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Computer Maintenance Agreement and What Small Business Clients Want

Computer Maintenance Agreement and What Small Business Clients WantWhen most new to the IT business think about offering a computer maintenance agreement to their clients, they think about software patches, cleaning up dust bunnies, reloading corrupted disk images, and reviewing system logs.

However if that’s all your agreement provides, it’s missing out on what your small business clients really want and need: someone who can take charge of anything and everything having to do with their IT needs.

So what needs to be part of your computer maintenance agreement, to truly deliver the complete soup-to-nuts solution?

  1. Help Desk – As the front door to your company, your help desk should be able to capture client requests for assistance. And then route requests to appropriate internal resources (your staff) or external resources (IT partners or subcontractors).

  2. Network Administration and Network Management – It’s very unlikely that small business clients only want your firm’s help with their workstations and mobile devices. In nearly all cases, your clients will want your firm to help with their networks too. So your firm needs to be adept at performing routine maintenance and administration of PCs, Macs, mobile devices, users, mailboxes, Internet access, remote access, and server applications. This also means providing remote administration and proactive monitoring of server “health.”

  3. Moves, Adds, and Changes – The only constant in life and business is change. Lately, it seems the rate of change of accelerating like crazy. To keep up with employee changes at your client sites, your company needs to provide structure for upgrades, shares, moves, user additions, and permissions changes. And to sustain their order for the duration, your firm will need to establish change control standards that maximize uptime and minimize potential for unauthorized modifications.

  4. Infrastructure – Without rock-solid infrastructure all your small business clients’ sites, nothing you build on top of it will be reliable. So first start by establishing reliable local and wide area network backbones. Monitor network utilization. And upgrade incrementally as needed.

  5. Procurement and Asset Management – A rapidly growing company will have a seemingly bottomless appetite for new hardware, software, peripherals, and services license. But without in-house IT staff, this growth can quickly overwhelm internal computer gurus. So be sure to manage IT asset procurement and oversee software license compliance. Plus develop, track, and enforce hardware, software, OS, and peripherals standards.

  6. Project Management – In a mid-sized company with in-house IT staff, an IT manager, CTO, or CIO will typically champion important IT projects and keep them on track. But who fulfills this role when there’s no in-house IT manager, let alone IT staff under that IT manager? It’s usually your firm. To be effective at keeping up with your clients’ project management needs, you’ll need to analyze needs and keep tabs on dozens of interrelated tasks across phases, milestones, and projects. Plus, coordinate IT activities of your staff, your clients’ staff, your subcontractors, and your IT partners.

  7. Client-Server and Web-Based Development -- It’s debatable whether your firm should stretch itself from a computer maintenance agreement into the worlds of client-server and web-based development. But for larger clients and larger technology providers there will often be project-based and ongoing needs for some kind of software development work. This may include building rich apps that allow your clients to get strong ROI from their networks. Or perhaps your clients will need your firm to customize existing apps to better suit their unique needs.

  8. Integration and Interoperability – Even among small business clients, it’s not uncommon to find literally dozens of different vendors’ products scattered throughout its network – both among premised-based and cloud-based systems. This usually means your firm will need to create, test, and deploy disk images to ensure consistent and rapid builds. In addition, be prepared to integrate appropriate software into clients’ systems.

  9. Security – Given the massive amount of hacking and security breaches that seem to dominate the news outlet headlines on an almost-daily basis, someone needs to help small businesses without in-house IT staff identify and plug various security vulnerabilities. As with many of these above IT needs that extend way beyond a basic computer maintenance agreement, you’ll often need to recruit additional staff, subcontractors, or partners to deliver the complete solution. Taking these security needs into account, create flexible, easy-to-maintain plans that encompass local/network security, mobile devices/BYOD, backup, disaster recovery, virus/malware protection, and power protection. Changing mindsets is also vital to create a culture of security vigilance: get clients thinking proactively about protecting their IT assets.

  10. Training – One of the biggest barriers that prevents small businesses without in-house IT from getting full utilization out of newly installed systems is a lack of training. So as an extension of your computer maintenance agreement, ensure that your clients achieve maximum IT ROI through targeted end-user and administrator training. To do this, your firm will need to develop dynamic training that meets clients’ unique end-user needs.

  11. Strategic Planning – Finally, as part of the lather-rinse-repeat cycle of implement small business IT projects, analyze short-term, intermediate, and long-term business and IT goals. And develop a strategic plan to ensure that IT helps drive these goals.

So if you’ve been offering computer maintenance agreements to your small business clients with nothing more than routine computer repairs and some basic software support, your firm is missing the boat. And moreover it’s very likely that your firm’s incomplete approach is failing to deliver what your small business clients really want.

How will you know? Survey your customers about their big-picture IT needs and where else they get IT help from. Even better, take a different client out to lunch each day for the next three or four weeks and really get to the root of these unfulfilled needs.

And if you’re not sure how your firm can handle these 11 additional services categories, start interviewing prospective independent contractors and vendor partners ASAP.

 

How comprehensive is your firm’s computer maintenance agreement for small business clients? How many of these 11 additional services do you make available? Got an idea for #12? Please share your insight in the Comments box below.  

 

And to follow-through on the tips introduced in this short article, be sure to download your free copy of the special report on IT Service Contract Secrets for Getting More Repeat Clients and Recurring Service Revenue

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Creative Commons Image Source: flickr djsmiley2k

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