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A Guide to IT Strategy Reviews (Podcast)

Roland Carter, Senior Engineer at PCG, sits down with John Maher to talk about IT strategy reviews. They look at the value IT strategy reviews provide for businesses, and in particular, they talk about how strategy reviews help businesses improve their performance and optimize their IT budgets.

Portsmouth Computer Group · IT Strategy Review

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher, and I’m here today with Roland Carter, Senior Engineer at PCG, a Managed Service and IT Provider with headquarters in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and locations in Dover, Manchester, and Portland, Maine. Today, we’re talking about the IT strategy view. Welcome, Roland.

Roland Carter: Hi, John. Thanks for having me.

What Is an IT Strategy Review?

John: Sure. Roland, what is the purpose of performing an IT strategy review, and what is that?

Roland: Yeah. The primary purpose is so we can interact with our clients in a way that really allows us to have an understanding of their environment, maybe some things that they’re going through, and get us into a virtual CIO conversation where we’re talking about their needs, things going on, changes. It’s really a dialogue session where we can help them out.

Benefits of an IT Strategy Review

John: Okay, and why does PCG use this process?

Roland: We use this process because we found we were able to better keep track of projects, recommendations, any client needs, and any of the systems that might be having problems, where we’re able to start documenting that issues were happening there. And the process is dedicated really to helping the client create budgets and future planning. And as we continue, we’re able to provide updates, communication just to keep everyone on the same page.

What Happens During an IT Strategy Review?

John: And so, walk me through it. How does PCG perform an IT strategy review?

Roland: Sure. We start out by sending a business insight. This is a survey, gets sent out to our clients, gathers information from them. Then we go through all of the IT systems, determine the health of the operations, any security concerns. During that part, we start building out recommendations for say, equipment upgrades, security enhancements, best practice guides, things like that. Once we’ve collected that information where you start creating those recommendations and we’re able to match the responses that come from the business insight survey and start aligning it with our goals, the client’s goals.

And then, the next phase is getting into the meeting where we start discussing everything that we’ve gone through, start providing information and talk about all of the recommendations, what makes sense for them, start building out some future planning. That stage, where we’re able to say, “Okay, the next six months, next year, three years, here’s what you’re possibly looking at for PC replacements, a server upgrade, possibly a switch, things like that.”

Business Insights and IT Strategy Reviews

John: Okay. You mentioned the business insights survey that you send to your client. Why is it that you need the business insights for this process, and how is that used in the IT strategy review?

Roland: Business insights are really important to help us understand business challenges, IT goals, business goals, gives us a gauge on how to steer the meetings also. Often, during our meetings, we’re not even talking initially about, hey, we noticed the server might to be replaced in a year or so. Usually, this process starts out with, hey, we noticed you were having some marketing concerns. So, we’d start talking about, maybe, SEO for websites, marketing strategies. Then we’ll start talking about security education. But then, we start also moving into the other recommendations, but really, we’re trying to make sure that we’re helping out in any area that we can.

From there, we take the responses. We’ve been matching them with their recommendations found during our discovery process. For instance, we, maybe, find that we have a password expiration policy that wasn’t set for a short enough period of time. And we’ve gotten the business insight response that says, “Client would like to see that the security is more locked down, better enhanced,” things like that. Then we’re able to join their concerns with our recommendations, and we realized that we have an action plan. We have something we can actually talk to the client about and move forward on.

Personalized Services

John: Right. So, I think it comes down to the fact that every client is a little bit different. They all have different needs. They all have different things that they’re focused on. And so, that business insights survey that they take can really give you a lot of insight, if you will, into what it is that they’re having issues with and what you need to focus on. And then, you can tailor your IT strategy toward what it is that that client need. And it’s not just a one-size-fits-all kind of system.

Roland: Absolutely. Everyone’s unique. Everyone has different concerns. We do see a lot of the same concerns that happen, on occasion, but everyone is different. So, it’s really important that we hear what’s unique to you that we can help assist with because a lot of the packages that we have are geared for certain situations, but we just need to know how to make that change.

Improved Business Performance

John: Right. How is it that the IT strategy review really helps a business to perform better?

Roland: Sure. It helps in a few ways. More information we have, the better planning we can help the client with. The ITSR helps businesses in a few ways, with more information and better planning. The client’s able to budget properly, therefore, making sure that they’re working within their means. We’re also able to work with the system and budget out for longer periods of time. So, if you know that in the next two, three years, that PCs are going to have to be replaced, then we’re able to work with you on that. We can start coming up with a budget for how many per year we can do.

The system also allows us to show monthly, yearly recurring costs. So, the review also just helps the network run better. If we’re able to keep up with upgrades, replacements, any concerns, then everything typically just runs better. The client’s happier, able to continue with work without any outages, no downtime. It helps everyone. So, doing these strategy reviews, we’ve definitely seen where we’re helping with security. We’re helping everything stay up and running. And we’re having dialogue with our clients that we just haven’t had before, which is, I think, beneficial for everyone to stay on the same page.

