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Why you might not want to use a small IT company

Large organisations, tall glass buildings and expensive executives are still turning CIO heads.

Zero tolerance project management and the allusion of safety-in-numbers still carries weight at the board table, despite the heavy financial cost and the time losses often incurred as a result of this restrictive decision making process. Your industry may require strict adherence to this type of decision making and development methodology, for audit purposes or for the impossible promise of fail-safe accountability.

If your organisation is bound by these rules, then you have two choices:

  • follow the well-trodden development path and work hard to develop the relationship and the accountability
  • modify the rules to accommodate some “out of the box” thinking.

Should you decide to broaden your IT Assistance horizon, here are some tips for success:

  • Avoid new start-up development companies … they will still be struggling to gain traction / real-world experience, and may not be alive to support you in the long term.
  • Talk to the customers/users of the development organisation you are considering … prepare a check list before you phone, make sure you ask the important questions … eg “What are these people like to deal with?” … “Are they reliable and true to their word?” … “Was the project completed on schedule?” … “Was the project completed inside the agreed budget?” … “Would you use their services again?” … “What would you say to someone if you were recommending their services?” … “What did you like best about them?”
  • Questions about technical skills always sound important, but in reality if the IT company has been in business for many years and has successfully built systems of varying complexity … then they probably have the technical skills.
  • Meet the owner and the team, spend time just talking with them, find out if you “connect” … once the project starts, it is the “relationship” that drives everything else … the common sense, the flexibility and willingness to change, the accountability and the transparency.
  • Give the new business relationship a chance by offering a real “toe in the water” project … something that it important to you, but not mission-critical to your organisation … then monitor the project carefully and at the end of the process, complete a face-to-face review with the development organisation and also complete a review with all internal members of your team that were involved.
  • If the project was a great success, then agree on another project and repeat the process.
  • If the project “could have gone better”, then either tweak the relationship/project rules and try again … or offer a new “toe in the water” to the next small IT supplier on your preferred choices list.

Selecting an IT partner is no different to most of your other major decisions.

You decide to build a new house, you research the organisations involved, you read the customer testimonials, you search for bad reviews or legal battles, you inspect the completed houses, you meet the team, you agree on a design, you agree on a budget and you appoint a project manager.

It is unlikely that you would automatically select the largest or most expensive building company, even though it may appear “more safe” to do so. It is more likely that you will choose an organisation that you “connect with”, “believe in” and “trust” to build your family home … and one that fits your budget. Smaller companies are often more innovative, less restrictive in their thinking, extremely dedicated and hard-working, very competitive, and usually possess huge amounts of common sense … these traits are mandatory for any owner operator business “wishing to stay in business” for the long term.

A final word of advice:

  • choose carefully
  • avoid being blinded by the bling
  • focus on the relationship and the outcome
  • be open to change and innovation.

If your current IT policies are proving to be restrictive and are causing unnecessary casualties, then this could be a good time to demonstrate leadership and find another way through. History has an unfortunate way of recording our unwillingness to question authority … “Into the valley of death rode the six hundred”.

Why you might not want to use a small IT company

Posted in: Business IT
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