By Nick Mancini, Chief Technology Officer
In the business world, one mistake is all it takes to plummet from triumph to turkey. And yet, so many people make these same missteps. Bravo to you for looking before you leap.
1. Working With Generalists
Work with IT vendors that understand your industry. Make sure they appreciate the urgency of your business and have an understanding of metrics important to you, like the market data, order management and compliance providers. Deep industry knowledge and expertise means your IT team will understand the dynamics of your environment and provide the right services and partners for your business.
2. Planning Without IT
If you’re starting a business, your to-do list is a mile long. We get it. But don’t ignore IT in the planning stage. People often underestimate how long it takes to implement new systems. Save yourself the hassle and incorporate high-level IT planning from the beginning. The more time you give your technology team, the more time they have to properly plan, test and deploy your system. Lead times on equipment and services can ruin the timing of projects and cost you in the long run.
3. Not Communicating With Your IT Team
No IT provider is a “set it and forget it” solution. The goal is not to engage every day, but it’s essential you meet with your provider regularly. Ask what their cycles are when you start your partnership. This will likely lead to standing weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings about certain aspects of your environment. These meetings will keep you in the loop on project tracking, critical issues, issue escalation and allows you to provide insight. In our experience, the clients who have the best outsourcing experience are those who are the most involved.
4. Choosing the Cheapest Vendor
Cost is an important factor when choosing a provider, but it should come second to substance. A quality IT vendor should be able to articulate specific answers to these questions:
- How do you know if a server isn’t being monitored?
- How do you respond if an issue is escalated?
- Walk me through some sample reporting.
- What is your governance process?
You can also get references from other businesses. Key things to ask include: did the IT provider delivered on time, and how did they respond when things didn’t go according to plan?
5. Not Standardizing Your Technology
Often, businesses can’t identify their mission-critical systems and applications. This is a common mistake with startups. In the mad dash to get off the ground, it’s easy to ignore establishing which systems you’ll use for what. But it’s essential you follow this process from the beginning. Your critical data needs to be back up, secured properly and monitored properly. If a process is important to your employees’ work process, ensure it gets backed up and others know about it.
6. Lack of Procedure and Systems Documentation
Very few funds document their technology solutions. This can be a critical mistake if you lose a key employee who was the only one who understood the ins-and-outs of a particular system, or if a relationship with a key vendor sours. Make sure every IT project is well documented and that you retain a copy of the documentation for your records.
Then keep the documentation going. When something new is added to your process, who is in charge of documenting it? Write those rules down now. You’ll thank us later.
7. Making the Wrong Call About Outsourcing
While there is no clear answer to the question of what to outsource and when, rule of thumb says to keep core competencies and differentiators in-house. Outsource the rest. For example, systems like email and compliance solutions have been commoditized. There are very few scenarios where it makes sense to keep these in-house.
8. Under-Training Your Staff
You can spend a lot of money on quality technology solutions, but they’re worthless if your people don’t understand them. If your system is new, training is key to user acceptance and project success. If your system is old, you’ll also need ongoing training. Technology updates all the time, and your team needs to keep up. Make the pill easier to swallow by establishing a training budget ahead of time, and make sure you hit it.
9. Keeping Old Desktops, Workstations and Laptops
Best practices dictate technology should be fully replaced every five years. This is expensive, though, so we recommend updating a fifth of your systems annually. This way, you can avoid the expensive of replacing all your workstations at once and leaving your employees in the lurch without a machine. Plus, you can budget for this kind of gradual change.
10. Forgetting Security
Security should not be an afterthought. You have to make it a priority, or you risk a data breach that could cost you in profit, efficiency and reputation. From your executives down to part-time employees, everyone should have security training. Your IT leaders or your outsourced provider should be able to handle this on top of monitoring and managing your environment’s cybersecurity.