The future of SMB’s productivity is about how our approach to technology is changing, how we are increasingly working on the move and how the idea of the office as the primary work location is no longer accepted as the conventional norm. With mobile technologies it is now possible to be connected anywhere, at any time and we can be as effective at home, at the airport or even waiting for a taxi.
Once a luxury reserved for only large companies, technologies such as cloud and mobility are now available and affordable to even the smallest businesses. In many industries, these types of modern technologies are necessities for those looking to grow and gain a competitive edge.
Some of our mobile technologies tips to make your life easier when working on the go:
- Get Office 365. The single best productivity software on the Market. Centralised cloud stored email and OneDrive for Business for your documents. It can be accessed from Office applications or any web browser you have access to. Want to always have the latest version of Office? Sign up for an inclusive plan, allowing a single user install Office on up to 5 PC’s. All you need to use any of it is a device with internet access, it’s a no brainer.
- Don’t travel, Video Conference. Some things just can’t be done without a face to face. Sometimes it’s just a matter of putting a face to the name, but business is always better when the other person is not just a voice in your ear. It’s not always possible though, which is why it’s worth trying a specialised conferencing solution like Skype fro Business.
- Device Integration. There is nothing worse than having your phone, laptop and tablet that is supposed to sync, but doesn’t, leaving you in the lurch right when you need it. But hardware that shares an operating system, like Windows, has built in interconnectivity which ensures that the information you want is there when it’s needed.
- Data Safety. Having all your information remotely and the press of an icon is perfect for today’s mobile users, it’s pretty much vital. But the chance lost losing your phone or laptop, and the data being accessible, is a nightmare scenario for most companies. Applications and data should be hosted centrally on something like a Windows 2012 R2 server. Office 365 adds another level of centralised security, and Windows Intune can lock or wipe and devices that are lost or stolen.
- Schedule Smarter. Using Outlook or SharePoint for scheduling allows for collaboration between everyone who needs it, even across multiple time zones. They could integrate Bing Maps into Outlook calendar entries to show actual locations, meaning appointments can be set in stone rather than having fluid start times.
How HCS can help?
We are a Microsoft Gold partner and have been recognised in 2014 as a Global Partner of the Year Award Finalist. We are experts in delivering Microsoft Cloud Services such as Office 365, SharePoint, Azure and Microsoft’s Unified Communications solution Skype for Business. 1000’s of users trust us to support their Office 365 cloud platform. We have a dedicated and experienced SharePoint Team who will drive your productivity.
Contact our Microsoft certified team on 01-8734120 | 051-595200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out the best place to start working with mobile technologies.
For more information Office365
This article entitled “Choosing the right Outsourced IT Partner” was written by Sean Hegarty who is Operations Director at HCS Business Solutions. Sean holds a BSc in Law with Business, an MSc in Technology Management and has been working in the field of IT Service Management and IT Outsourcing for the past 17 years.
E : email@example.com Sean’s LinkedIn Sean’s Twitter
I worked with an SME (Small to Medium Size Enterprise) last year who in my opinion suffered greatly because they chose the wrong Outsourced IT Partner. The SME in question had not considered the importance of making the right choice when it came to choosing an Outsourced IT Partner and instead had simply chosen the cheapest option at the time without considering other important factors.
I’ve written this article to assist SME’s in understanding some of the issues surrounding choosing the right Outsourced IT Partner. This article will consider questions such as;
• Are all IT service Companies the same?
• Why do SME’s find it difficult to change Outsourced IT Partner?
• What’s the difference between Professional Buyers V’s SME Buyers!
• What should your Outsourced IT Partner be doing for your business?
• Case Study – Small Business with 15 employees.
• What’s the Opportunity cost of not choosing the right Outsourced IT Partner?
• How to choose the right Outsourced IT Partner?
• Top 20 questions for a prospective new Outsourced IT Partner.
I will give you my top 20 questions for a prospective new Outsourced IT Partner that will ensure you leave no stone unturned in your search for the best Outsourced IT partner for your business thus ensuring that you and your business have the best IT environment possible to enable your people to achieve their goals!
Are all IT Service Companies the same?
Many businesses have the same Outsourced IT Partner they’ve had for years. You’re hoping that your Outsourced IT Partner has moved his or her business forward with the times and is up to date, employing high quality people, choosing the right industry partners and is able to offer and provide the full range of solutions and services that your business requires in order to make the best use of information technology. The truth is, however, that not all IT companies are equal. Some don’t change at all and some only marginally while others grow and expand and are ahead of the curve and know what’s coming down the track. Is your Outsourced IT Partner ahead of the curve, proactively coming to you with ideas that will save you time, make you money and enable you and your business to reach its goals?
