more work done.

Another way of improving business productivity is to use Yammer.

Yammer breaks down internal barriers in your organisation by connecting people to each other and to the information they need. This way, employees can quickly find experts, get answers, and accomplish more. It is like a private, internal "Facebook".
Yammer is really good for improving innovation in your organisation.
"Organizations that use social enterprise technologies like Yammer see a 37% improvement in project collaboration."
(Bringing Social to the Enterprise: How Microsoft Can Help Your Organization Work Like a Network, Microsoft, 2014)
 
Yammer also makes it easier to stay in touch with is happening across your business. You don''t have to rely on one-to-one communications like emails any more (with emails : if you're not included in the email - you miss out on the information)

INSTALL VIDEO CONFERENCING

Traveling to offsite meetings and training sessions takes time and, all too often, time spent on the road is time lost. Rather than commuting for hours outside your office, opt for a networked phone solution that offers video calls and conferencing. This way you can hold a video conference to discuss business matters from the comfort and convenience of your office. You can also take things up a notch and equip the conference room with tools to pull up documents and have them displayed on a big screen, so that everyone in the meeting can follow the conversation with ease. New video conferencing technologies work seamlessly across mobile devices and far more affordable than they used to be.

UPGRADE WORKSTATIONS

Outdated technologies and workstations limit your business’s progress, and are a hindrance to developing clued-up, efficient employees. Aging phone systems and slow networks can frustrate your team and bring productivity to a standstill. So it’s important to take the time to assess your current workstations, applications, hardware, and tools. This doesn’t mean that you have to buy a set of entirely new workstations. But you should replace obsolete equipment with more up-to-date machines. In addition, make sure all software and applications are up-to-date to ensure maximum efficiency and employee satisfaction.

IMPLEMENT ERP SOFTWARE

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is business process management software that allows organisations to automate processes and centralise data in order for employees to collaborate more efficiently. ERP software provides employees with up-to-date business information that they can easily access and make use of. What’s more, ERP also eliminates redundant data entry and reduces the number of spreadsheets that are used to record critical business data, by storing information in a centralised database.

To get the maximum return on your technology investment, it’s also important to partner with a knowledgeable and reliable service provider. Get in touch with our tech experts today to find out how we can implement technology to help your employees become more efficient and productive.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Making a smooth presentation is not just about knowing the material. You also need to familiarize yourself with the technology that will be available to you.

The first step in the preparation process should be to check with the venue about their setup. Will there be a permanently connected computer or should you bring your laptop? Is their system connected to the Internet? Knowing these details will cut down on the chances of a setup problem on the day of the presentation.

The most common means of setting up a presentation involves connecting a computer to a projector or TV. Typically, the venue will have the right equipment for making the connection, but it's best to ask beforehand. You might need to invest in some cables and adapters specific to your computer.

If you're asked to bring your own laptop, your presentation should be saved to the hard drive and ready-to-go. However, if the venue has a permanently connected computer, you'll need to move your files onto it.

No matter what you're told, make sure to bring your presentation with you in various formats. You'll want a copy saved on a portable storage device, such as a flash drive or external hard drive, as well as accessible online. It's also a good idea to email a copy to yourself or store one in the cloud by using a service like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft Onedrive.

In most cases, the venue will provide a remote so that you don't have to physically stand next to the computer or TV. However, your smartphone can be used in a pinch as well. With the right app, your phone can become a remote control by utilizing either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Popular remote control apps include PPT Remote and Gmote for Android, and Keynote Remote for the iPhone.

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