Posts Tagged 'technology support'

Finally, someone gets it!

I met with a prospect yesterday that actually gets it.  They are an older company – 55 years old – but have recently had an ownership change.  The new owner has already made changes, and is growing the business.  They are actually looking for a technology partner to help advise them for their growth projections, rather than just to fix stuff, and order new PC’s when they get a new employee.

I’m not by any means a “technologist.”  I don’t think new technology will change the world, and I don’t think all companies need their own email server and the latest and greatest CRM and ERP tools.  I do, however, know that the technology currently available can make businesses more efficient, and more profitable.  The key to making technology a valuable tool instead of a necessary evil is planning. 

When companies have their technology infrastructure coincide with their business plan, it becomes a tool to lower costs, increase revenue, and grow value. 

A company that is planning to double in size needs to plan ahead.  This will give them to opportunity to buy PC’s at a better price.  It will also allow their new employees to get into their job and start helping the company faster.  It’s never good to spend the money and time to hire someone, only to have them sit at an empty desk for 2 weeks, and to not have email for a month. 

Technology planning can also help manage this growth by digitzing and streamlining processes.  Company growth leads to beaurocracy within the company, and the proper technology plan can help mitigate the time spent closing sales, processing invoices, paying vendors, and communicating with clients. 

I know this seems very obvious.  Much like having architectural plans prior to building, or remodeling, a house.  However, many businesses get very focused on the day to day, and forget to plan.

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Technology in a Down Market

I won’t dare to utter the dreaded “R-word,” but we are all aware of the current economic situations.  Gas prices are up.  Credit markets are hurting.  The almighty dollar is not so mighty.  Companies are starting to scale back their capital and operational expenditures.  This is a great time to look at processes and determine how to become more efficient and more cost conscious.  

 

This might seem like a poor time to look at spending money on technology, or on technology services.  However, that technology may make your company more efficient, and able to stave off the downturn.

 

One of the first things companies can do is to increase the mobility of their workers.  This means there is less gas spent driving to the office and back, which is good for the economy, good for the employees wallets, and good for company efficiency.  If an employee can be working each day right from the get-go, or from a client’s office, that means what was once driving time is now work time.  In addition, I can tell you we have closed deals mainly because we had the ability to make changes to a proposal or service contract while sitting with the client.  If you don’t have to leave their office, you don’t give them extra time to think about it. 

 

Another option is to choose to outsource technology service rather than have a full-time IT employee.  A company can usually get a more diverse level of technology talent for less money than a salary plus benefits. 

 

Companies can also find ways to make their processes more efficient through the use of technology.  Forms can be standardized and saved to central servers to be accessed by everyone.  In this way, more repetitive, data-entry type work can be performed by lower-salaried employees, while professionals are able to bring in more clients and perform the analytical work.

 

The key in a down economy is to view technology spending as an investment for which there will be a return.

Everyone is a Snob

I know in our company, we can’t understand how other companies handle old PC’s, out of date software, antiquated technology practices.  We talk to prospects, then go back to the office and discuss how badly they need us.  They are completely vulnerable to security breaches and data loss, they are inefficient.  How do they get through the day?  How are they even competent enough to run a business?

Then I hear a CPA each week talk about some of his clients.  He sometimes will be concescending in his description (withholding names, of course) of the clients’ accounting practices, state of finances, etc.  He doesn’t understand how they run their business at all.  Then, of course, this CPA has 5-year old PC’s and no business email.

I guess we are all snobs when it comes to our area of expertise.  An insurance agent can’t understand how someone can even get out of bed in the morning without proper life insurance.  I’m sure French chefs don’t understand the appeal of Outback Steakhouse.

My family owns a mattress manufacturing company.  I don’t get how people can complain about the price of something they will spend a third of their days for the next 10 years on.  Then again…I’ve never had to purchase a mattress in my life.

I guess the key to running a business is to understand how someone else’s snobbery can add value to my business.

Mixing Business and Friends

A friend of mine opened a small business.  When he was planning it, he called to ask about IT support and service, as well as purchasing hardware.  I gave him a proposal including hardware leasing, but we came to the joint conclusion that it was best for him to purchase the equipment.

Now we’re left with providing ongoing service.  This is a much tougher dilemma than I thought it would be. 

  • He is in Austin and we are in Houston.  That makes it tough to perform any support that requires being on site.
  • I have a really hard time sending a monthly invoice to a good friend.
  • Do I prioritize his needs so I can maintain my friendship with him?  This would probably irritate my employees, who have a triage system that works for us.  It would be upset whenever I call and say “drop everything and help my friend.”
  • Do I make my friend go through our regular process – call our support line, send a support email – or can he call me directly?

Having this business/personal relationship actually makes me think everytime I answer a phone call from him “Is he calling me to catch up, or to report a support issue?”  I think I am going to try to find him another support provider in the Austin area.  Thoughts?