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What makes an IT support partnership work?

Forbes recently outlined how an organisation’s IT department should work more effectively within an organisation. While the article focused on the internal IT department, the principles apply to external IT support partners such as MTG. We effectively act as a technical support and outsourced helpdesk partner for many organisations (i.e. thus we are their IT function). Given the similarities between the two (internal IT departments vs outsourced IT department) – it makes for an exciting read.

If we take the views of Forbes and re-frame them in the context of an outsourced IT Support provider – they are equally relevant.

What can a technology provider do to be more productive? How can MTG be the best IT support partner? What makes for a great IT support relationship? We reference 11 of the points posed by Forbes and technology council.

  1. Be Part of the Business. For an IT partner to be successful, it needs to feature as an integral part of the business – understanding the customer problems and apply the most appropriate technology solution. This is a core philosophy of our business – working with our customers and understanding their business to provide a seamless and effective user experience.
  2. Be a Profit Center (not a cost center). This is really a question of value. In simple terms, focus on what can help a business make money, or save money. In many cases, this is supporting to the revenue-generating activities in the industry and helping to reduce/manage costs through the effective use of technology. MTG consistently demonstrates value to our clients and outsourcing can help reduce costs.
  3. Say “yes”. This comes naturally to those of us at MTG. Instead of finding problems or barriers, get into the habit of saying “yes”. There is a stumbling block though – make sure those that say “yes” – can deliver! With a multidisciplinary team of technologists and an excellent network of partners – we can deliver.
  4. Weekly Meetings. Communication within a business is vital; between teams, within teams and at the board level. In the case of an outsourced partner, this is equally relevant. We maintain regular contact with our customers, and this is underpinned by our investment in support and CRM platforms. For customer-facing businesses, a CRM system is vital. Your IT Support partner should stay in touch.
  5. Transparency. Don’t keep secrets and make goals transparent. This is an excellent strategy; having a plan at the board level and not sharing it across the business can render it useless. For an IT department or technical partner, by setting out their goals improves the likelihood of success and cross-departmental working.
  6. Identify the right solutions. We see this consistently in the field. To design and implement the right technology solutions requires an understanding of the challenges! Call it business analysis or talking to the customer – fully understanding the challenges (and the goals) is an important first step. This relates to Item 4 – Weekly Meetings.
  7. Integrated Teams. The recommendation is for small, agile teams – with cross-organisational working. MTG has teams focused on security, networks, enterprise IT, software and databases – and within those teams, smaller groups. Apart from the apparent team structure, the inter-working between teams is essential. In the case of an outsourced partner, understanding the engagement and interaction with our customers is equally crucial.
  8. Forbes Tech CouncilClear Requirements and Goals. Expectations need to be made explicitly clear at the start. This is a classic in software development, indicated in Figure 1. This sits alongside Item 6 and is an important role of the business analyst or account manager. For larger projects, we normally role these requirements into a Statement of Works and a project plan.
  9. Incentives. Unlike the VP of sales or sales development reps; incentivising tech people can be difficult for non-techs to understand! Rather than focus on gross profit, leads and conversion rates – you need something different. In the case of our managed services business; those metrics could include uptime, response-times, customer satisfaction (i.e. NPS) and technical competence (including certification). As a service business – our ultimate measure will always by customer satisfaction.
  10. Avoid Silos. A problem in larger organisations and where cross-functional working is not common. Also particularly commonplace in the public sector. “Get the right people in the room” is the recommendation and a simple one. Technologies such as Sharepoint and other collaboration tools can be used to share pertinent information internally.
  11. Technology as an Enabler. This sums up the Manx Technology Business model. Develop an understanding of the business objectives and customer challenges – then identify the most appropriate software or technology solution.

The Forbes article is impressive for several reasons; MTG can learn from some of the insights (we are an IT Department), our customers with IT departments might gain some insight, and the thoughts can help shape out outsourced IT and helpdesk proposition. We rely on the IT Partnership we have with our customers!

Many of the recommendations already underpin our IT support solutions, but it’s always good to get a different perspective.

The Forbes post can be found here

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Joe Hughes is the CEO of Manx Technology Group. Joe has a background in software development, information security, networks, datacentres and enterprise IT.
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