Is your system getting slow? Have you outgrown your current equipment? It might be time to upgrade your network infrastructure.
If the questions of “how” and “who” come to mind, we've got you covered.
Outsourcing some of all of your IT management gives you a team of professionals who are responsible your network, including any projects that may come along. Many small businesses are thinly staffed in the IT department. Sometimes with 1 or 2 people. Or even more commonly, the IT manager doubles as operations manager or controller. These folks already have a lot on their plate.
Your outsourced team is focused on your infrastructure. Getting your upgrade done smoothly, and making sure this new technology helps you accomplish your business goals, are their top priorities. Plus, nothing's better than having a bunch of experts on your side. They will undoubtedly have more resources available based on their expertise and vendor partnerships.
So how should you engage an outsourced IT company for your next network upgrade?
Be Strategic, Create a Plan
Let the planning begin!
First, be very clear about what you want accomplished. And more importantly, WHY it needs to be accomplished. The real solutions come in the “whys” not the “whats.” The more information you can give about what success will look like to you, the better.
Give the IT company time and a little wiggle room to come up with options, alternatives, and best practices that will support your future plans. After all, they are the authority in this circumstance.
Once a plan is presented, make sure you key in on this list for compliance and communication:
1. Know Your Contact Person – Establish who you can reach for anything. You shouldn’t be left empty handed when an important issue comes up. The company should have a process in place so you can always get the help you need. Whether it's with one person, or a team of people assigned to your project.
2. Set KPIs – Key Performance Indicators will be the basis of the job’s promptness. Set the KPIs before the project starts. Use them to evaluate the project along the way. Set milestone dates that keep the project moving along smoothly. Bear in mind sometimes things come up. But these things should be addressed quickly and added to the plan if they arise.
3. Define Request for Change Procedures – Sometimes things change along the way. If things need to change, have a plan in place to request that change. Both by your request and by the request of the IT company.
4. Business Requirements – What are requirements within your particular industry? Do you need to be FINRA or HIPPA compliant? Make sure this is clearly stated and addressed before any work starts. (This should have been addressed in the planning stage, but it never hurts to double check before work begins.)
Schedule Your Downtime to Reduce Business Impact
There will be some downtime with almost every major network upgrade. But the amount of downtime, and the business disruption it may cause, depends on the project.
The good news: most of the time, you can schedule that downtime for after business hours or on the weekends. Almost all IT companies will do this by default, unless you specify that you’d like it done differently. The goal should be to minimize any impact. Business should continue to run like usual.
If downtime has to happen during regular business hours, make a plan with your employees for how to keep productivity up. Working remotely, working alternative hours, and other creative solutions can usually be identified to limit productivity loss.
Communication is key. Be transparent and honest with your employees about upgrade timelines. How will it affect their day? Should some tasks be rescheduled or accomplished before the original deadline? To create a real sense of morale during a short, but possibly uncomfortable transition, keep everyone in the loop.
Also, it never hurts to have a plan B. Things happen, and if everyone knows what to do, it’ll go smoother.
Upgrading for Financial Reward
Sometimes you've got to spend a little to get a whole lot. Outdated software and hardware will slow your business down. The slower you work, the fewer customers you can supply at once.
Sometimes updates seem outlandishly expensive. This is where cost vs. productivity comparison is your best friend. Do some math, or have accounting work up some numbers for you. Compare what the numbers would look like if you could process ten more orders per day, for example. Sometimes the cost of the upgrade pays for itself quicker than leaving everything the same. Regular maintenance is just as important as knowing when to update and buy new.
Ongoing Support and Maintenance
When choosing a company to upgrade your network, it’s best if you already have a relationship with them. Having someone who’s already familiar with how your business works sets you up for success. They understand your goals and how technology can support accomplishing them.
Your new system is up and running, but now what? If you pick the right company, they'll be there to help support anything that might happen. Hiccups can happen, so troubleshooting and help desk support should be a part of the package. Also, this new infrastructure will need maintenance to keep it doing what it’s supposed to do. Most companies see success in their upgrades due in large part to continued support. It’s ideal that the ongoing maintenance and management be done by the same company.
Beware of fly-by-night operations. When a company’s only job is to “set it up,” it leaves you to figure out why one person's desktop won't sync emails, all by yourself. But who better to understand what’s going on than the company who put it together. When you pick an IT company, think of the long-term picture with them and the services they offer.
Remember there are no “set it and forget it” parts to IT.
Set your sights on the future. When upgrading don’t just think about today, forecast for your future. What kind of technology is a buzz? What kind of business growth do you expect? Don’t shy away from dreaming big. This is the best time to do that. Any upgrade, big or small, should support your long-term goals.
Wish you could turn IT from a necessary evil to a propeller for business growth? Download a chapter of Do IT Right.
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