Who is your “IT” expert among your employees? If you are a small business, it’s likely to be a tech-savvy young person. Or perhaps the sales director. Or even the officer manager. They have other duties, but they are forced to take time away from these duties when a technical issue occurs.
“Many times these individuals are just trying to make things work,” said Jeff Cato, Vice President of Sales and IT Solutions at Oklahoma City-based Dobson Technologies. “What happens as a company grows is that it realizes this internal resource is not an IT expert. These individuals are putting Band-Aids on tech issues after they occur and are not necessarily handling them appropriately. This is alarming from a profitability, security and business continuity standpoint.”
Cato recently answered questions about an alternate IT management method that brings expertise and is cost effective.
Q: Explain the evolution of IT management for start-ups and small businesses.
Cato: As businesses evolve from a start-up, many companies with 20 employees or less look for someone on their staff who is the most technical. This person is often a younger employee who may be a gamer or simply knows their way around a computer better than anyone else in the office. This individual becomes the pseudo-IT person in the office. They are figuring out ways to resolve issues after they occur. Are they taking care of your technology as they should be? Most likely no, because that is not their true area of expertise. As the company grows to 20+ employees, there becomes a tipping point where companies cannot continue to operate in the same manner. They realize they need true technical expertise. These companies face the decision on whether to hire an IT employee or outsource that component of their operation.
Q: What is the difference between hiring an IT employee and outsourcing the business function?
Cato: The 3 main differences are cost, expertise, and resources. When a company hires internally, they are paying for salary, benefits, knowledge and availability. This resource is not scalable and is often limited in experience and knowledge. If this person is out sick, on vacation, or quits, you have no technical resource available to you. When a company outsources, they are paying for knowledge and availability. Outsourcing can come in two forms: proactive and reactive. The proactive provider is a Managed Services Provider (MSP) while the reactive provider is break/fix. The break/fix provider is typically a small company with just a handful of employees who charges by the hour and fixes your technology after you’ve experienced downtime. They have a varying level of technical expertise and their availability is often unpredictable. They are not incentivized to proactively protect your business from technology mishaps because they make money after your technology breaks. A true MSP offers a flat, monthly fee to proactively support your technology. They have a team of individuals with years of technical expertise, experience, and certifications. They are available 24x7x365 – if one of their employees is sick, on vacation, or quits, it does not affect the technical operation of your business – they are always available to support you.
Q: As an MSP and outsourced IT provider, what does Dobson bring to my business?
Cato: At Dobson, we want you to think of us as another department in your organization- an extension on your phone. You can call us as if you were calling someone down the hall. When your employees run into any technical issue, whether it’s as simple as having problems with printing or the software is no longer working or the computer is running slow, they can call our helpdesk and we will resolve the issue. We manage and maintain your environment and ensure you have the correct hardware and software in place to securely protect your network. Even the smallest businesses are targets for attackers because they are typically under-resourced.
Q: What do your customers tell you after you’ve implemented an outsourced IT solution into their business?
Cato: First and foremost, communication is key. We conduct quarterly business reviews with our clients to keep the flow of communication open and we start this review process at month 3. We review our partnership from tactical and strategic perspectives. We review items like tickets, response times, security components, hardware and software needs, etc. We also gain an understanding of where your business is going in the next three, six, nine, and 12 months so we can understand how your technology needs to evolve in order to accomplish your business goals. Our customers always say “now I feel like I know what I have and why I have it.”
Q: What is the big difference-maker for Dobson Technologies?
Cato: What distinguishes Dobson from other providers is the fact that we are a technology company run by business people. There are a multitude of components that go in to understanding your processes and procedures. Our goal is to understand how you operate and how to make your business become more efficient. With Dobson, you have a partner that has strategic business experience. We understand how to implement and scale efficiencies in your organization. It is definitely a differentiator for us.