If I were to ask you what your IT team actually does for your business, what would you say?
 
Over the past 3 decades I’ve watched my industry slowly split itself into 3 distinct categories, all of which fall under the “IT support” umbrella. While the split has been evident to those of us on the inside, clever marketing and technical jargon do an excellent job of blurring the lines for those on the outside.
 
To help clarify matters, and to help you identify which of the three approaches is the best fit for your business, I’ve broken each of them down below.
 

Level 1: Keeping the lights on

The first level of support is focused on fixing what’s broken.
 
There are two core elements to this support model: (1) tools to monitor your hardware for any issues, and (2) a helpdesk to respond to any issues that your employees run into.
 
If your business is steady-state, if know what you want your IT systems to do, and you have very tech-savvy staff members who can generally take care of themselves, this is probably all that you need. You’ll have someone there to help fix any problems when they arise without wasting your money on services that would be overkill for your business.
 
When you’re looking for a Level 1 provider, ask their references how quickly the firm is able to respond to both urgent and non-urgent issues, and how confident the client is that their problems will be solved effectively.
 

Level 2: Proactive support

I’ve written about this level of support before. Here, we’re looking beyond a break/fix arrangement and toward a more forward-thinking support model.
 
On top of monitoring agents and helpdesk support, Level 2 will include practices like:

  • Performing system health checks to watch for trends and catch budding issues preemptively.
  • Walking around from person to person to help with any issues they haven’t gotten around to reporting yet.
  • Anticipating system upgrades and making recommendations that align with your business goals.
  • Keeping an ear to the ground for industry trends that could affect your business in the months or years to come.

Besides minimizing the number of disruptive issues you’ll experience, this model is more responsive to changing business needs, and provides a higher-touch approach to technology support.
 
When looking for a Level 2 provider, ask their references how often operations are disrupted due to IT issues, how confident staff is in both their systems and support, and how the IT firm is keeping their organization ahead of the curve with technology.
 

Level 3: Strategic guidance

At the third level we start talking about business results.
 
On top of keeping your systems healthy and functional, and taking a proactive approach to your support, Level 3 also takes into account how technology might be able to actively and measurably accelerate the success of your business.
 
This approach asks questions such as:

  • How can you maximize billable hours?
  • How can you mitigate your regulatory risk and get a leg up on your competition?
  • How could you better attract and retain millennial employees?
  • How can you keep your remote workforce engaged and productive?
  • How can you better serve your customers and gain more referral business?

As you might expect, there are fewer companies that are looking for this level of support, and there are fewer IT firms that provide it.
 
When looking for a Level 3 provider, ask references what sort of impact the firm has had on their operations, and how they’re measuring progress toward the next set of business-level results.
 
Choosing an IT provider can be overwhelming, but hopefully this breakdown helps narrow your focus, and sets you down the right path to finding a partnership that works for you.
 
Cheers to your success!
 

 
As originally published in the American City Business Journals
 


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