One company I know has found a unique way to improve customer service and outflank its competitors. The company’s leadership told its IT staff to set aside its routine activities for two weeks and instead compete in an internal hackathon. The goal: identify a business problem and find a solution.
At first, the company’s leaders weren’t sure of what they had started, but at the end of the two weeks, they were blown away by the ideas that surfaced. In particular, one team implemented a tracking app that showed customers the real-time location of delivery trucks, so customers could estimate when a new shipment would arrive and plan their day accordingly.
The app significantly boosted customer satisfaction and reduced calls to the company’s help desk by 75 percent. Just as important, the exercise showed how big the payoff can be when skilled IT workers devote more time to helping their company succeed rather than fighting infrastructure fires or performing routine activities like software patching.
Freeing Up Time and Saving Money
What’s the secret to enabling IT to work more strategically? The answer is managed IT services, a cost-effective way to extend SMB IT talent and free-up skilled resources to accomplish business goals.
Managed services can deliver a wide variety of capabilities, ranging from computing, storage and networking resources to mobility management, cybersecurity, email and unified communications, including telephony services. The common thread is that, along with the capabilities themselves, the best service providers also offer ongoing management and maintenance of the underlying infrastructure, service guarantees and end-user support.
According to the MSPAlliance, North American companies spend $154 billion on managed services, with SMBs being among the top customers. This dispels the notion that managed services are too expensive or too complicated for SMBs to consider.
After a decade in this market, I’ve seen firsthand that the opposite is true for startups and established small businesses alike. These companies typically see four key benefits: improved operational performance, reduced operational risk, cost avoidance and accelerated innovation.
The Keys to Success
There’s a lot to like about managed IT services, but how can SMB leaders be sure a particular service provider is right for their company? To find the best match, consider these five important criteria.
- Choose a technology partner who focuses primarily on the business. Each company is unique, and so are its business challenges and opportunities. Potential providers must understand each SMB’s goals rather than offer a cookie-cutter service plan for all clients.
- Look for a partner that values long-term relationships. A trusted adviser will help create an ongoing technology roadmap tuned to keeping a client focused on staying successful and competitive as market conditions change.
- Assess the provider’s breadth of offerings. A comprehensive service portfolio means SMBs can fulfill their needs from a single provider rather than having to manage multiple and potentially conflicting vendors.
- Address existing technology pain points. Discuss in detail particularly important problems, such as areas where outages have occurred in the past or security vulnerabilities. Then get potential partners to deliver a detailed solution tailored to these specific issues.
- Insist on close communications. Determine how often the provider will present formal reviews and data to show the effectiveness of the engagement. This should happen each quarter at a minimum; informal meetings with account managers should take place more frequently.
Making the Most of IT Talent
IT professionals have a passion for technology, which often goes to waste when they must spend time patching servers and performing other routine duties. It doesn’t have to be this way.
That’s why I get so excited when I show SMB leaders how managed services extend their IT operations and free their people to do what they do best — make the business more successful.
To learn more about the four key technology trends small businesses should be following this year, check out, "Small Businesses Must Heed Cloud, Security, Mobility and IT Services Trends in 2016."