Is your IT Professional gambling with your company?

by | Mar 24, 2009 | IT Consulting

I read a LOT of blogs, newsgroups, and internet forums about technology and also participate in some for other IT companies to stay on top of trends.

A recent poster said this in one of my IT professional newsgroups:

“Coincidentally, two different longtime clients of mine asked me about getting a new phone system today.I’d like to explore possibly getting into the phone system game. I know there are numerous, inexpensive VOIP systems out there.Can anyone recommend a company? I am particularly interested in a company that offers a solution that is easy to configure and has good support/documentation considering I will be learning as I go.”

It is appalling to me that any IT professional would take something as critical as your phone system under their wing and “learn as [they] go”. Yet, so many business owners, who are hungry to take another problem off of their plate and trust their technology provider, would ask this question of their IT provider and trust their response no matter what. “I recommend calling ABC Phone Company” becomes a reasonable answer. Just as “Well, you know, we can install one for you” does.

The line between voice (phone) and data (computer) networks is becoming thinner. I would highly recommend that you DO ask your IT provider about your telecommunication needs. They may have some specific things for you to look out for when selecting a system. However, when they come back and tell you that “oh yeah, we sell those too”. You should take a cautious look at the solution they are providing before you sign on the dotted line.

Would you ask your podiatrist to perform a tonsillectomy? Would you ask a criminal defense attorney to do your estate planning? Unlikely. No doubt that the Podiatrist learned about your tonsils in anatomy class. And I’m sure the attorney had a class in law school about estate planning. But that doesn’t make them experts you should trust about those matters. You already understand that – but because technology is foreign, you take the advice of your IT providers’ recommendation at face value.

Certainly, there are counter arguments here – it is impossible to know EVERYTHING and we all learn as we as you go at some point. With products like the Cisco UC500 and Microsoft Response point, programming and setting up phone systems have become very easy for professionals like myself.

Unlike the attorney and the podiatrist, IT professionals don’t have a bar or board that grants authority to its practitioners. Should we? If an attorney messed up a case they run the risk of being disbarred. Those are stiff consequences for someone who might be learning as they go. Technology is just as important to your business. Don’t take decisions you make about what vendors to work with lightly.

Regardless, its best to not put all your eggs in one basket. If you have a problem (someday) with the computer service your IT consultant is providing, you going to have to fire your IT provider AND your telephone provider in the same day. Now, rather than having one problem, you have two.

I feel that the same goes for purchasing computers and technology products through your IT Consultant. In the long run you are better off separating your venders from your advisors.