IF YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE BUYING – CHANCES ARE YOUR TECHNOLOGY CONSULTANT DOESN’T EITHER

IF YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE BUYING – CHANCES ARE YOUR TECHNOLOGY CONSULTANT DOESN’T EITHER

8 essential requirements of a technology provider

It never ceases to amaze me how often businesspeople tell me that they really don’t understand the technology their consultants are buying for them, why it is essential and why it costs so much. It seems all too common for businesspeople to simply throw their hands in the air and say – ‘Whatever you say, I just need it up and running as soon as possible!’ This suggests to me that some consultants are not explaining their client’s technology requirements clearly enough or in plain English.

It was Albert Einstein who said, ‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.’ In my experience, this quote is highly relevant to IT consultants. Providing absolute clarity and ensuring clients fully understand the options, the rationale for the preferred option, the implementation process and the associated costs is surely the responsibility of every consultant. 

But how do you identify the best IT consultant for your business? Well, over the last 20 years, I have identified 8 critical factors you need to address before engaging an IT consultant. 

1. AN ENTERPRISE MATCH

All too often, businesses appoint consultants that while competent, cannot meet all of their needs now and into the future. Maximising technology efficiency requires a long-term partnership.
Professor Peter Drucker was right when he noted – ‘culture eats strategy for lunch’. Your consultants must share your values and embrace your vision – along with the strategy that will realise that vision. They must understand your priorities and demonstrate the capacity to grow with you.

My advice – Have prospective consultants demonstrate that they understand your business priorities, embrace your culture, and have the capacity to help you realize your vision 

2. KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS 

It is essential to ensure that your consultants are accountable. This will require agreeing on and documenting the key performance indicators to which the consultant will be held accountable.
A primary responsibility of the consultant must be to ensure that you never have to think about your technology because you know it is functioning optimally. Customised key performance indicators are needed to give you the confidence that everything that needs to be addressed will be addressed. 

My advice – Ensure your consultant agrees on key performance indicators and reports monthly, taking full responsibility for your technology so you can focus on core business.

3. EFFICIENCY RATINGS METRICS

Technology is a means to an end. For most businesses, that ‘end’ is efficiency. The primary role of an IT consultant must be to take responsibility for leveraging technology to eliminate inefficiencies.
In developing a strategy, your consultants need to clearly articulate the Efficiency Rating Metrics to be used.  ERMs should drive decision making and must be incorporated into monthly reports – to demonstrate that the consultancy is doing its job and efficiency is improving.

My advice – Establish your initial efficiency rating and the best options for optimizing it. Ensure that there is an ERM update in every monthly report.

4. ABSOLUTE TRANSPARENCY

Rather than just talking about a partnership, you and your IT consultants need to establish such a partnership – one that ensures you know precisely what is to happen, why and at what cost.
This must involve the consultant documenting in plain English an agreed statement of your requirements, the options for addressing those requirements, the costs associated with each option, the strategy for implementation and the return on investment. 

My advice – Ensure your consultant spell out in plain English, exactly what you need, when you need it, why you need it, how much it will cost and what it will deliver.

5. TECHNOLOGY AUDIT

It is one thing to solve an immediate problem and quite another to establish a system that eliminates inefficiency. The later requires a deep understanding of your business and technology.
The required understanding of your business and technology can only be developed by way of a technology audit. Such an audit need not be time-consuming or expensive – but it does need to be comprehensive, strategic, and objective. It is essential for developing the optimal strategy.

My advice – Once you have a preferred consultant, have them conduct a low-cost audit, report on that audit, and highlight the issues requiring attention if inefficiencies are to be eliminated.

6. DOCUMENTED STRATEGY (with upfront costings)

You would not run your business without a documented strategy and budget – and should not invest in IT without a strategy and advanced costings. This strategy should draw on the technology audit.
Addressing the agreed KPIs and incorporating the ERMs into your technology strategy should detail the action to be taken (and the rationale) over the medium to long term. This strategy must provide for the consideration of options and give you the information needed to identify your preferred option.

My advice – To maximise return on investment, ensure your consultant documents a medium to long term strategy with budgets that give you options and the capacity to choose.

7. ACTIVE COMMUNICATION

While you should not have to think about your technology so you can focus of core business, you do need be kept up to date – in plain English – on action, expenditure and progress toward the KPIs.
Consultants must schedule a briefing before drawing on the budget and an update immediately afterwards. With managed IT services – the minimum expectation should be a monthly report detailing action taken and to be taken, new issues and progress towards KPIs, and a monthly ERM.

My advice – Ensure your consultant uses plain English. Demand a schedule of communication with at the very least involves a monthly written report with a verbal briefing. 

8. PURCHASING POWER 

It is madness to pay more than you need to for technology. Minimising costs involves – purchasing only what you need, considering all viable options, and securing the best price on the best option.
Unfortunately, not all consultants present all of the options or have the buying power to ensure you purchase the preferred option at the best possible price.  With the best intentions, there is also a common propensity to implement a belt and braces approach that attracts unnecessary costs.

