Don’t let outdated practices hamstring your nonprofit
By Teddie Linder, business manager, Netlink, Inc. |
Recently, Netlink assisted a for-profit property-management company in its acquisition of multiple apartment complexes in another state. The client planned the acquisition and worked with us to ensure a timely takeover regarding technology. In advance of the transition, the only variable not completed involved obtaining master settings, licensing and passwords from the previous IT management resource. This info is needed to make sense of what is in place, make changes, install new software, create new accounts and connect to the new management company’s network and IT resources.
Unfortunately, the property-management company’s existing IT provider wouldn’t address any needs in advance of the changeover.
The staff arrived to work on the first day under new management only to find their systems didn’t work properly. They were unable to conduct the routine daily business like moving tenants in and out, and handling maintenance requests. The manager in charge of the transition was upset, frustrated and angry; the transition took longer and was going to be more expensive.
Even after it was resolved, a single question remains: What happened?
Instead of handing off the administration rights, the IT staff simply wiped settings and licensing from the computers. All of the programs were removed. Netlink’s staff faced a long day of configuration, relicensing programs and resetting equipment in multiple offices, before the company’s staff was back online.
Did the previous company do anything wrong? Not really; they simply followed a system that was advantageous for them, but one that hamstrung the client. The end-result was that it made life difficult for the owners, executives and staff by creating an unneeded “hostage situation” for technology assets and tools: the servers, workstations, software and subscriptions that allow a business to operate.
This “standard practice” involves the IT company setting up accounts in its name, not under the client’s. It is an outdated approach that many times involves billing the client for additional services with a markup. The problem with this relationship is the client doesn’t “own” the setup, server, the subscription or the license. So when it is time for the client to make a change or move on, they have to start with brand new setup, sometime new subscriptions (increasingly used for software licensing or programs), and migrate company data to the new setup.
This practice creates a level of stress and a lack of mobility that is unnecessary.
A different model to consider is “client-owned, provider-managed.” Each account is established with the client as the owner of the account. Payment is made directly by the client company to the vendor of the service(s) and the IT provider is paid only for managing those services. This keeps the role of the client, the IT Management provider, and the services vendor clear and allows the client to change as the market or other forces require.
The bottom-line is business owners or executives should ALWAYS maintain access to their own information technology framework where possible. The client’s business should always have access to licensing, passwords, and configuration details that a reputable IT provider maintains on the company’s behalf, and can be repurposed when needed. Examples include:
- E-mail hosting (Office 365/Google Apps/other)
- Server & file access
- Internet ISP connection (know who Internet service provider is, and have the account information accessible)
- Domain network/registrar info
- Website hosting info
Netlink, Inc. shifted to the client-owned, provider-managed model several years ago sensing the limitations and wanting to combat the perception of holding IT information hostage. It is a cleaner, clearer, and more customer-centric approach, different than reselling or recreating setups from scratch. Our clients own their configurations, which will travel with the them, regardless of whether Netlink manages the company’s IT or not.
The clarity of succession brings benefits to both the client and the IT provider. Both parties are clear on the IT provider’s role, as well as the cumulative benefit of maintaining configurations and documentation on the client-owned setup.
At Netlink, we believe strongly in the power of the client relationship — keeping the optimal customer experience as the guide for all that we do. Adding predictability and removing ambiguity benefits everyone. Like any good business relationship, simplicity, clarity and transparency are minimums and benefit everyone regardless.
Teddie Linder is the business manager for Netlink. A certified Green Belt in Six Sigma she focuses on process improvement that benefits the customer and the business. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.