Modern Network Architecture

Dec 29 2012   3:16PM GMT

Building IT support teams

James Murray James Murray Profile: James Murray

As a Seattle IT Consulting company I get lots of help from the most unexpected sources.  This morning I got an email telling me about this great CRM add-on.  My friend knew that I was giving a talk on CRM on January 10th here in Seattle.  So shared with me something that he thought would help me out.  I always appreciate this type of help.  Who can keep up with all the new technologies going on.  As I explained to him, I try to be vendor and technology agnostic in my approach.  So I am always open to interesting options.  I function at a very strategic level.  Long before we know the technology that is required, I am working with a management team to identify the business problem that is going to be solved and the solution.

The reason I try to stay agnostic is that every business situation is different.

For example:

Car Dealer A has a different set of priorities from Car Dealer B… they might use the same technology platform or a different platform it depends on their requirements.

Now take a Trucking Company C that delivers shipping containers around the Puget Sound area here in Washington state.  They may also be using the same technology platform as Car Company A, but it may look to the user as a completely different system.

The technician sees what is behind the Curtain (referring to the Wizard of Oz) and the technology platform may appear to be the same for each of these companies.  Each company of course has servers, software, switches, routers and more.  From the technicians context, the choice is mostly about the hardware and software platform.  The technical perspective is that the car dealers and the shipping company have the same needs for information.

From the business perspective though, the technician doesn’t have a complete picture.  Each company needs that information presented in different ways.  Information requirements are dependent on the industry, the size of the company and more.  Now add a small manufacturer that does closet customization or a small software development company focused on Mobile VPN or a craft beer brewer (my favorite type of client) or a coffee manufacturer/distributer.  Each has different industry issues, managerial prejudices, size issues, long term goals and so on.  While the platform might be the same from company to company, they each have a small portion of difference, that I call the custom bits.  These custom bits make the business completely unique.

Most business owners don’t understand these custom bits and often leave these choices to the technician.  This causes problems because the technicians context is so different.  In order to understand them a business must first understand its own business requirements.  I find that most business owners stop caring, they just want to move forward and don’t care about the details.  My role is a problem management role and is to push back and encourage them to start thinking strategically about their technology…  I usually start with what I call my –ability analysis…  I have them rate an order for these abilities for their technology

It starts with these five.  I have them number each one in priority from one to five.  As we do this, the technology choices become more and more obvious.   If for example Scalability (my personal favorite) were top priority we would analyze the proposed tool from the context of scalability as the top priority.  If usability (most managers preference to maintain productivity of their workforce) we analyze the software from this first priority of usability.  Then we go to the second, the third and so on.

By the time we get to the bottom of the list we may have added more abilities… but the answer becomes quickly obvious what the right choice is.  So this add-on might be perfect for one business, but not another.

I love it when people I trust do free technology reviews of new software as my friend did for me.  I never have enough time for this type of review.  So it’s appreciated when someone will do the work for me.  These types of people are becoming my informal IT Support team.  I find that anyone willing to dedicate some free time to me, that actually is what I need, seems to get referrals and work from me.  I’m beginning to suspect that I have a much bigger team backing you up than meets the eye.  It gives me pause, because I think that this is the weakness I keep running up against.  As I finish this article I realize that my own issues focus around sharing this leadership vision of what I need with lots of people.  Then letting them help me build my business with their help.  So here’s my question for my readers…

How do I build these types of IT Consulting teams that support me in a way that supports both of us, while at the same time not getting lost in the management of those teams?

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