Is It Time to Fire Your IT Support?

by | Dec 9, 2011 | jahlberg

We’ve all been there — whether we’re the CEO, CTO or IT Manager. We hire or are hired for one particular job (like software development or strategic planning), and then wake up one day and realize that job is not getting done to our satisfaction. Is it a bad fit? Not necessarily.

As someone once said, if you put a good performer up against a bad system, the system will win every time. In my experience, bad systems are typically characterized by two things: lumpy expectations and bad communication.

  • Lumpy Expectations – Many companies hire individuals with a “kitchen sink” job description in which they’ve tossed in every possible technical capability they can think of, from helpdesk to programming, network management to strategic planning. I’m here to tell you…no one person can do all these things well…and if they tell you they can, they’re lying or very, very optimistic. I understand how these descriptions get written. In this increasingly complex technical world, even small companies have a broad range of needs. That’s why the old model of hiring one tech guy (or gal) per 20-30 people no longer works, and teaming is the way to go.
  • Bad Communication – When you put individuals in a no-win situation by asking them to do more than they can handle, communication will likely break down. IT will always be asking for more resources, and management will feel like they’re overspending on technology, a perfect recipe for eroded trust.

Often people assume that this tension between the IT department and the rest of the business is just how it is; they don’t really realize, or even believe, that it could be better. I sat down with my team and brainstormed all the possible symptoms of a broken system (we stopped ourselves at 100!).  If you find yourself recognizing these symptoms, you can do better.

Responsive Business Support 

  • Your IT team defines what is supported and what is not based on what is easy for them to support
  • Your IT team focuses on fixing computers versus helping your users
  • Your IT employee only helps during working hours
  • Your IT team does not support you after hours, weekends, and holidays
  • Your IT team isn’t responsive – what should take minutes, takes hours – hours, days
  • Your IT team isn’t proactively suggesting ways to better use your systems with “did you know” helpful tips
  • Your IT employees cannot block non-corporate applications from being run
  • Your IT vendor can’t remotely support your users no matter where they happen to be
  • Your IT team doesn’t support home computers
  • Your IT employee can’t monitor and help recover a stolen laptop
  • You ask your IT employees for something and they say that it cannot be done
  • You have users with iPads or other tablets and they cannot get support from your IT people
  • You find yourself setting very low expectations for your IT support
  • They are setting policies about what they’ll support versus being guided by what the business needs
  • There are frequent changes in helpdesk staff and no continuity
  • Your current IT vendor refuses to make house calls
  • You regularly wait for your IT vendor to return your calls or email
  • When you contact your IT support team, they make you feel like you are bothering them
  • You can’t contact your helpdesk about anything (IT related or not) and get the help you need
  • Your IT vendor nickel and dimes you to death, so you’re reluctant to call
  • They are not eager and willing to run to the AT&T, Verizon, etc., store to pick you up a new smartphone if needed
  • They don’t communicate the status of projects
  • They seem to delight in baffling you with techno-speak
  • They do not consider the user’s schedule when planning computer fixes
  • They hide behind email versus picking up the phone and calling you directly
  • You got a “bait and switch” – the expert salesperson is nowhere to be seen when it’s time to get actual support
  • Your IT support spends more time badmouthing each other than helping you
  • Routine tasks like setting up new users and making phones work take days instead of hours
  • The helpdesk doesn’t answer the phone when you call or get back to you right away if you leave a message
  • When you contact the IT team for support, they don’t get back to you within 15 minutes or fewer
  • You have an outstanding  IT request that has never gotten completed and no one seems to care or be working on it
  • Your IT team works on your requests when it is convenient for them, not when it is convenient for you
  • They’ve neglected to save your work-in-progress when they’ve serviced your computer
  • They don’t set clear expectations for when your request will be handled and completed
  • Your IT vendor force marched you through technical instructions over the phone instead of remotely accessing your computer and taking care of the problem themselves
  • They remotely access your computer without first asking permission
  • They said your problem was fixed, but they didn’t test the fix before telling you everything is working again
  • Your IT team simply doesn’t communicate well, let alone over communicate
  • Your IT Support Manager doesn’t hold regular meetings with you to ensure you are getting the support you expect and deserve
  • You don’t have online real-time access to all of the open and closed tickets for your company
  • Your IT vendor worked on a computer problem for so long that it would have been cheaper to buy a new machine than to pay for the time to fix a broken one
  • Your IT vendor won’t help you decide what is the best smartphone for your needs
  • Your IT people won’t help your users buy a new laptop, PC, tablet, smartphone, etc. for home?
  • Your IT team doesn’t treat your requests like they are urgent and important

