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Client Spotlight: Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association

Published on Dec 22, 2011 at 8:33 pm in Tips & Tricks.

We plan to occasionally use this platform to spotlight our clients—hopefully in a way that goes beyond story telling to providing practical advice and actionable steps for business owners with similar IT challenges and needs. Providing your aha! IT moment of the week, if you will.

We’ll start with Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association (TECA), a Concept Technology client since 2009.

In 2009 TECA had reached a turning point: The association had outgrown its current IT provider and was considering hiring a full-time internal IT staffer.

TECA’s problems in 2009 stemmed from the fact that they were using the same vendor for their phones and computers. Consolidating services saves money, right? Not unless your vendor is an expert in all the services it provides.

In TECA’s case, the provider was a phone expert, not a computer expert, which became obvious when an assessment of TECA’s equipment turned up hardware that wasn’t working properly. The assessment found problems that were unnoticeable at the time, but could have caused costly repairs and lost time and data in the future.

TECA was also storing company data on local machines, so if an employee lost his individual workstation, unless he’d been backing his work up manually, he’d lose that data and the resulting productivity.

Another indication that TECA had outgrown its current provider’s IT knowledge was the provider’s inability to integrate Mac and Windows computers into a single IT system. TECA works in a mixed Mac/Windows environment; its magazine staff works on Macs while the rest of the staff uses PCs. The provider’s failure to get the Macs and Windows talking to each other inhibited employees from working in both worlds.

The association’s first inclination was to hire someone in-house with a lot of IT expertise, but when TECA didn’t want to add a full-time salary to its budget, they courted outsourcing their IT needs. This proved a perfect courtship.

Instead of getting one dedicated person with one skill set and expertise, TECA got multiple people with multiple skill sets and expertise to solve whatever problem crops up. The association also experienced lower monthly expenses for ongoing support, because things broke less frequently, and Concept Technology Inc.’s experienced tech support staff took less engineering time for support.

Takeaways

  1. Leave control of your phones with phone people. Leave control of your computers with IT people. If you have bundled services with a provider who isn’t an expert in one facet, consider pealing off that service. Placing services in the most expert hands can save your business money in the long term.
  2. Take stock of your options before hiring internally.
  3. Consider a third party assessment of your hardware every two to three years. Even if you’re happy with your current IT provider and your hardware is seemingly working perfectly, a third-party assessment can point out potential problems that are heading towards a breakdown. Many business owners shy away from this type of assessment because they generally trust and don’t want to offend their computer guys. That’s great, but consider the following: businesses audit their financials without offending CFOs, shouldn’t they be able to audit their IT hardware as well?