The critical role of your IT Support Provider in the success of your Business
Most businesses, small and large cannot imagine continuing without their IT systems. They are essential for the smooth operation of the business and the effective management of business information. If the business relies for its revenue on an IT infrastructure, a loss of service could put the business out of business.
As with all plant and machinery, the IT infrastructure needs regular maintenance and upgrade. In the smaller business where a dedicated full-time in-house onsite support is too expensive, outsourced IT support is the answer. This is usually provided by a Managed IT Support organisation.
Because a business critically depends on the availability and accuracy of its systems, the role of the Outsourced IT Support Provider is a key one. An agreement with a Managed IT Support service provider is different from a normal supply contract in that it defines a process of continuous service delivery. It, therefore, lasts over a period of time, often years. If the business is to grow and succeed, then it needs IT systems that will drive and support its growth. A good working relationship between the organisation and the service provider is critical to its success as both organisations grow together. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats.
In recent times, the role of the onsite support service provider has grown from simply that of providing maintenance and support, to a higher-level relationship of providing strategic advice and direction to guide the business through the increasingly complex IT environment.
The two main new areas are those of Strategic Direction and Business Continuity.
Things move much faster nowadays than in the formative years of IT. The business environment in which companies operate changes much more rapidly. Things are also much more complicated with the Internet supporting Social Media, Customer Interfaces and the bad boys on the block, malware. The government has also laid its heavy hand on some business sectors by requiring its IT systems to demonstrate compliance with security, processing and reporting requirements. The Financial Services industry has been hard hit in this way.
Back in the day, you could quite comfortably take two to three years to carry out a software development or packaged software installation project. Try that today, and your proposed approach would be out of date before the ink is dry on the business plan approved by the Board.
Unless your business is in IT, you rely on your onsite support service to advise and guide you through the formation and frequent adjustment of the IT component of your long-term business plan. How a business is perceived by existing and prospective customers is influenced by their interaction with it. If the majority of that interaction is through the medium of IT, the perception is coloured by the customer experience of the Help Desk, the online ordering process, or simply the quality of the company website. That is where the onsite support service can have a major impact on a business by making sure it is proactive and responsive to technology trends, advising on which ones to embrace and those to ignore.
Business Continuity is the new name for Disaster Planning. Every business needs to have a clear understanding of how it will react to an unplanned loss of service. In the IT environment, that can be a basic as no electricity, the phone lines going down or a determined ransomware attack.
Again, this is where a business must rely on its onsite support service to ensure that there are plans in place to deal with each potential threat. In many cases, these will be written into the contract between the two parties. Elements will include response times, escalation procedures, and on occasion penalties for non-performance.
As an example, taking regular systems and data backups, and making sure that these could be used in the event of a total systems failure is absolutely essential.
Having a close and mutually beneficial relationship with a Managed IT Support Services provider is critical for a business that relies on 24/7/365 availability of its IT services, and a continuing integration of its IT strategy with its business strategy.