As part of my work, dealing with inquiries for IT support and visiting prospective clients, I come across many different IT setups both good and bad. When meeting prospective clients for the first time my approach is simple; it’s to sit, listen and understand why they’ve called Abussi in the first place. It’s not to judge, its not to criticize and its certainly not to sell – That can only come once you understand.
One such example was found on a recent prospect visit to the Black Country, on a day when I had 3 meetings with prospective clients. On that day I met with a prospect that has since become a client because they were unhappy with their current IT provider but who had systems that while were ‘ok’ were in need of some refresh. I then met with a company who were in need of IT because their existing IT provider had gone into administration but their systems were old and in need of significant upgrade. Finally I met the prospective client in the Black Country and this is where the need for IT change was most evident.
The discovery process
Their systems appeared old when I arrived and the big give away was that at the Directors desk, and their assistants, there was a desktop PC plus a laptop. This is usually a sign that the PC is not offering the service they need and so the laptop comes into play to try and do things they can’t do on a single PC. Little did I know and the truth was to emerge in the following 2 hours meeting………….
We chatted about the current situation and the needs moving forward. It was interesting to learn about their business, a manufacturing business with sales into most territories throughout the world, and it was good to hear some positive news about their business with sales being good and business going well in these difficult times. I then raised the issue that the email I sent them to confirm our meeting had ‘bounced’ and thus there might be something that needs looking at with the current system. They were aware of ‘issues’ but had raised it to their guy, a man described as a ‘one man band’ that had looked after their systems for some time but whom they felt was getting past the point of usefulness due to lack of knowledge on their systems as they’d grown from 3-4 users to around 20 users currently.
Sage for DOS
In the following hour I found out that most of the hardware was around 8 years old (average), their server was probably 10 years old, they ran Windows 2000 on each desktop, they had no security policy to speak of, no planned anti virus solution, a backup policy that could be described as ‘untested’ at best and that the accounts department (5 full time users) were managing a multi million pound business on ……….. wait for it………… Sage for MS DOS. Now many readers many not grasp the full significance of the software versions noted above, but let me tell you, anyone using applications for MS DOS in 2013 is seriously behind the times. However, having those MS DOS applications at the heart of your accounts system is a real issue. They are largely unsupported and so ‘legacy’ as to be almost impossible to migrate in the future.
Resistance is futile
One issue that came up during the conversation was “well the Accounts team don’t want to change and don’t see why they need to upgrade”. This is astonishing as the Accounts team are looking at only the smallest section of the business as a whole and forcing the retention of out of date systems for their own agenda. The result is that the IT at this business has been allowed to slide past the point of any sensible upgrade point and is not at a level where only wholesale replacement and renewal can be considered. This has huge implications on training for all staff, especially the Accounts team, and that was my overriding point to the prospective client.
Replacing 20 PC’s and a server over a weekend is what Abussi does – its our job and we can do that with limited impact to the business. The company can switch off on a Friday and return to work on a Monday with all systems operational and new PC’s operational at each workstation. However – the training implications this throws up to users that on Friday were using Windows 2000 and Sage for MS DOS is massive. The productivity levels will dip and unless staff are given the option to ‘buy in’ to the updates then they could hinder or even kill off the benefits of the upgrade. The key to this project would be full and focused training for all staff to make sure they understand what’s going to happen, what the new software can do and to offer familiarisation before the switch is made.
It’s not always about the hardware
To conclude, the point of this story is to show that if you are looking to upgrade your IT systems and move forward a number of steps then you have to allow for staff to catch up and you must help them as much as you can. Some staff (younger) may find the transition easier than other staff (older) but all should be trained and all should be helped through the transitional stage. It also highlights that at Abussi we don’t simply sell IT and then run, we highlight the areas where IT will impact on the business process and offer help and support either directly or with partners (training partners in this case) to offer the best possible service we can.