My advice – Ensure that your consultants present you will all of the viable options, a clear recommendation – with rationale – and a price that reflects buying power.

Never tolerate a consultant who ‘blinds you with science’. Even the theory of relativity can be explained in plain English. Always ensure you know where your consultants are going and how much it will cost. Demand to know what progress is being made and the rationale for all expenditure. Ensure that you know the options and have the information you need to select the optimum option. I would never engage a consultant who cannot put all his or her cards on the table, ensure I know where we are going, how we will get there and how much it will cost. Nor should you.

If you want to know more, please give me a call or email me. 

Ben Latter
0488 445 044
[email protected]

IF YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT TECHNOLOGY – YOUR BUSINESS IS SUFFERING

IF YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT TECHNOLOGY – YOUR BUSINESS IS SUFFERING

6 Unnecessary barriers to business efficiency

Are you in the business of developing and or selling technology? If not, any time you spend thinking about technology is time you are not focusing on core business. Any time you are not focusing on core business – your business is suffering. There are limits on your time. To maximise the performance of your business you must focus on core business. Not peripheral issues, like your technology, which after all is a tool.

Of course, you already know this, as do most businesspeople. And like most businesspeople, you find this a source of considerable frustration. 20 years in the technology business has taught me that none of my clients want to think about me or their technology. They want to focus on core business in the knowledge that their technology will do what it needs to.

Want to Eliminate inefficiencies?  Like to ensure that your technology does everything it can do to enable you to focus on core business?  Then address these six critical issues.

1. SLOW INTERNET SPEEDS

Few things reduce business efficiency more than slow internet speeds. Many Australian businesses put up with slow internet speeds, few if any need to. There are very few businesses that cannot improve the speed of their internet. Reserve judgement when your provider says it cannot be improved. What is more, faster internet speeds can generally be enhanced without changing provider.

My advice
Have a specialist audit your internet requirements. Don’t suffer inefficiencies. 

2. SECURITY BREACHES

No business operating in Australia today is exempt from security threats. Some of these threats are minor. Others are catastrophic – and all threaten productivity.
At the same time, there are businesses out there spending a fortune on security, with little or no return. There are large risks to productivity from a security breach. A customised security strategy will help negate. What is more, the essential security need not be expensive.

My opinion
Have a specialist complete a security audit. Have them develop a customised security solution for your business.

3. LOST DATA

If I had a dollar for every manager who has called me because they had lost data, I would be on the AFR rich list by now. While losing data is 100% avoidable, far too many businesses do it.
Every business should have in place recovery systems. They ensure data recovery after any systems failure or security breach. Indeed, your recovery system is very often the best protection against security breaches. Recovery systems should be regularly tested to ensure they will work when the time comes.

My opinion
Have a specialist audit your business. Have them develop a fail-safe customised data recovery system.

4. MULTIPLE STAND-ALONE SYSTEMS

Multiple stand-alone systems are a recipe for inefficiency. Stand-alone systems limit data and file sharing. They cause software conflicts and installation issues, increase costs, and reduce capacity.
Integrated systems increase efficiency. They enable the more efficient sharing and analysis of data. They allow the development of more powerful databases. Superior communication, and lower software and potentially hardware costs can be obtained. Stand-alone systems should be a thing of the past.

My advice
Place the highest possible priority on system integration. Have a specialist develop a customised solution for your business.

5. LIMITED AUTOMATION

Businesses in Australia have not embraced automation as well as they might. Enormous progress has been made in automating business processes and improving efficiencies. The efficiency of businesses around the world has been made.
Most industries worldwide have embraced artificial intelligence and machine learning. Highly economical off the shelf and customised business automation packages are available. Automation can increase efficiency and reduce costs.

My recommendation
Have a specialist audit your business. This will identify opportunities to reduce costs and increase efficiency through automation.

6. SYSTEMS FAILURE

There are few things more disruptive and expensive than systems failures. Far too few businesses have prepared systems to reduce their frequency.
In 2021, downtime should largely be a thing of the past. You need the right hardware and software. The right diagnostic tools, and a program of regular checks. Only discuss your technology effectiveness when you scan your monthly efficiency report.

My guidance
Engage a specialist to audit your technology. An audit will identify the weakest points and recommend strategies to eliminate downtime.

I know I am making this all sound easy, but the fact is – it need not be that hard. Conduct an annual audit. Have a strategy to identify and eliminate issues. Do regular checks and have monthly reporting. Do this and you can eliminate inefficiency. Encourage further elimination of inefficiencies; incorporate an efficiency rating system into your strategy. Wolfe Systems has developed a formal Efficiency Rating Metric (ERM). ERM addresses the efficiency of your technology. It addresses the efficiency of the support services engaged to maintain it. All Managed IT providers and associated specialists need to be accountable.

If you want to know more, please give me a call or email me.

Ben Latter
0488 445 044
[email protected]