Industry August / September 2010

IT with Service

IT is changing before our eyes. Thus, firms looking for new systems or upgrades should know how to navigate relevant changes to remain competitive; this means, for large firms, ensuring the accessibility and efficiency that lead to customer satisfaction. Meanwhile, for SMEs, it means a web presence and well-functioning processes that can enable them to break into new niche markets, leading to expansion.
Today’s IT firms need to have excellent technicians with good people skills. This is a far cry from former times when, without significant client communication, programmers and designers would disappear for weeks, maybe months, to complete a project. By the time the product was finished, the client firm’s needs often had changed. Such an approach is no longer viable, given the current rapidly advancing market.

Service-oriented boutique firms offer close-knit teams of experts, who focus on forming ongoing relationships with clients in order to discern their respective needs and custom build their processes.

What to look for in an IT firm:

Consultants who are adept at interpersonal communication and understand your specific needs
A diverse client list, which often means the firm is highly creative and enjoys new challenges
A commitment to work collabo-ratively with your firm throughout the development process
Willingness to provide current process analysis and a design that clearly lays out a project’s direction and costs
A process that implements Agile methodologies, such as Scrum or XP, that have short development cycles followed by regular client consultations
Test-driven development, which works on bugs and fine details at every phase
Close attention to systems security and compliance (i.e., ISO 9001) requirements, which specify rules and standards for development
Ongoing technical support to ensure the peak performance of new systems

New technologies to consider:

Cloud technology: The concept is good and places Software as a Service (SaaS) onto hardware as a service. Look for firms that build private, secure and compliant “mini clouds” to store your business systems.

SaaS: Firms can purchase specific programmes and functions by subscription on the web, reducing the cost of back-end hardware for issues such as redundancy and security. While customer relationship management offered by is popular, boutique IT firms offer the same possibilities with added personal service.

Thin client technology: User-side terminals are essentially just screens, with all processing done on the managed server or in a cloud, which helps businesses cut support costs. The iPad, though not a thin client, acts like one and is a good example of how this type of technology will work in the very near future, when thin clients will be the most efficient choice for a firm’s off-site sales team.

The IT possibilities for today’s businesses vary greatly. Traditional models are changing and IT is rapidly becoming a service-focused industry. In these tough economic times when there is pressure to reduce waste, emerging services offer affordable ways to maintain a strong and efficient market presence. So find a reliable firm to evaluate your current systems, and you just might be able to upgrade and cut costs at the same time.