Why do SME’s find it difficult to change Outsourced IT Partner?
Sometimes SME’s find it difficult to make decisions when it comes to thinking about changing Outsourced IT partners. In much the same way as anyone would be reluctant to change their bank, or accountant, solicitor, doctor or dentist there are often long relationships involved, friendships in some cases, and generally people just won’t change unless there has been a catastrophic relationship breakdown of some kind!
If you are not entirely happy with your current Outsourced IT partner and find yourself saying things like “ better the devil you know!”, or “I’ve been with them for years I can’t change”, “they know my systems inside out”. “I really like “Bob”, he’s like a friend” then it’s probably time to start asking questions “Can I do better? Can my business do better?” and consider looking for a new Outsourced IT Partner.
What’s the difference between Professional Buyers V’s SME Buyers!
Just for a moment let’s consider the difference between professional buyers and SME buyers. Professional buyers, usually found in enterprises or larger organisations, are dedicated, trained, specialist personnel who are ruthlessly focussed on their role and the objective in hand. They are focussed on the quality and cost of the product or service that’s being provided and they do their research thoroughly which usually means contacting many suppliers of the product or service and benchmarking them against each other across a whole range of criteria and metrics. When it comes to decisions there’s no blind trust based on history or faith and goodwill, just smart trust. Smart trust, I’ll trust your company because I’ve done my research and based on my research I’m prepared to do business with you. I know what I’m buying and I’ll know when I’m not getting it to the standard that I expect. I understand what my options are and if I’m not happy then I will, without hesitation, exercise one of those options if I wish to change provider.
SME’s rarely go to such lengths when looking for a new Outsourced IT Partner simply because they don’t have the resources. Don’t get me wrong, I have come across excellent and thorough SME owner managers who can really put you through the “mincing machine” and I’m sure most owner managers could if they had the time. In reality however it’s easier not to change and to stick with the existing arrangement because you know them and there’s a trust on some level. And you don’t want the hassle and risk of looking for a new Outsourced IT Partner and starting a new relationship.
What should your Outsourced IT Partner be doing for your business?
If your business is dealing with a single individual or a small IT company that is static, not growing, not progressive then there’s a high chance that you are not getting the ICT services that your business needs. I’m not just talking about fixing your PC or server when it breaks down. I’m talking about all the other services and benefits that you’re Outsourced IT Partner should be bringing to your business to ensure that you are progressing, that your business is being informed about the latest technologies and that your ICT technology is fully supporting your business goals.
1. Your Outsourced IT Partner should provide you with a service level agreement (SLA) which sets out in detail exactly how your relationship will work on a day to day basis.
2. Your Outsourced IT Partner should provide you with a high level account manager who will be available to you at all times for advice and guidance.
3. On a consistent basis, your Outsourced IT Partner should be making you and your business aware of new technologies and ways of working that are relevant to your business.
What if your current Outsourced IT Partner is not doing this? What is the cost to you and your business?
Case Study – Small Business with 15 employees.
Here is an example of a small firm that I came across last year. The firm had a fairly basic non-committal type IT Support contract with a local IT business. When a problem occurred they called their contact and someone would attend and work on the problem. Other than reacting when called their IT contact had little or no involvement with the client when it same to auditing, sales and recommending new services and products. Because the systems were so old breakdowns became more frequent. Downtime for staff was more frequent. The business as a whole was using 10 year old technology which was slow and “creaking at the knees”. It was almost like a badge of honour to some staff whose PC took 15 minutes to boot up. The company was still using an old fashioned tape drive for backups and although they were religiously changing tapes every day, no one actually knew exactly what was being backed up let alone whether or not the tapes would actually be able to restore data in the event of a disaster. When it came to considering any new software across the business it was always a problem because of incompatibilities with the old hardware and operating systems so business systems were never kept up to date. Staff member’s knowledge around business systems was 10 years out of date. The IT firm fixed things that broke but offered little or nothing when it came IT direction and planning. One day the, out of warranty, server ground to a halt, there was data loss, two weeks of downtime and after the chaos the realisation by the business owners that they had to make a huge investment in new hardware, software and staff training all at once. It took months to recover from the disaster and months again to get the business back on track and up to speed with staff having to learn how to use the new modern IT systems.