Complete Documentation

  • Your IT team cannot give you full technology documentation in real time
  • Your IT vendor is not documenting regular aspects of your key business systems
  • They don’t have a checklist for setting up a new hire
  • They don’t have a checklist for all of the steps to complete when an employee is terminated
  • You can’t get a simple report on the status of all of your computers and their MS Updates
  • You can’t easily get an inventory of all of your computers and servers
  • Your IT people can’t give you regular reports on the hard drive space status and growth of your servers
  • You do not regular get reports for helpdesk activity to show you who has been making requests and for what reasons
  • You work with random IT people and have to explain things over and over again to each one
  • You’re been left hanging when the person working on your IT issue goes on vacation

Diligent Monitoring & Management

  • They are not backing up everything on your servers (EVERYTHING, not just select folders)
  • They do not do test restores from your backup files regularly and provide reports on success
  • They do not force you to keep backup data offsite
  • They cannot tell you how long it will take to recover from a disaster event
  • You don’t have at least triple backups for your data
  • Your critical servers and system are not monitored 24/7/365
  • Your failover and redundant systems are not being tested on a regular basis to ensure they will work as expected
  • You do not have any extra computers or laptops around to be used for backups if one fails
  • You do not have extra peripherals on hand to act as a backup (e.g.,: smartphone, batteries, keyboard, etc.)
  • Your critical equipment does not have the manufacturer’s warranty up to date
  • You have an inordinate amount of system downtime
  • Your server room is a mess of cables, equipment, and boxes
  • You don’t have any redundancy with your core technology (e.g., Internet, phones, servers, routers, switches, etc.)?
  • You feel like your current technology is paper clipped or Band-Aided together
  • Your server has failed and taken days to get back up and running
  • Your IT team gives anybody access rights to sensitive folders without first asking for management approval

Protection from Viruses/Malware/SPAM

  • Your users get a lot of spyware infections
  • Your current IT vendor doesn’t manage your anti-virus installs and updates
  • Your IT team can’t provide real-time anti-virus reports so you know the status across all your users
  • Your Microsoft Windows computers don’t get updated with the weekly MS Updates
  • You get an inordinate amount of spam email
  • Your complaints about getting a lot of spam are dismissed as normal

Broad Expertise

  • You have only one IT person who is good at some things but not others
  • Your IT team is made up of “cowboys” versus team players
  • You do not respect your IT people like your respect your attorney, accountant, or doctor
  • You do not implicitly trust your IT team
  • You consider your IT vendor computer geeks who don’t speak your language
  • Your IT vendor doesn’t manage your copiers
  • Your IT vendor doesn’t support and manage all of your technology
  • Your users don’t have anyone to contact with questions on how to better use Office and other applications
  • Your IT team doesn’t support iPhones, Android, Blackberry and any other smart phones you and your employees want to use
  • Your IT people can’t handle the general needs for SQL and other database systems while having a reliable resource to turn to for advanced needs
  • They provide helpdesk support, but aren’t managing your servers
  • They refuse to support custom applications

Proactive Planning & Advocacy

  • They do not proactively point out critical systems and risks
  • They do meet with you on a regular basis to discuss your business goals and technology
  • They do not have a robust strategic partner network to satisfy all of your needs
  • Your server has run out of hard drive space and caused downtime
  • Their rationale for recommending server or equipment upgrades because “it’s old” versus because the business actually needs it
  • Your IT people get kickbacks from 3rd party consultants if they come in to help with a project
  • Your IT vendor doesn’t share best practices gained from across their client base
  • You ask your IT team for information to upgrade a server or other equipment and they do not respond with something like “Let’s start with whether it makes sense to upgrade the server…”
  • Your IT team is not leveraging the helpdesk activity for proactive measures (e.g., the copier has broken down X times in a month so call for expanded service to get reliability back)
  • They don’t do regular telecom audits to see if there are opportunities to save money
  • They have not proactively recommended a copier and printer audit recently
  • Your IT people are not leveraging the “cloud” strategically and giving you impartial direction about it





John Ahlberg
CEO, Waident

CIO in the corporate world and now for Waident clients. John injects order and technology into business process to keep employees productive, enterprises running, and data safe.


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