IT problems evolve over many years undetected.
No matter how intentional we try to be with our marketing activities, many of our best accounts are “Red Cross” projects – acquired under emergency circumstances, when a few or many things go terribly wrong.
This requires us to swoop in with proverbial helicopters and medical supplies to provide critical relief.
What motivates you to fine-tune your IT systems: Emergencies? Audits? Annual renewals of insurance policies? Cyber liability policy applications with questionnaires you can’t begin to answer?
This article is for anyone using an in-house IT department, a smaller MSP, a one-man band, or a larger MSP.
Organized into three basic IT service model categories, the following profiles are from new clients Integris acquired over the last few years.
One or several of the examples should help you better understand your particular situation, and hopefully inspire you to be more strategic in your approach.
1 – In-House IT
Although this is becoming less common, some small and midsize companies still have a full-time IT staff handling both of the following:
- Infrastructure (network, firewall, switches, servers, cloud, backup, and user support)
- Line of business applications (Salesforce, NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, etc.)
Many of these positions have evolved by necessity, and after five to ten years, the gaps become glaring.
Why? There is no way one to three individuals will ever have the current technical skills, the capital-intensive toolset, or the bandwidth to stay ahead of so many different and constantly changing IT disciplines.
(It’s also expensive for organizations with 25-150 employees.)
A business attorney referred us to an Entertainment Company when a full-time employee with both IT and marketing in his title (always a red flag) was struggling with a number of problems:
- Failure (over a period of several months) to recover from a data breach
- Password storage on an unsecured server
- Trying to manage a network crippled by work-arounds and end-of-life operating systems
- Growing user discontent and productivity deficits
- The stage was set for another data breach
A Nonprofit client switched to a new organization and brought us in when their growth plans were being stymied by a highly paid Director of IT and two entry-level help desk employees.
Each was overextended and the organization was facing:
- Quality of service issues
- Diminished user experience across 180 workstations
- Widespread user noncompliance with scheduled update alerts and nasty office politics resulting from repeated attempts at enforcement (so the IT team eventually gave up)
- The client was using out of warranty equipment (that was on the verge of failure)
- Very little system documentation
2 – Smaller MSPs and One-Man Bands
By some accounts, Atlanta is rumored to have around 500 companies who call themselves MSPs. A majority of these organizations have fewer than ten people and under $1M in annual sales.
We also have a sizable number of one-man bands who do break-fix IT work and spend most of their time driving around town putting out fires.
Both service models reach a growth plateau and find it increasingly difficult to effectively take care of more than a handful of clients.
Smaller operators have another challenge: they’re typically undercapitalized and have a host of new liability concerns related to managing cybercrime.
Cyber crooks are now infiltrating a lot of unsuspecting mom and pop MSPs and by default, getting easy access to all of their clients’ networks.
Below are some examples of clients who reached out to us when their MSP processes failed them:
A Medical Device Manufacturer was operating two entities under one umbrella and working with a one-person IT provider who was moonlighting as a technology specialist AND working full-time at another company.
While this is an obvious recipe for disaster, his biggest flaw was disappearing the moment he found out his client was getting a second opinion.
Further discovery revealed several glaring issues:
- An end-of-life firewall with an expired warranty
- A sloppy server configuration with the network (patents, intellectual property, and everything else) wide open to intrusion by threat actors
- The use of prosumer data backup devices
A Staffing Company referred to us by a new employee, had the worst environment we’ve ever seen. Bar none!
Right off the bat, we had to loan them a server and immediately migrate all of their files shares and Active Directory resources from a 10-year-old tower they had decided to use until it failed.
I am being charitable when I say “migrate” since a majority of this process could be characterized as extraction and digital surgery due to all of the necessary workarounds.
We had no choice; they were “hard fail” down. This company provided home health care nursing services which means there was a lot on the line – patient comfort, positive healthcare outcomes, and HIPAA compliance.
3 – Larger MSPs
Atlanta has about a dozen larger IT providers with more than 40 employees and $20M in annual sales.
Some started over 20 years ago and have grown organically while others have expanded by acquisition, a major trend in the IT space as VC firms move in to consolidate and expand MSP footprints across multiple markets.
With all of this change, quite a few larger MSPs are in a state of flux and may be overlooking important client requirements that were easier to manage when they were smaller and had fewer clients to accommodate.
We stumbled upon a wonderful Nonprofit account when they thought they were finished interviewing new IT providers. (Some things were just meant to be.)
They were taken aback by our focus on strategy because this topic had been conspicuously absent from all of their other conversations.
The environment wasn’t a mess but it was configured in a manner that required users to submit a high volume of support requests. This routine is disruptive for both the client and the provider.
It also snowballs into ill will over time, especially when human services are on the line. (Fewer children were being served because their collaborative case processing tools we not functioning at 100% capacity.)
This really makes you wonder how many needy kids were underserved before we came along at the eleventh hour.
A few of the major culprits included:
- A mixture of older workstations in the office and personally owned user laptops from the field were not syncing with file shares and backups
- Their MSP was reacting rather than devising an IT strategy that could be aligned with a budget to make upgrades and integration enhancements
A big part of an effective IT partnership is simplifying complex technology so clients understand how it works and why they need it.
A former employee (and friendly competitor of Integris) introduced us to a high-performance plaintiff’s attorney.
This Law Firm was actively immersed in multi-million-dollar class action lawsuit in and had a huge problem:
- Everyone was completely locked out of the primary file share being utilized for processing the case
- The application wasn’t customized or home-brewed; it was a brand name cloud solution that wasn’t set up properly or being managed very effectively by their IT provider
- This was low-hanging fruit in terms of a remedy, but client emotions ran high and their clients could have suffered grave monetary losses
Evaluating Atlanta IT services and support can get complicated – even more so if you’re forced to do this when you’re in the eye of the storm.
The Integris team has decades of experience, and we look forward to helping you make sure your technology platform is operationally aligned with your goals, the value of your business assets, and tolerance for risk.