Having made a huge investment the owners now wanted to get value and use the new IT system to its full potential but this was challenging given the culture engrained within the business of not changing, of not learning new things, of not being up to date. As a result the business has probably been set back a number of years by comparison to some of its competitors who upgraded their IT systems incrementally. In summary the costs of this reactive approach to information technology for this company were high when you total the cost of the new hardware, software and staff training along with the cost of the downtime and data loss and the opportunity cost of the business being set back years behind its competitors.
What’s the Opportunity cost of not choosing the right Outsourced IT Partner?
What’s the opportunity cost of not choosing the right Outsourced IT Partner? Its relative of course, hard to put an exact Euro’s figure on, however as we can see the cost can be significant. And what about the staff development opportunity cost in terms of their lack of opportunity to interact with modern information technology in their daily work and the effect this has on their productivity and motivation which, no doubt, also has an impact on staff retention and turnover? The costs of not having an appropriate modern information technology system supporting your staff and your business goals is huge. SME’s need to be working with the right Outsourced IT Partner to ensure that your most important asset, your people, are not held back in any way when it comes to pursuing your business goals.
How to choose the right Outsourced IT Partner?
When the search for your new Outsourced IT Partner begins in earnest you will quickly whittle the numbers down to three or four realistic options that appear of a suitable reputation, size and quality that are worth being considered. We can now consider and discuss a number of key factors in determining the right Outsourced IT partner for you and your business leading to my top 20 questions for prospective Outsourced IT Partners that will ensure no stone will be left unturned by you in choosing the right one.
What is the right size Outsourced IT Partner?
Having worked with SME’s over the last 20 years and crossed swords with many of my competitors across the strategic groups in the IT Services sector I believe that the ideal Outsourced IT Partner, for an SME with 10 employees and upwards, will have between 10 and 30 employees. If an IT Company is too small they may be limited in the services they can provide. Smaller companies may not yet have the necessary management structures in place, the specialist departments with robust business processes operating and they may not yet be able to attract the right staff that guarantee reliable, consistent and high quality IT Services. Alternatively, if an IT company is too big they may not be able to give you the personal service that your business needs. I’ve seen examples of this over the years as growth hungry IT Companies move their focus from SME to Enterprise leaving swathes of SME customers in their wake receiving less than satisfactory levels of service as their focus shifts away from smaller businesses to higher value corporate clients. As an IT service company it’s difficult to service the SME market and Enterprise market at the same time because they are two very separate markets with differing needs. I’m not bashing the small guys here because I know what it’s like starting small and growing a business and besides we live in different times now. The number of IT service providers out there right now is way greater than it was 20 years ago especially at the smaller size company end.
Is there evidence of growth, progression and success?
The first thing you’ll want to see in a prospective partner is independent evidence of growth, progression and success and, ideally, this evidence might come in the form of recommendations from people that you know. Also, when did they start in business, what has been their growth path in recent years, have they won any industry awards, worked for and earned industry accreditations or received recognition for special achievements?
What is the split between technical staff on the road and service desk?
Your Outsourced IT Partner’s technical staff should be split at least 50:50 between service desk and field engineer. 90% of all IT problems can be resolved remotely and quickly so your Outsourced IT Partner should have a well-resourced service desk able to handle a large volume of calls efficiently.
Your account manager should be a senior person with plenty of experience, often it may be a company director, someone who will give you direction and advice and be there to deal with your questions and issues when they arise.
Evidence of management structure?
Within your ideal Outsourced IT Partner’s company you will also want to see evidence of a management structure. Management roles in areas such as sales management, operations management, service delivery and customer services should be filled with strong capable people. I’d also like to see a summary of experience and qualifications of key staff particularly ones that will deal with your site.
Ask the questions up front!
When you select a new Outsourced IT Partner the time to ask the questions is at the beginning. Once the questions and answers are done, the service level agreement complete and both parties set off on a new relationship then it’s like any other relationship. You have to get used to working together, there may be teething problems along the way, but if both parties are committed to the cause of working together through problems then both will get the best out of each other and reap the rewards of a successful relationship. You will have a great IT Partner and the IT Partner will have a great Customer and that’s the result we’re all looking for at the end of the day!
Top 20 questions that will leave no stone unturned!
So to help you choose the right Outsourced IT Partner I’m going to give you my top 20 questions, with some pointers, that will leave no stone unturned as you search for the right Outsourced IT Partner. These are the questions that I would ask prospective IT Partners. And remember you’re not just interviewing for someone to fix your computer you are looking for an Outsourced IT Partner, a company with people and processes that you trust to deliver the suite of services that you need to ensure that your business stays modern and is delivering value as you focus on pursuing your business goals. Of course it’s highly unlikely that you will invite these people to your office and put them through the grinder in a 2 hour interview. You certainly could do that if you wanted to and maybe you should. The reality is that much of this information will be gathered through desk research and informally from a variety of sources, web, sales documentation, referral and any remaining questions can be asked directly via email, over the phone and during that face to face meeting.
