I am calling out to business owners everywhere. Are you possibly being hoodwinked by your IT Consultants or IT Staff yet may be unaware?

It used to be that an IT department was a cost center, and their job was merely to ensure that your technology ran without hiccups.

Somewhere along the line, either consciously or unconsciously, IT consultants and IT department heads across the world decided that they could dazzle their bosses or clients with tech-speak, knowing their bosses had no clue of what they were talking about, and cunningly create a dependency where they became indispensable to said organization.

Almost as if they were sorcerers or the keepers of some kind of ancient Voodoo or Black Magic, these people started to recommend solutions to their employers and clients that might not even be the best for the company’s bottom line, yet were merely done so that these companies would have no choice but to keep using their IT staff – and often become inexorably tied to their recommendations.

I have been in this industry since nearly its inception, and I have seen some amazing, brilliant people offer their expertise to various organizations. I have also witnessed plenty of charlatans who have nearly no idea what they’re doing, yet pretend to know enough to keep themselves employed at an organization.

Often times business owners don’t know any better.  Perhaps you’ve heard – or even said –“I don’t want to know anything about my technology, so that’s why I delegate it to someone who does!”

As many business people know – if one were to take this same tact with their financial portfolio, and say something like “I don’t want to know anything about my finances! This is why I delegate everything to my broker!” – how long do you think it would be before this person wakes up one day and finds their portfolio churned into nothing? Or finds themselves the victim of embezzlement?

One does not have to be a technology wizard to at least understand whether or not your IT people have your best interests – and bottom line – in mind. Here are some of the things you should consider when interfacing with your IT people:

If something *seems* like it should work the way you want it to – but isn’t – chances are, your gut is correct.

Tech people will often hide their lack of experience and understanding behind a blizzard of technical gobbledygook. In almost every situation, IT people know that the eyes of their clients and superiors will glaze over when they start to throw out numerous buzzwords and tech-speak so that they can make sure the light is not focused on their own lack of experience.

Any IT person worth their salt is going to devise solutions for you that simply work. If something has been properly configured, the system should hum along without problems, save for periodic maintenance that needs to occur – i.e. firmware / software updates and the like.

It should be noted that there are scenarios when your tech person will not have expertise in a certain area, but the client will ask their IT person to research it or learn about it, and will pay for this learning time. This is different than hiring someone that has an assumed level of knowledge, but then spends their time learning on your dime.

You shouldn’t be repeatedly visiting the same issues day after day with your technology any more than the car you just bought should have to go to the mechanic every few days just so you can drive it around town.

Does your IT person or support staff solve issues for you the first or second time? Do they create solutions that can be measured in terms of cost savings?

Over the years I used to encounter IT people who would say things like “There’s no way I can get my clients to switch to Macs – if I did that, I wouldn’t get any more work!”

I decided to stop working on Windows in the year 2000 because I felt in about 80% of the cases, people were using technology that wasn’t right for their business. In several situations I felt that the money they were spending on troubleshooting could have be re- appropriated into simply buying a new machine to fix their underlying problem.

I personally refused to cater to the lowest common denominator – i.e. simply “keeping things running at the status-quo level”. I decided that I would focus on solutions that essentially allowed the client to become more self-sufficient and to reduce their dependency on consultants and IT staff.

Instead of keeping the status quo, I found that I could help clients and corporations start to save money on their bottom line – and it then freed them up to spend money by expanding their vision – and in doing so, my role of being a break-and-fix consultant morphed into helping them expand their company vision and its underlying technology.

I didn’t find that I worked less, I simply found that I was able to work “different”.

Speaking of Total Cost of Ownership:

Did you know that IBM recently migrated their entire workforce to Apple? They looked at the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and realized they would save a ton of money by making this shift.

This is only one of numerous articles on the subject, but if you were not aware of this move, here’s an article:

Comment: IBM’s Apple deployment stats should be a lesson to enterprise companies everywhere

I could list numerous scenarios where I have seen IT people with a lack of experience giving advice, or offering solutions that helps only their own job security. These people control the technology reins and essentially hold that company hostage, often times by creating “solutions” that are impossible to reverse.

Your solutions need to be scalable.

Often times I have seen solutions architected that meet a short-term need, but don’t consider how the company – or the technology – might change over the next 3-5 years.

You don’t want to have someone devise a solution for you that creates a band-aid for something today and requires you to spend a lot of time and money untangling down the road.

And should you decide to make a lateral move to another system, it should NOT be like trying to remove gum from hair – without breaking any hair.

Your technology should be transparent to you.

The tools you use to get your job done should essentially be invisible, and allow you to be a better “whatever-it-is-you-do”.

You should not be spending your time constantly troubleshooting your technology, and if you find yourself being more of an IT person than doing what truly inspires you, it’s time to look for a different solution.

Consider using Cloud (SaaS) Solutions.

It used to be that software developers would focus the majority of their time creating software for Windows or Mac environments.

Nowadays, however, most companies are funneling development dollars into the cloud. This is called Software As A Solution (SaaS).

This allows users to pick their own “platform of choice” (i.e. iOS, Android, Mac, PC), much like you are free to decide which car you want to drive on the highway.

The “cloud” has taken a lot of heavy lifting off the plate of solutions that only used to be available in-house.

I have worked with clients in the past who managed their own server for file sharing, contact and calendar sharing, as well as email, and were spending a pretty penny to do it.

In some cases I was subcontracting for someone else, and had to perform the duties I was asked. Yet had I worked directly for these clients, I’d have moved all of their data to a Hosted Exchange server such as Rackspace for far less than they were paying to maintain the server and all of its updates.

Often times it’s better to let a vendor worry about maintaining an email (or server) environment, especially when the vendor specializes in it, offers 24×7 support, and can provide the service for a fraction of the price as the same solution in-house.

Final Thoughts

The key of any business owner is to listen to your support staff’s underlying philosophy.

Do the things they say resonate with you? Do their actions and solutions make sense to you? Are you spending more money on “solutions” because you’re expanding? Or because you’re simply maintaining the status-quo?

Your technology doesn’t need to feel frustrating. If your friends or colleagues in other environments are humming along nicely without any problems, yet your IT person tells you why something “can’t” be done – then perhaps it’s time you listen to your gut and start seeking a second opinion.

There are extraordinary benefits of being in a position of empowerment when it comes to your technology.

As a business owner, you will feel liberated when you have the right people to help you realize your vision and co-create with you the optimum technological environment to support it.

— Erik Madsen