I’m a tech guy.
I run a 10-person technology firm near Philadelphia. We do a lot of tech work, but we mostly implement accounting and customer relationship management systems for small and medium-sized businesses. We outsource the hosting of these systems to companies that provide these services because they’re experts in securing, backing up and making the software that we implement readily available. Our job is to get these systems up and running and used effectively by our clients. That means we help with strategy, setup, customization, integration, data migration, consulting and training.
So whether you’re implementing a software system with a cloud-based provider, buying new devices for your office or upgrading your company’s security, there are at least three things you should know about the technology firm that will be helping you.
Remember, we are helping you.
We want your project to succeed every bit as much as you do. We want to get in and out as quickly as possible. Our goal is to make you happy so that we can continue working together, and that you can tell your friends and colleagues about how great we are. You are going to have many people involved in your technologies and you will likely use a cloud-based hosting service. You may employ database experts, consultants, hardware specialists and security gurus. We do not want any finger-pointing, we want to work alongside you and in your best interests. So consider us a partner, not an adversary. When you hire us, think of it as a long term relationship that will evolve over years. Be brutally honest and completely transparent. Let us know when you’re not happy. Give us a shout if you’re happy. We’ll do the same.
We need an internal point-person.
The companies that have the best relationships with IT firms like ours have a single point of contact that the IT firm can work through. That person doesn’t necessarily have to be an IT person, although it helps. But this person should be the go-to person for any internal questions about the system that’s being implemented. IT firms like mine perform best when there’s an appointed expert inside the company that we can work with to resolve problems and identify issues. That person sets the agenda: our objectives, our tasks, our schedule, and our costs. That person is responsible for the detailed workings of the project and if something goes awry it’s not necessarily their fault but their responsibility to get it fixed. Having that person in-house enables the executives at a company to know who to go to if there are any problems. In the end, my best projects always had someone inside the company who took ownership of the results. Please make sure you’ve secured that person. It will make all the difference.
And Sorry, but we don’t know all the costs.
We charge by the hour and our projects range from as few as ten hours to hundreds of hours. Before we start we always give an estimate. As I’ve gained experience over the years, I’ve become much better at estimating projects. But I am far from perfect. Technology can be tricky and implementing a system across multiple locations with many people and personalities is more art than science. Unexpected things can occur, like internet shutdowns, bad data from a source, customization that leaves out a small but important field, an integration that was working fine for weeks that suddenly just decides to stop working. We’re used to this stuff. But sometimes our clients aren’t.
In the end, though, when stuff happens unexpected costs are going to occur. If it’s an error of commission, we step up. If it’s an error of omission, we also step up. And we expect our clients to do the same. Please don’t ask us to create a fixed price project because that’s asking my firm to take on too much risk of the unexpected. At the same time, you should expect that if I give you an estimate and something happens that causes my firm to exceed that estimate, I’m not going to insist that you pay more unless we mutually agree. That’s what good firms who have good relationships with their clients do.
We’ve been in business for more than 25 years and have served hundreds of companies and thousands of their employees. Yes, most of our projects have been successful. But I admit that more than a few have been…well…not-so-great. I’ll take ownership of these failures. But I can’t take full responsibility. Oftentimes the reasons why a project failed are shared by both the technology firm and their client.