Good luck with your search!
TOP 20 QUESTIONS FOR PROSPECTIVE NEW OUTSOURCED IT PARTNERS!
1. What is the size of your company?
• Who owns the company?
• What is your company’s turnover?
• Who is your target market, SME or Enterprise?
• How many full time employees do you have?
• How many technical staff do you have?
• How many mobile field engineers do you have?
• How many service desk / helpdesk staff do you have?
2. What geographic regions do you cover?
• Where are your field engineers located?
• Where are your offices?
• Where is your HQ?
3. What kind of IT Support contracts do you offer?
• Pay as you go? Fixed price? Variable?
• Service Level Agreement which includes service desk and time on site? Fixed price, no risk.
• Or a combination of service desk and on site time billable? Variable cost, risk of higher bills.
• Regular onsite helpdesk visits? Bulk regular time on site?
• Managed services, where the provider proactively manages all aspects of your IT
4. What are your guaranteed response times?
• Is this a fix time or a response time?
• How quickly will you respond to a priority 1 call, 2 and 3…?
• What is your guaranteed on site response time?
• How does your service desk manage call priorities?
5. Who would be my dedicated account manager?
• Ask to see a summary of their experience and qualifications.
• How often will my account manager be in contact with me?
6. Who would be my dedicated engineer?
• Ask to see a summary of their experience and qualifications.
7. What standards are your technical staff trained to?
• What in-house training do your technical staff receive?
• What are minimum standard of technical qualifications for technical staff?
8. Who are your industry partners?
• What brands of hardware do you sell?
• What types of software do you sell?
• Who are the key partners you have accreditations with?
• Can I see copies of these accreditations / can you confirm they are current?
9. Do you have a detailed written process for logging and managing calls, cradle to grave?
• Ask to see this process.
• What call management system does your company use?
• Will I receive an email notification every time my company logs a call?
• Explain your call escalation process? Who do I contact when I have a problem that needs escalating?
10. If I change provider what steps will your company take to ensure that your company knows my systems inside out and will these steps be at your cost and not mine?
• Will your company do a site survey and document my site properly
• Who will be responsible for updating this documentation?
• Will the engineer attending my site be given time to familiarise himself in advance?
• Will I receive a copy of my site documentation?
11. What services can your company offer my business?
• Do you sell /support phone systems?
• Do you sell hardware/software?
• Do you do software development?
• Do you sell cloud services?
• Telecommunications services?
12. Does your Company do remote IT monitoring?
• What exactly do you monitor?
• Is this included in a support contract?
13. Will your company manage and monitor my backups?
• What is your company’s policy on backups and responsibility for data loss?
• How will you know when my backups have failed?
• How quickly will the problem by fixed?
• What priority does your company give to a backup problem, Priority 1?
• What is your approach to IT disaster recovery?
14. Are there any surprises in your IT Support contracts?
• What do your contracts cover?
• What do your contracts not cover?
15. Reporting: What regular reports will I receive from your company?
• Will I receive reports from engineers when they attend site?
• Will I receive reports about my companies call history?
• Will I receive regular reports about the health of my IT system?
• Will I receive regular reports about my backups?
• Will I receive a monthly statement of account?
16. What are your terms and conditions?
• Can I see a copy of general your terms and conditions?
• Can I see a sample copy of your service level agreement?
• What is your contract cancellation policy?
17. What will you charge me for over and above the contract fee?
• Service requests resolved remotely?
• Short administrative tasks resolved quickly?
• Password changes?
• Will you always tell me in advance if something is billable or not?
18. Can I pay for my IT contract monthly, quarterly, annually?
19. What happens if I want to cancel the contract and move to another provider?
• What is the notice period?
• Will the handover to a new provider be smooth?
• Will there be any issues with key username and passwords being handed over to me or a new IT provider?
20. Do you offer discounts?
• I want to extend the contract over 2 or 3 years will I get a discount?
• If I want more bulk engineer time on site will I get better rates?
• What is the hourly engineer rate for installation or service request work on site?
• What is the rate for remote engineer work for installation or service request?
