IT_SolutionsI meet with organizations on a regular basis to discuss the state of their business IT support, and it never ceases to amaze me what people accept as “normal”, just because it is technology. I’m not sure if it is because we live the Midwest and people are just really loyal here, or if it is simply a technology thing, but I often walk away from appointments shaking my head and saying, “It doesn’t have to be that way!”.

You may be one of those nice people, who are putting up with an under-performing IT department or managed IT services provider. Or, you may just be convinced through experience that technology is one of those odd things that you can’t predict or plan or evaluate the same way you do other things.

Ask yourself the following questions as a reality check:

1. Do I trust the people who provide my IT services with my company secrets, financials, and other private information?

Whether you realize it or not, your IT people probably have access or can get access to this information. Do they have real integrity, the kind of integrity that produces honesty and loyalty to your company? I have seen real life examples of a lack of integrity resulting in holding companies hostage for information that sometimes only the IT people have like passwords, technology knowledge and other corporate data. Trust is not always easy to come by in our mixed up world, but it is essential for your IT people!

2. Are my IT people professional business people, or geeky tech-heads who don’t understand business?

Often we accept the image of a nerdy technical guy who is so far in the bit-bucket that he can’t relate to business, profits, and efficiency. However, IT has become far too important for even the small and medium sized business, to leave it in the hands of someone who can’t relate to the business objectives of our company and drive things forward. Even a tactical IT position should be filled with business oriented, professional IT people.

3. Are my IT people focused on serving?

Even though IT has many facets, and should take a leadership role in meeting company objectives, much of the role of IT is to serve the rest of the team and make sure their job can be done efficiently. Far too many IT people have developed their own fiefdoms and taking care of a problem for the dreaded “end-user” is a distraction from their own agenda. They would prefer to be working quietly in the dark, rather than helping a team member be operational. Courtesy, empathy, and a genuine desire to help should be present in your IT department or outsourced managed IT service provider.

4. Does my IT department or outsourced IT solution provider operate based on a defined process, or are they strictly reactionary?

IT lends itself to a reactionary stance. A one or two person IT company or IT department often becomes entirely reactionary. Putting out fires leaves no time for preventing fires, and the spiral is downward. A reactionary IT resource never gets to the long range goals, falls behind on the true efficiency creating initiatives, and often sweeps the bigger problem under the carpet because they are too busy addressing all of the fires. Changing the reactionary tendencies once they are accepted is VERY difficult and often requires changing people or providers. It definitely requires creation of process and strong accountability to that process. Moving from reactionary to strategic most often requires a larger than one or two person team, just because more depth is needed and someone with strong organizational skills is required.

5. Do my people have the right expertise?

This seems like one of those easy questions, obviously we need people with the right expertise. However, it is so often that I see a mismatch in this area that I think it is worth mentioning. IT people are like doctors. There are generalists and many different specialists. A good generalist is worth their weight in gold because they often prevent the need for a specialist, but at times you need that specialist too. People often mistakenly think that someone good at web can do networking or that someone good at networking can also develop a website. The other thing about expertise is that in the technology field, it gets old fast. If you are using an outsourced IT solution provider, you want to be sure they have a solid education plan in place. If you have an on-staff department, it is equally important to create and execute on an education plan. I can’t tell you how many times I have encountered technology people making decisions based on 3 or 5 or 7 year old knowledge, and how much it cost the company.

6. Do my technology people understand security & data privacy and view it as their role to help protect it?

Recent data breaches at almost every level of government and business underline the importance of taking the right measures to prevent, detect, and take action against malicious software (viruses and spyware) that steal information and create data breaches. It is the role of the IT provider to safeguard and direct company policy and education to prevent data leak. This is important in any sized organization and something the IT resource should be leading.

7. Are my IT people recommending value solutions or cheap solutions?

As I talk to organizations about their IT, I often see a mismatch in what management says they want and what IT is delivering. That mismatch could come from management or from the IT resource. For instance, IT says management won’t pay for the right solution and all they can get is a cheap manual backup solution. Management says they want the right solution to preserve their information and stay safe. An IT resource needs to advocate the right solution and often they can’t step away from their own personal mindset about money. They advocate a cheap solution because the other one is “a lot of money”, and they can just do it manually. An IT resource needs to have exposure to what is considered IT Best Practice and recommend the right solution based on many more factors than price.

Whether you are using on-staff IT people, an on-call IT firm, or a managed IT solution provider, these questions might just uncover the truth about how your IT really works. Take a hard look and consider if you are on track or need to make changes!

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