There’s nothing wrong with specialization. I know waaay too many consultants whose answer to all requests is “Yeah, I can do that!” followed by “How did you spell that?”. The issue there is that the specialist can help the customer solve their problem/fill their need (that’s where partnerships come in nicely).There’s nothing wrong with generalization. I know waaay too many consultants whose mantra is “If your favorite tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” In this case, it’s important to recognize technologies that will add benefit to your dealings with your primary customers.


Last week we spoke with a potential client whose need, in addition to network/infrastructure, was a CRM project. I’ve done CRM projects, but on a larger scale. And it’s not where I want my group to go. So I offer to sit down with another Partner in the area whose specialty is CRM.



This week we’re talking to another potential client. A couple people in his organization have Blackberry devices. I’ve done one Enterprise migration (part of an Exchange project, actually), but that’s it. But again, not on this scale. But I realize that my group needs to handle Blackberry devices. So I offer to take those on as part of the project, no additional charge, realizing that I might live to regret that. And I tell that to the client, straight up.



To say one strategy is better than the other assumes that the goals of the strategies are the same. I’ve worn the CIO hat, the independent consultant hat, the CEO hat, and most hats in between. Each has their own strategies, goals, and real pains in the butt. My rule is “say what you mean what you say.”

Bob here…

Ok, I’m not quite sure how to present this.  But here goes.

Simplex-IT is a Managed Services company.  We essentially make sure that small to medium businesses infrastructure is working ok. 

Part of what we do for new clients is perform an audit to make sure that there are no real “gotchs” beofre we take responsibility.  Over the past couple of weeks we’ve found a couple of interesting things:

One client had their main server with a Raid configuration.  Makes sense.  With the Raid (a Raid-1, or mirrored, configuration in this case) you can continue operating if a drive fails.

Which is exactly what had happened, some time ago.  One of their hard drives had given up the ghost, and they had no idea.

Another client had AV software installed throughout their network, and it hadn’t been updated in months.

A third client had an open wireless network for visitors.  Their server was locked up (somewhat) against curious surfers.  Their workstations, some of which contained customer info, not so much.

It’s one thing to have the tools in place to protect your IT assets.  It’s another thing to make sure they’re installed correctly and properly maintained.

Bob@Simplex-IT.com

Ok, by now even Microsoft knows it.  Vista hasn’t received the greatest welcoming in history.  For reasons both good and bad, it’s certainly taken its lumps.  And most folks (especially in the corporate world) were heard saying “not until SP1!”)

Ok, SP1 is here.  Yipee.  I guess…actually, I’ve installed it on a few of my machines, and so far, so good.  I really haven’t had a huge problem with Vista (and actually prefer it at this point!).  So I wasn’t looking for Vista SP1 to solve a whole bunch of issues. But Microsoft is aware that there are issues.  And so they have created a goodly amount of resources to support people and organizations dealing with SP1 issues. To quote Eric Ligman, Microsoft US Senior Manager with Small Business Community Engagement:

  • Email support – Response time: Within one business day
  • 1:1 Chat support – Available M-F from 5:00 am – 12:00 am PST and Sat/Sun from 6:00 am – 6:00 pm PST
  • Phone support – Available at no charge for those with: Software Assurance, a Microsoft professional services contract, TechNet subscription, MSDN subscription, or who are part of the Microsoft Partner Program
  • You can find out more about this offering and how to start using it online on the Windows Vista SP1 Help and Support page.”

    Good stuff!

     

    Bob

    First of all, apologies to the friends and family of Markus Groh.  But, I mean, really…

    Here’s a great vacation idea:

    Go down to the Bahamas.

    Go scuba diving.

    Ok, a bit boring, I grant you.  So let’s add some flavor to it, shall we?

    Let’s toss some dead fish pieces ‘n parts (you know them as Fillet o’ Fish), attract some nasty, hungry sharks, and then jump on in and go swimming!

    Well, that’s the tour that Markus signed up for.  And sharks showed up.  One of ‘em bit him.

    Goodbye Marcus.

    (the word “duh” should now be sung as a quasi-chorus, substituting “amen”)

    When you engage in a behaviour that has a statistically meaningful chance of blowing up in your face, don’t be surprised (or come to me looking for sympathy) if your ticket is punched (or, in this case, bitten).

