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IT Management, Uncategorized

One-Man-Shops vs. Full-Service Technology Consultants: 5 Scenarios

By February 29, 2012 9 Comments

This post contains five different scenarios a company might face when it comes to managing technology.  In each scenario, we compare the one-man-shop's reaction to the full-service technology firm's.

Scenario 1: Break-fix vs. Proactive

An accounting firm’s staff is using old workstations that need to be replaced.  

One-Man Shop:  Steve, the managing partner for the firm, calls the same computer guy who ordered their existing workstations years ago.  He hasn’t heard much from him since then.   The computer guy sends over a quote for the new equipment and orders the new workstations.   A few days later, he comes in to install them.  For a few weeks, everything is working perfectly, but then Steve notices a dramatic increase in the number of viruses the staffers are getting.   Steve calls the computer repair guy, who had not installed or recommended antivirus software or a firewall.  The computer guy is up to his ears in work with other clients and won’t have time to address the issue for another week.  Steve didn’t invest in a support contract with a technology consultant, because he wanted to save the firm money.  However, the viruses infecting their workstations are costing the firm thousands of dollars in billable time every day.

Technology Consultant: Steve calls a technology consultant who sends an engineer and an account manager over to conduct a thorough assessment of their network. Afterwards, they make recommendations for equipment replacements, and also identify areas where Steve’s firm is at risk.  Not only that, they work with Steve’s firm to find ways for his staff to work more efficiently.  For example, they helped the firm move all of their paper files to a digital, searchable database that staffers can connect to from anywhere.  The technology consultant identifies business problems and tries to solve them over time, rather than offering quick fixes to computer glitches at a bargain rate.  What initially seemed like a large investment pays off in a few months, and it reflects on Steve’s P & L statement. His staff is billing an average of 30% more hours since partnering with the consultant.

Scenario 2: Transparency

Claudia is an associate at a 30-person law firm specializing in personal injury.  The firm's website is outdated, and she’s been charged with the task of getting a new website built. 

One-Man-Shop:  Claudia calls a local web designer to build the new website.  He sends her a mockup and quotes a few hundred dollars for the new site.  It’s up in no time, and Claudia barely had to lift a finger.  However, one day she conducts a test search in Google to see if her firm comes up for personal injury lawyers in her small town.  Her website is nowhere to be seen on the first page results, so she calls the web designer to ask if he can help.  He tells Claudia that her website isn’t search engine optimized.  She didn’t request SEO, so he didn’t provide it.  He offers new pricing to optimize the site, but Claudia decides to partner with another SEO service.  When Claudia tries to hire another consultant to help with the issue, the web designer is reluctant to give up information or control of the site to an outsider.

Technology Consultant:  Claudia calls a technology consultant with an in-house web design and development team.  They ask her about more than just color scheme and design, and try to nail down why the firm needs a new website and what they want to accomplish with it. The team involves Claudia in every step of the process, from the initial mockups to training, so that she can update and edit the website herself.  At the end of the project, the firm has a beautiful new website that is optimized for search engines and mobile devices.  When Claudia doesn’t have time to make changes herself, someone from the web team can do it for her, in a matter of minutes.

Scenario 3: Vendor Selection

Linda is the CFO of a property management company that needs to move all of their backups offsite. This data includes sensitive information about their tenants and employees.  

One-Man-Shop:  Linda calls her computer repair guy to come in and make recommendations for an offsite backup service. He finds a relatively cheap, easy-to-install solution and sets it up in the main office.  A few months later, Linda is reading financial news and discovers that her offsite backup vendor is embroiled in legal controversy and has been accused of fraud.  Linda is concerned that her data is not in good hands, and she asks her computer repair guy to replace the system with another solution, which doubles her company’s installation costs.

Technology Consultant:  Linda calls on a technology consultant who carefully evaluates the backups that are currently in place.  They recommend a secure offsite solution and install it. Behind the scenes, the consultant carefully analyzed several vendor options before making a selection.  They chose the vendor that not only had the best service offerings and highest reviews, but one that was well-established, with strong financial backing and a promising future.  The new backup system works very well, giving Linda peace of mind knowing her company’s sensitive information is out of harm’s way.

Scenario 4: Expertise

Fred’s company is hiring five new employees, who need email addresses, computers and smartphones setup.

One-Man-Shop:  Fred’s computer repair guy can order the new computers, but he doesn’t have the expertise (or the desire) to help with the email accounts and the smartphones.  Fred has to call two separate vendors to get the email accounts and smartphones set up.  When a new employee stops receiving email on his smartphone, he has no idea who to call, so he asks Fred for help.  Fred doesn’t know whether to call the cellular provider or the email hosting provider.   He spends half the day on the phone trying to resolve the issue with both vendors.

Technology Consultant: Fred hires a technology consultant to handle the setup of the phones, email and computer equipment.  The consultant’s engineers install everything and set it up to work together seamlessly.  When the new employee’s email stops working, he calls the consultant and submits a support ticket.  The problem is fixed within a couple of short hours, and all it took was one phone call. Fred was never interrupted.

Scenario 5: Knowledge Base

A manufacturing firm uses a specialized software program to manage inventory.  One day, Pamela tries to enter new inventory, but a glitch in the program prevents her from doing so.  She can’t move on to her next task until she enters this inventory.

One-Man-Shop (Internal IT):  The firm has an internal IT staffer, but he’s really more of a hardware expert than a software expert. He spends almost an entire day trying to figure out the problem until he finally makes a breakthrough. All this time, Pamela’s work has come to a complete stop while the staffer is working on her problem.

Technology Consultant:  Pamela submits a support ticket via email to the firm’s technology consultant.  A dispatcher assigns the ticket to the engineer responsible for the account.  The engineer is also more of a hardware expert than a software expert, but he works with several software engineers who help him resolve the issue within an hour.  Pamela finishes entering inventory before lunch.

Takeaway

In most cases, the one-man-shop’s best selling point is that his services are cheaper.  With the reliance businesses place on technology these days, do you really want to place some of your most valuable business assets in the hands of a provider because he’s the cheapest?  Put your business in trusted hands with a reliable, proactive technology consulting firm.

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