I can’t say this as fact, but I am pretty sure Smart Dolphins charges more than most of our competitors. Scary stuff to say publically, no? Well, I am also confident that Smart Dolphins also lowers our clients’ IT costs more than our competitors. “Huh?”, you say.
Our view is that a company’s IT costs go well beyond the invoice you get from their support provider. If that wasn’t the truth, why would a company pay anything for support? The service provider enables technology which enables the business to function. A lack of service results in a lack of business function.
A few examples to illustrate:
• Data backup is always an easy one to look at. Poor function here can be a major risk and, therefore, a significant price tag can be attached. It isn’t easy to know exactly what the cost is, but if backup is lacking then there is some probability that an error, disaster or theft could result in major data loss. Most of the time, major data loss results in complete business failure, but at very least there is a major problem and therefore a significant business cost. It is not unlike driving a car without insurance – you are fine 99% of the time… until you aren’t.
• Some companies spend a great deal of time trying to figure out detailed technology decisions on their own. What is their time worth and how could it be better used? Again, there is a cost here that is tough to pin down to an exact number, but surely it exists. There are definitely the payroll costs of the extra time. But what about the opportunity cost for the time used? Could these people be billing or producing in a more profitable way? And is the end result of this decision leading to the ideal result? There are a lot of creative DIY solutions that we run into, but unfortunately, this type of creativity is usually wasted.
• Often because of the previous point, there can be inefficiencies in functionality in what (and how) a company has things set up. What are the right technologies for the company and what are the best ways to configure them? Remote access is a common example. Some remote employees simply email themselves files they need to work on outside of the office. There are MUCH better ways.
• What could be saved with longer term planning and consultation from someone who knows business and technology? Should a company simply replace a workstation when it breaks or should they try to get ahead of that outcome and avoid the hassle, stress and costs of unexpected projects?
• How much could be saved on the capital expense of new computers if the current computers were maintained better? Many computers that have had little to no maintenance can start having problems pretty early in their life. Does it make sense to “refresh” a computer that is 2 or 3 years old or should a company just replace it? With proactive maintenance, you don’t have to be faced with that decision.
These are just examples. I could go on… and on… and on.
It boils down to this: Our clients rely heavily on their technology. We have law firms who can pay for our monthly invoice with one hour of service across their lawyers. All we have to do to justify our existence in these situations is to enable one hour of production and we’ve paid for ourselves. We also have clients who take a lot more of their effort to pay for our monthly service, but they happily do it because they see the bigger picture costs like we do.
Why don’t all companies see this? What is tricky is the false sense that technology should just be configured once and all should work happily ever after. Any other result can be excused as incompetence of those who set it up. This is wishful thinking and nothing more. The oil change for the car is a common analogy used to explain the need for ongoing system care and maintenance, but I personally don’t think this does it justice. A computer network is much more volatile than a vehicle and almost always WAY more important to a business. If your car breaks down, you can take a taxi or a rental for a day. If your server goes down, you’re more than annoyed.
I’m glad we’re not the cheapest guys in town.