In today’s global and fast-moving world, the workplace is evolving and more people than ever are working outside the office, on a range of mobile devices. Modern technology in small business brings real benefits – from cost savings and competitive advantage to increased productivity and security. It can be daunting when you look across your IT needs, there are so many technical terms and buzz-word; from servers to the cloud, PCs to mobile devices. It is hard to know where to start, and to understand how your company can transition from what you have now to where you want to be.
Only Microsoft offers a complete, flexible, and trusted platform that spans the entire IT ecosystem, from server to cloud, and desktop to mobile devices. Microsoft’s Office 365 is your modern business in the cloud. Office 365 empowers SMBs by making modern technology a business advantage to achieve your business goals—whether growing sales, increasing efficiency, enabling a mobile workforce, or keeping data protected.
Office 365 offers a variety of plans to fit a range of budgets. If you are interested in getting a guideline pricing to migrate to Office 365, our amazing new Microsoft Office 365 migration cost calculator will provide you with a pricing for migration and annual subscriptions cost to use Microsoft Office 365.
There are 7 simple modern technology in small business steps that can be followed:
- Adapt to change: Move to a modern IT platform that enables you to adapt quickly to changing business needs, make sure that you are a step ahead of your competitors.
- More for Less: Get more from the servers that run your business applications, have virtual servers instead of multiple physical devices. Move to the cloud version of your business application.
- Work together, from everywhere: Work together anywhere, with the same familiar experience across PCs and mobile devices.
- Protect your Data: Implement a system across your company that includes built-in protection for all of your data, whether it sits on your PC, Laptop, Server od mobile device.
- Fail to prepare, prepare to fail: Ensure that you can still work, even if the worst happens. Cloud email and business applications means that even if your server stops, your business doesn’t have to.
- Know your customer: Use data as a competitive advantage to help you understand your customers and connect with them on their terms. Use modern software as the voice to sell you and your product.
- Sell, Sell, Sell: Build customer relationships by engaging them with the help of the familiar tools you already know.
How can HCS help?
- We are a Microsoft Gold partner and have been recognised in 2014 as a Global Partner of the Year Award Finalist.
- We are experts in delivering Microsoft Cloud Services such as Office 365, SharePoint, Azure and Microsoft’s Unified Communications solution Skype for Business.
- We are trusted by 1000’s of users to support their Office 365 cloud platform.
- We have a dedicated and experienced SharePoint Team who will drive your productivity.
To find out more about how modern technology in small business can bring real benefits to your company, contact our Microsoft business experts on 01-8734120|051-595200. Find out more about Microsoft’s Office 365.
Major Irish national producer and distributor of vegetables and fruit chooses Zultys.
The Keelings family story began in 1896 on a farm in the Donabate area of County Dublin. The current farm was established in 1926 and from the early 1920’s to the late 1960’s, rhubarb was one of our main crops. In the 1930s, Keelings began growing fruits and salads and supplying them to local Dublin markets. They first planted strawberries in 1937, with Bramleys following in 1949. Keelings have continued to grow, and source the very best quality fresh produce for their customers to enjoy.
The Business Need
“Our 3Com NBX primary PBX had gone end of life and we needed to replace it with a system that incorporates all the new Unified Communications features and functionality on offer today.” said Tony O Connor, IT Manager for Keelings. “ Another important area for us was our fruit and veg contact centre. The call volume was increasing and we needed better call management and communications systems to be abel to handle the increased traffic. I was conscious however, that with big brand name phone systems came significant upfront and ongoing costs so I was prepared to carry out an indepth analysis of the market to find the best solution for Keelings”.
The Solution – Zultys MX250
One of Zultys’ unique selling points is that its’ PBX systems comprise of just one device. These devices incorporate all functions of the system whereas big name competitors use multiple servers and devices to achieve the same thing. The advantage of a single device is simple management and simple disaster recovery. Another unique selling point is Zultys’ contact centre functionality. The Zultys MX250 includes features for use in a call centre or contact centre environment. As many staff as you wish can be assigned as contact agents, for customer services for example and you can then manage and report on all inbound calls, average wait times, callers in queue and many more metrics. Amazon worldwide use Zultys for their contact centres.The total cost of the solution comes in at 30% less than big name brands and the ongoing annual costs are 50% less.
“The Zultys solution came in at a significantly less up front cost as well as ongoing costs than other big brand names” said Tony O Connor, IT Manager for Keelings. “I installed the system myself and its configuration interfaces are simple to use which means I don’t need external help when I want to make changes. Any issues I had were dealt with quickly by the HCS Zultys Technical staff”.
Find out more about HCS’s Managed Telecoms