Real SMB IT: Consulting Services And Scope

September 21, 2009

Lets try this little story on for size!

You want to hire a plumber to replace your kitchen sink. So out you go and you get a couple of quotations, here they are;

Vendor number one’s quote states; Replace sink

Vendor number two’s quote states; Replace sink, Re-install existing faucet hardware, modify plumbing to fit new sink

Now which of those above quotations make you feel most comfortable that all contingencies are met?

Which one makes you comfortable that there will not be surprises on the scope of work or billing?

Maybe Number Two??

Unless you have a long history of service and trust with the vendor of quote number one, you can understand that that quotation number two covers the bases in a lot more detail.

Now, How About IT?

For smaller businesses it can be fairly common to use outside contractors and suppliers to perform installation or maintenance of your IT assets. Maybe you don’t have full time IT staff, or perhaps you just have a small IT staff that needs outside help in performing a larger task.

But like the example above, don’t forget that there can be a problem here!

It is a natural, but often invisible problem that exists because your contractor, supplier or VAR (Value Added Reseller) and yourself can be looking at the same event or work, but through different lenses.

Freebies vs. Being Nickled & Dimed

For yourself as a manager in the small business space, you are thinking;  “Well since they are here installing that server anyway, I am sure that they can take a few minutes and do this upgrade to our MS Office applications while they are here….”

But for the Management of that vendor or contractor, they need to have their staff into, and then out of your office in the time frame that they quoted you to install that server, and adding what could be an hour or more of time to upgrade those MS Office installations was not part of their plan.

This type of disconnect can lead to frustration and distrust on both sides.

Your supplier feels that you are trying to drive them out of business supporting you with freebies, while you think that they are being unreasonable and doing a nickle and dime routine because you think that the little thing should only take a couple of minutes.

Get Rid of the Disconnect With Proper Scope

To remove this disconnect when sourcing IT contract work, ensure that your vendor and yourself have an itemized list, or breakdown  of each and every task that are to be performed for any particular contract. This will be the scope of your contract engagement.

This point is also the time to discuss those little extra’s.

You think that a few minutes will upgrade your MS Office applications, and they can respond that with 17 workstations at 10 minutes per workstation (assuming nothing goes wrong!) you are looking at almost another three hours of labor.

The SMB Takeaway

When dealing with IT service providers of any kind, ensure that you have an itemized list of the work that is being contracted for. And ensure that it is broken down to as granular a level as is possible.

It takes a bit more time up front, but it is time well spent.

Because both parties can develop the trust that what was contracted for is reasonable, and mutually beneficial.

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Photo Credit using neighbo.com via flickr

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