If you’ve been reading our blog posts for a while, you’ll have noticed that we like to talk about concepts such as using IT to transform your business or evolving your business via new technology. Stagnation is not a good business strategy, and we’ve seen firsthand the benefits that come from adapting and evolving. We see this not only with our clients but also within Clare Computer Solutions itself.
Back in the early 90s, our business model was simple. We helped customers with technology procurement and then supported that technology with a break/fix model. Clients would call us when they had a problem, and we’d fix it and charge them for time and material. That reactive model was the norm in the industry and allowed us to grow from a small startup to a reliable, established company.
Over those first 20 years, the technology our clients relied upon changed quite a bit: from simple internal networks to the internet to Wi-Fi and VPNs. As technology became more sophisticated, it also became more integral and important for day-to-day operations. Rather than waiting for problems to arise, we recognized that customers would be better served with a proactive approach.
To address this change in customer needs, around 10 years ago Clare Computer Solutions moved to an IT services management model. Under the old model, our business improved as the number of problems increased – more problems meant more business. We were also reactive, waiting for the client to call and tell us about a problem.
This new model better aligned our goals with our customers’ goals: our business improved as the number of problems decreased. Our focus shifted to increasing reliability and reducing downtime for our clients. Rather than waiting for problems to arise, our technicians would now proactively look for potential problems and resolve them before they became issues. Our customers loved the results and our relationship changed from being vendors to being partners.
This new approach wasn’t unique to Clare Computer Solutions but was an industry trend. This allowed us to learn from our peers and leverage the collective knowledge of the industry. Here are just two of the methodologies we were able to integrate into our IT services management offerings.
Six Sigma is a defect reduction methodology that focuses on the quality of the customer experience. The term sigma refers to standard deviations, where each level of sigma, starting from one, allows for fewer defects. Sigma six allows a mere 3.4 defects per million. In manufacturing that means 999,996 flaw-free widgets. In IT, that means fewer interruptions, faster call response times, and better results.
The methodology focuses on five steps: define, measure, analyze, improve, and control. The first step is to define the goal. Let’s say the client needs a process to allow customers to place online orders and link those orders to fulfillment services. Once that has been defined, the team agrees on how to measure the performance of that system (how many orders per minute can the system process, order accuracy, system uptime, etc.). Those metrics are then analyzed and improvements are made. For example, moving from a single on-premise server to a cloud-based service could improve both system capacity and reliability. Processes are then put into place to minimize variations and control the quality of the output. Then the cycle is repeated as part of continuous improvement, with the goal being six sigmas of quality.
The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is an IT service management framework that outlines best practices for delivering IT services. Based on a similar philosophy as Six Sigma, ITIL aims to reduce IT operations cost, improve productivity, and manage risk, failure, and disruption throughout the organization. The goal of ITIL is for organizations to create predictable IT environments and to deliver the best customer service possible by streamlining processes and identifying opportunities to improve efficiency.
ITIL focuses on automating processes, improving service management, and integrating IT into the business — something that has become increasingly important as technology becomes a vital aspect of every business unit. We found that ITIL helps in these areas:
- Reduced IT costs
- Improved IT services using proven best practices
- Improved customer satisfaction through a more professional approach to service delivery
- Standards and guidance
- Improved productivity
- Helping businesses manage risk, disruption, and failure
Clare Computer Solutions 2.0
As we shifted towards the managed services model and implemented methodologies like Six Sigma and ITIL, our organization evolved and improved. We have two distinct yet related teams:
Managed Services Team is focused on the day-to-day operations of existing services. These experts obsess about updates, security patches, and uptime. They are happiest when you never call them, because that means everything is working. When there is a problem, they are passionate about resolving it quickly and helping you get back to work.
The Professional Services Team is focused on helping you architect and deploy new solutions that address your business needs. This team includes experts in cloud services, wireless networking, routing and switching, security, disaster recovery, and business continuity. Rather than selling you a one-size-fits-all solution, this team will work with you to design and deliver a solution custom-tailored to your specific needs.
These teams create a symbiotic relationship: the Managed Services Team provides real-world feedback on day-to-day operations, and the Professional Services Team can train on new technologies and processes. This results in a learning organization that has continuous improvement built into its DNA.
When talking with prospective clients, we hear some consistent feedback on our competition. They are frustrated with the overall service levels they receive. Their current IT provider may lack the breadth and depth necessary to leverage new technologies while also keeping the business safe against attacks. Uptime and service level agreements are often inadequate for modern business needs. Many have even removed the option for customers to call them on the phone when there’s a problem.
We love being compared to our competition because Clare Computer Solutions stands out from the crowd. With over a decade of services management experience, including Six Sigma and ITIL, we have the breadth and depth of expertise to deliver high reliability and quick responses. And we still answer the phone.
Unfortunately, many internal IT organizations initially view us as their competition. Experience has shown us that isn’t the case. When we partner with an IT organization, we’re able to offload tactical, day-to-day operations and allow them to focus on strategic projects. They can focus on overall business goals while leveraging our technology experts for implementation details. If you want to see an IT organization get excited, ask them what they could accomplish if they didn’t have to worry about day-to-day operations. The sky is the limit, and partnering with Clare Computer Solutions can make that happen.
Moving Forward: Security Services
While the past 10 years have been quite a transformation for us, we’re not done. In fact, we believe the last 10 years of learning how to deliver services were just preparing us for the next 10 years when security services will rapidly expand.
Security has gone from something you add on top of a product to something that must be designed into every level of a solution from the beginning. Organizations that lack the processes for consistent and reliable services, as well as the combination of broad and deep technical expertise, won’t be able to keep up with the rapidly changing security environment.
Clare Computer Solutions is transforming once again. Our strategy is to continue to invest in on-staff security expertise, to increase our collaboration with security vendors, and to expand the security services we offer and integrate them into the existing services we’ve delivered for years.
If you’re looking to transform your approach to IT, we’re here to help. Reach out to us today (yes, we’ll even answer the phone when you call) and we’ll discuss how we can help your business evolve and thrive by partnering with Clare Computer Solutions for IT services management.