Take a poll in almost any office today. What one employee gripe is always at or near the top of the complaint list? Computer and/or network issues, i.e. information technology problems.
Take a poll among entrepreneurs and managers at almost any company today. What is one of the most expensive and unpredictable expense outlays that they have to deal with? Yep. Information technology issues.
So in a typical small business with high IT demand and low IT supply, what often happens? You may have the one staff member who "knows something about computers" allocating more and more of his or her time to fix IT-related problems throughout the entire office. If you're lucky, you have one salaried (or part-time) person who is tasked with performing the functions of an entire IT department – which still is far from a perfect situation.
One emerging solution to this predicament involves enlisting the help of information technology resellers. After all, these people have some working knowledge of products, systems, and networks. Plus, they usually know where to turn to find what a company might need in terms of equipment or technology upgrades. Ideally, IT resellers can assist a company in selecting, installing, and overseeing the right technologies for an office or project.
However, this option comes fraught with potentially grievous consequences. What if you hitch your company's IT operations to a reseller's wagon, only to have the reseller become too busy to address your urgent problems? What if during your six-month plan for upgrading your IT systems you see the reseller suddenly lose interest after month number three? Or worse – what if it becomes readily apparent that your reseller doesn't know what he or she is doing?
Todd Thibodeaux, the CEO and president of the Computing Technology Industry Association, urges entrepreneurs to do their homework before committing to employing a reseller for IT purposes. The head of the IT industry trade group offers some pointers on how to go about selecting a competent technology reseller:
Do your research. Would you pick the first name out of a phone book to redo your bathroom? So why would you do the same for your server room? Pick out at least four possible candidates and query each one before making a decision. Don't be afraid to ask for references – and be sure to check them out. If a reseller doesn't want to provide you with that information, look elsewhere.
Determine their expertise. Be sure to ask potential partners whether they have any experience in working with your type of business (especially if you work in a highly specialized industry). Many resellers have backgrounds in larger enterprises and may not be well-versed in the challenges faced by small businesses. So make it a point to ask about the typical size of customer they are used to working with.
Figure out who they partner with. When it comes to your IT challenges, you want someone who has access and familiarity with a wide range of technology vendors so you have a few options to choose from. If a reseller is only affiliated with one or two vendors, you run the risk of them trying to shoehorn inappropriate technology into your office operations – which means huge headaches down the road. Conversely, if the reseller "knows everybody," then they may not know the ins and outs of any specific IT solution.
If screened properly and utilized wisely, technology resellers can become a valuable asset in your fight to keep your IT systems running smoothly. But if you choose the wrong reseller, you're liable to see a marked increase in both IT outlays and worker complaints – and that's a combination which can strongly hinder any business.