Views from the Store

Feedback from IT Health Checks

I have worked with a number of organisations over the last 2 years from the very small micro business to large multi‑national organisations purely in a consultancy role. What has struck me during these engagements is that, since I am no longer selling any hardware, software or solutions, client discussions cover much more and get deeper into the business quicker than in any previous role that I have held and feedback suggests that this is better for the client.

I have decided to start a regular post on LinkedIn to explore some common and broad topics that I come across during my work as an independent IT Consultant in the hope that I can provide some broader advice to businesses on how they can address problems they may have without any associated sales agenda. I work hard to stay independent and impartial and accordingly my clients get advice purely based on what is the best and most appropriate solution for them. My clients need not worry about their disclosure of their identity as the context of the articles will be non-specific and based on multiple engagements any articles I write will not breach confidentiality.

Here is quick rundown of some of the discussions that I have held and plan to include within articles:

  • It always surprises me that data backups still need to be a regular discussion point regardless of the size and complexity of the client that I work with. Businesses of all sizes still operate without appropriate and reliable backup procedures and there are some who operate without any backup process. I plan to provide some broad guidance on data protection strategies for varying data scenarios and business sizes.
  • More recently a major topic of discussion has been Cyber Security. This has been triggered by a number of high profile case studies. Clients have been looking for robust security systems but seem to either be looking for, or are being offered, silver bullet solutions to be installed. There are no bullet proof single systems that can solve this problem, security is a multi-layered process and typically requires multiple technologies and techniques to provide good levels of security. I find that the smaller client typically believes that they are not of interest whilst the larger clients are confused as what they need to do. However, what they both have in common is that they delay doing something or do nothing. I plan to include some guidance and information on how a business can identify their risks and consider strategies to address those risks.
  • I regularly come up against internal IT departments and external IT service companies when being asked to verify what is being proposed to business owners or management. These engagements typically come about through the client receiving conflicting solution providers’ options which create confusion when they have been asked to solve the same problem. This conflict is usually around the proposed technology, delivery timescales and pricing but this is typically not helped by the use of technical terminology and I would hope to provide guidance on vendor and solution selection.
  • I see multiple cases of businesses struggling with Service Level Agreements, typically with outside suppliers. Often the suppliers have not defined Service Level Agreements and consequently both parties are not fully aware of who is responsible for what resulting in nobody managing important tasks such as backups or patch management. I will provide some examples of SLAs that cause problems but also advise on ensuring that the client and supplier are expecting the same thing.
  • Incident management and change control are common problem areas for small businesses have as they find it difficult to manage IT often feeling that they do not have the expertise to manage such issues. Internal IT departments sometimes have the skills but are not allowed time to manage such issues and outsourced providers are not paid to do this. I hope that I can provide some guidance on how businesses can manage change to ensure that their IT systems are more reliable and that incident management is working.
  • Many businesses are being encouraged and sometimes forced to move to the Cloud by software vendors, service companies and internal IT departments without fully understanding the risks doing such a move poses to the business. I am regularly asked when, if and how businesses can utilise the Cloud and this generates a lot of discussion but perhaps not always where it would be expected. I will provide some guidance on Cloud services, what to look out for and cover some of the important questions that need to be asked of suppliers and why.
  • Internet connections and WiFi are common issues with this affecting the small and large business in different ways, even when ignoring security and Cloud service implications.

As I said, it would be broad and I will go into these in more depth over the coming weeks. If there is something that interests you please get in touch and please provide feedback to me but remember no sales people, I will not do product reviews. These are my own views and opinions based on my own experience and the questions raised by clients.

Backups are still a necessary pain!
The Apprentice Store features in the Executive Magazine

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