Ask an IT Guy: How Do IT Support Companies Know My Business Needs?
Outsourcing some or all of your IT support needs can seem like a huge leap of faith. You don’t know them; they don’t know you – how could this possibly work?
The onboarding process of a new IT support company makes a difference.
For an outsourced company to know your needs, better stabilize your business, and help you grow, they must understand where you are. We at Accent Computer Solutions, Inc. have a system in place that walks us through your entire process. This diagram enables us to find the single points of failure throughout your process so we can better support your business.
Corey Kaufman, our Director of Client Development, gave us some guidance on how the onboarding process should go, and how to leverage technology to better your processes.
Getting Started Down the Right Path: Your IT Support Company's Onboarding Process
An outsourced IT support company’s job is to give you the room to focus on business and let them handle the tech part of your day. Their goal (we know ours is) is to make you as efficient as possible! When you win as a business, we win as well.
Current System Evaluation and Business Process Mapping
This might be a check list or a flow chart (possibly even a diagram) for how your business’s goods or services are created start to finish, and how technology impacts that.
“It’s a list of business processes that are related to your current technology. So, how do the applications work together, what is the work flow between applications, and who does what in each department? Who has access to what? Basically, how it all works from start to finish. In this stage, we aren’t worried about the age of technology, it’s more about how the current technology is being utilized.
Let’s say for instance a manufacturing company has a warehouse full of inventory. We need to know if they’re using a warehouse management tool, such as a warehouse management system (WMS). Are they using software to track inventory or manual spreadsheets? How do they keep track of it all?
Or if they are a logistics company, how are they keeping track of their loads and trucks? How do all those pieces fit together?"
Shadowing Key Employees to Better Understand Technology's Role in Business Functions
This onboarding process might even include shadowing an operations manager one day and the CFO the next. While a bit tedious for everyone involved, this will pay you back in spades.
"It’s time-consuming for everyone. You have to meet with the company and then walk through each step in the process. Operations handles this part of the scenario, and the CFO this part, etc. You have to meet with everyone involved with operations.
Sometimes business owners don’t think that IT needs to be that involved. The other side of that is: we need to know what’s going on and the process behind it, so we can help make the business more efficient. We have to know how it works, start to finish. How the product is created or delivered. That way we can make their business more efficient, and they can leverage technology for profit.
Usually, once they see the finished diagram, they understand the need."
Identifying Single Points of Failure in Your Company's Processes
After shadowing all your processes, your managed IT service provider will have identified “single point(s) of failure,” or the weak spots in your process. Places where "if this one thing stops working, the whole process stops."
"We use this to identify where they might be inefficient in their process. We walk through it with them, pointing out weak spots. Usually, new clients will start to notice where they could have a better process simultaneously as we’re addressing it.
Our one goal is to create a more efficient process for them. After the meeting, it helps form our recommendations for them to reduce risk.
Examples of Single Points of Failure
For example, we might see that a company has one label printer. If that label printer dies, shipping dies too. We try and figure out how to stop that from being a single point of failure. They’ll need a backup plan or a redundant printer -- something to stop that single point of failure in the production cycle.
Keep in mind, single point of failure doesn’t mean there is only one point of failure in your whole company. It means it's the single point of failure in that part of the process.
It could also be a person. Sometimes there are processes setup that involve one person. If that particular person isn’t at work, it just doesn’t get done, and that becomes the single point of failure.”
Remedying Single Point(s) of Failure: Reducing Risk and Increasing Efficiency in Your Day-To-Day Operations
The last part of the onboarding process is eliminating the single point(s) of failure. Your outsourced Chief Information Officer (CIO) will lead this attack with ideas to mitigate the risk. Together, you'll evaluate what is in most dire need, and weigh options against your budget. Sometimes you can only afford to do smaller things. We’ve all been there. If resources are limited, do what you can.
Like the example above, we might see that a company has one label printer. If that printer dies, shipping goes down with it. We'd present options to remove the single point of failure, and create a plan to fix this process. Likewise, if the point of failure is a person, who can they cross-train? Or we can try to figure out a method to automate whatever it is that person does.
Cost of Fixing the Single Point of Failure vs. Cost of Downtime
This usually isn’t the end of the conversation. The printer example isn't a cheap investment, but you have to look at how much downtime costs versus the cost of having another printer. Those are the conversations we have to have, and that is how we lay the foundation for a great work environment."
The onboarding process is fundamental! Understanding your process and identifying single points of failure are how your new IT company will know your business needs. Looking deeply into how the business runs is how the IT support company will make you more efficient. Start your relationship off right by increasing efficiency and removing everyday risks from your process.
Your IT company shouldn’t skimp on this step; it’s the foundation that makes great IT results possible. Work with them to keep your business in marathon shape.
Ask an IT Guy
We know that sometimes, figuring out the question is harder than finding the answer.
Ask an IT Guy was created with you in mind. This bi-monthly blog series will help you get to the bottom of IT questions you didn't even know you had.
Have a question? Ask us anything in the comments and we'll answer it in a future Ask an IT Guy post!