IT Strategy Reviews and Budgeting

John:  Right. You mentioned budgeting. Tell me a little bit more about the roadmap and budgeting process.

Roland: Sure. When we go into the meeting, we’re usually talking about those recommendations, we’re getting towards the end of it, and we start saying, “What makes sense for you?” Obviously, we don’t want to push anyone into doing something that doesn’t make sense.

However, in the next few years, you might think that it does, so we can start putting a roadmap in place of saying, “Let’s start working towards this. If this is something you really want to do, let us help you figure that out.” So, we start putting a monetary figure to it. We know it’s going to cost a certain amount per month or it’s going to cost a license fee per year, for whatever the process is we’re discussing. But then, you’re able to start seeing what it’s going to cost over time. And you can bring this back to your upper management, or the CEO, whoever you have to discuss your finances with and really determine what you can do with this.

If you’re able to move forward, if you need to push the roadmap out a little bit more, but we’re able to help with all the situations now, instead of just saying, “Yeah, your server is on the brink of possibly shutting down, and if you don’t do it now, then we’re going to have to figure something out.”

In this case, we’re able to say, “Look, the server might be running out of storage space maybe in the next six months or so. Let’s start talking about a budget for that.” Or we know the warranty’s running out, so we can look at increasing the warranty. Or the server’s been around for about six years. Maybe we should start talking about a replacement in the next year or so.

John: Right. It’s always good for a business to be able to plan for those expenses ahead of time, instead of just reacting to, okay, something’s broken and we need to fix it or buy a replacement right now.

Roland: Absolutely.

Client Reports of IT Strategy Reviews

John: Right. What kind of reporting does the client get after the IT strategy review is done? Do they get a whole written strategy report?

Roland: They get an entire strategy report. This includes everything that we’ve gone to, to get into the meeting. So, that’s all of the checks and balances we’ve gone through, going through all your systems, making sure we have access to everything that we think we should or passwords haven’t changed. But then, also, all of the agreements that you have, where if we’ve been looking at those, making sure that everything’s in alignment. And then, you also receive the roadmap, the budget, every single recommendation. And you get a recap of everything we talked about during the meeting. So, it’s really everything that we went through to get us into the meeting, what we talked about during the meeting, and your future planning goals are all included.

When to Do an IT Strategy Review

John: Okay. Is this just a one-time thing when a client first comes onboard? Or is this a regular thing that happens throughout the client’s relationship with you? And if so, how often do they do an IT strategy review?

Roland: Yeah. We started doing these more recently on our newer clients. And we’ve been trying to do them more for our existing clients. But where it really starts is… say, we do an onboarding, maybe after 30 to 60 days, we are starting this process with our existing clients. We’re trying to start them as soon as possible, but typically, we’re trying to get them done every six months to one year, depending on how complicated the environment is. If we know there’s changes coming up, we want to start the process. Maybe we do want to have another one in six months just to go over how those changes went or talk about what else needs to come down the road.

But we try not to do it more frequently because having too much information or just going over the same thing, that’s not beneficial to anyone either. We do follow-ups if we had recommendations, and say it was a not-right-now situation, but we’ll talk about it later, of course, we’re going to follow-up a little bit sooner and ask about that, but it’s a full process. We’ll say every six months to one year.

John: Okay. Yeah. Things aren’t likely to change with your activity structure or what you need, what your requirements are more often than that. But it’s possible that within six months or a year, maybe things will have changed or you have a little bit of a different focus. Like you said, maybe a machine is starting to come to the end of its life and will need to be replaced soon, and you want to plan for that. So, it’s good to make sure that you’re doing it often enough so that you catch those things.

Roland: Sure. I think we saw a lot of this, also, during the recent COVID-19 situations where we weren’t aware, necessarily, of how much remote access was going on. So, the more we were able to talk with our clients, the better we are able to help plan for what does the remote future look like for you? Do you need to have something done now? Is it not necessary? Just to help plan for all of those things.

Most Important Value of IT Strategy Reviews

John: Right. What do you think that the biggest value is that the client gets from an IT strategy review?

Roland: I really think it’s the conversations that we’re having with the clients, the understanding of having a partner that’s dedicated to understanding your infrastructure, your unique needs, and being able to properly plan for the future. As we go through this process, we’re gaining more of a relationship with our clients. We’re having better conversations. So, it really helps us all be more on the same page and get things done a bit better.

John: All right. Well, that’s really great information, Roland. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Roland: Thank you very much for being here.

John: And for more information, visit the PCG website at pcgit.com or call (603) 431-4121.