Just 20 years ago, equipping your company with cutting-edge I.T. solutions meant buying a bunch of personal computers, installing Microsoft Office and plugging in a network cable for emails and web browsing. Today, the overwhelming majority of business operations pass through the digital matrix of ones and zeros. From server rooms that keep all of your company’s data secure to mobile touchpoints that turn customers into brand ambassadors, I.T. runs through the veins of all core business departments.
The I.T. sector isn’t just expanding. The very role of I.T. companies and departments has shifted. I.T. specialists are no longer the weird, geeky guys you call in once a year when your email goes down—they’re essential management advisors whose expertise is necessary to keep the whole operation running. And yet, the average businessperson’s image of I.T. services is still somewhat distorted. I.T. companies are still widely regarded as not much more than hardware vendors, once-a-year maintenance guys, or simply the mustache-equipped men in denim jumpsuits who connect the cables under your desk for a living. It would be unfair to blame business owners for having inaccurate, even comical opinions about what I.T. solutions represent. Even today, a Google search for “I.T. services” will return two completely different companies, one that sells PCs for post offices, another that advises Fortune 500 CEOs on a strategy level—yet both of them will be labeled as “I.T. service providers.”
Let’s take a moment to discuss these differences. Let’s take a deeper dive into what leading I.T. companies do, how they do it, and what that means for your business.
Understanding the Business
It’s been a while since one-size-fits-all I.T. solutions could do the job. For one, companies today are much more diverse in their organizational structures than they were 20 years ago. New positions and departments that simply didn’t exist before, like digital marketing and sustainability, are now at the core of the organizational web. Armies of virtual assistants overseas and freelancers with flexible contracts are now standard practice. This structural shift creates a demand for complex I.T. systems, which, in turn, require in-depth knowledge of the business and the industry.
The increasing range of I.T. services also means that not all companies need the full package. I.T. services today include server maintenance and building cloud computing infrastructures, network support, and policy management. It takes a deep understanding of the business to be able to identify which I.T. services are needed, and which ones are not.
Since I.T. today reaches bone-deep into a company’s infrastructure, solution providers need to be familiar with the company’s legal, managerial, and cultural practices. Technologies and the infrastructures used today have a direct impact on business performance; partner and vendor ignorance towards a company’s anatomy and regulatory laws can cause fatal damage.
Consulting and Training
Some areas of life come naturally to certain people. They might not understand the details, but with the help of some context, they will get the general gist of what’s being said or done in a given situation.
I.T. is not one of those areas. To understand the context of an I.T. matter, one needs to have at least some training. For business owners and executives, this means they have to rely heavily on experts when making I.T.-related decisions.
That’s why leading I.T. practices today put a strong emphasis on advisory duties. They understand that due to the steeply increasing complexity of I.T. issues and solutions today, business leaders need strong guidance in their decision making. And, due to the all-time high cost of a mistake, such guidance is more important than ever.
But it’s not just decision making that requires professional expertise. Due to the scope of modern I.T. solutions, it is common for companies to experience inner friction once the solutions are implemented. You might install the best mobile communication management system there is, but if your employees don’t know how to use it, or if the system interferes with other processes, it will do more harm than good.
That’s why training has emerged as another core discipline under the I.T. banner. Complex solutions are possible to implement without confusing the end user, but, sometimes, they do require additional instructions. To keep track of time, you don’t have to know how the clock works, but you do need to understand what the hands say.
Having introduced the first two key factors that differentiate leading I.T. services from the rest, this last consideration is more of a natural conclusion than a separate factor on its own. The best I.T. providers specialize, both with regards to the industries they operate in, as well as the types of companies they work with.
Specialization means that when you hire an I.T. firm, they’re already likely to be familiar with your business and industry—simply because they have probably worked with other companies in your field before. It also means that they’ll have experiences with companies of similar size and structure—both successful and unsuccessful ones.
Many industries today are still going through digital transformation, yet all of them are tackling the changing business technology landscape at different paces, running into different challenges. The ways in which varying industries address those challenges are also different. To keep up with ever-in-flux developments, an I.T. company must specialize.
A large part of I.T. revolves around security and prevention. Due to the intimate nature of I.T. services today, companies trust their I.T. provider not only to solve existing issues but also to predict and stop future errors from happening. This requires a deep level of understanding of all aspects of a company’s business and industry, which, realistically speaking, can only be achieved through specialization.
There are other factors that define good I.T. services from bad ones. Responsiveness and availability are absolutely key in this industry, and so is continuous learning. But these same qualities are important for vendors from any industry, not specific to I.T. providers.
The bottom line is that in-depth business and industry expertise, emphasis on consulting and training, and specialization are all vital qualities in an effective and reliable I.T. service provider. Too much is at stake for your organization, and too multi-faceted is the subject of business technology, to rely on sub-par services from a second-rate provider.
If you would like to speak in depth about your company’s long-term success, we’d be thrilled to give you more information on how we can help you leverage I.T. solutions to your benefit. Feel free to browse our Resources page and JMARKIAN blog for more articles like this one; or, if you have a particular question in mind, just shoot us an email at [email protected]. You can also give us a call at 844-44-JMARK if that works better for you.