    The same thing is true in business.  I’ve spoken with probably three or four customers within the past few months who were not checking their backups, making sure their anti-virus stuff was up to date.  In two cases, they got bit.

    One client had a Raid configuration.  That was all they knew.  But it was in fact a Raid 5 (so one of the drives could go bad without a problem).  What they didn’t realize was the one of the drives had gone bad months earlier.  Which means the Raid was usless when the second drive went bad.

    Another client had a UPS battery backup.  However, they hadn’t tested it in some time (polite talk for “never”).

    Power went out.  Guess what?  (if a shark bites you in the dark, do you hear a “chomp?”)

    So, every time you think to yourself “you’re covered” just because you put the technology out there, think about testing and checking it to make sure it actually still works.

    Does anybody else hear John Williams music in the background?

    Bob here.  As many of you know, I use Constant Contact (www.ConstantContact.com) for my monthly email newsletter  (not getting it, and feel that empty feeling inside?  email me at Bob@Simplex-IT.com and we’ll fix that!).  It’s a nice product.

    And of course, Microsoft needs to offer their own version (which I’m fine with).  Unlike CC, Microsoft’s version integrates directly with Outlook (duh), which makes it a little bit easier to manage your contacts.

    Well, they’re in beta right now, which means you can sign up and use it for free (sorta…it’s free up to 200 emails, after which it’s $.05 per email, so keep track!).  Go to http://smallbusiness.officelive.com/Promote/EmailMarketing for more information.

    Burn no Bridge

    No comments

    Ok, within the past 72 hours, I’ve:

    1>  Made a client out of a company I used to work at 6 years ago.

    2>  Was given a strong lead for Managed Services from a User Group contact I haven’t seen prior to this for about 8 years.

    3>  Was offered some training opportunities from a consulting firm I haven’t worked with for over 3 years.

    The lesson?  Don’t burn bridges.  The IT biz (especially in NorthEast Ohio, it seems) just ain’t that big.  And if you’re careful not to leave folks with a “thank God HE’s (or HER, to be fair) gone” attitude, it comes back.

    Most studies I’ve seen detailing how companies like mine get business say the same thing.  Roughly 2/3 of new customers/business comes from referrals.

    Think about that for a minute.  2/3 of your new business comes from treating people you’re dealing with now right.

    Add to that additional business that your existing customers are giving you, and that 2/3 is probably bigger!

    And yet I’m amazed at how many companies we talk to who basically feel that their current IT service provider is giving them sub-par service.

    To those IT service providers, I say one of two things:

    1>  Better shape up your customer relationships.

    –or–

    2>  Thanks for the new customer!

    Bob

    Ok, so we’re doing a blog.  Yup.

    And it’s about IT.  Yup.

    But it’s also about Business.  Uh-huh.

    Oh, great.  How long before we bring in the word “paradigm” or prefix words with the letter “e?”  (Does anyone else notice that we’re not as crazy about the e-prefix as we used to be?)

    Not so fast.  It’s all about business, with the technology partnering with the business process.  This is northeast Ohio, after all.  We take a couple years to buy into some of the various processes that are more common elsewhere.  Is this a good thing?  I dunno, honestly.  When I’m trying to determine what levels of technology I should become more proficeint at, I honestly look at the want ads for Chicago.  They’re usually a couple of years ahead of us, and a pretty good bet.

    But we don’t integrate the technology into the business as tightly as the commercials and the magazines would have us believe.  Just consider the communications layer.  We’re only finally starting to integrate communications to the point where we can single source the fact that someone has connected with us (how?  Fax?  Cell phone?  Land Line, Text message, email, instant message?).  Let alone categorizing that communication so that it can be easily retrieved.

    Take emails, for example.  I can pull up within a relatively reasonable time any email I’ve received for about the last 8 years, even though I’ve worked at a couple of companies (as well as my own) during that time.  It’s a conscious effort on my part, but not a huge amount of work.

    More and more products are becomming available that work on that across communication boundaries.  And that work fairly seamlessly (or at least more so than before).  Microsoft’s Exchange 2007 comes to mind.

    Bob