It’s a rare SME for which IT isn’t integral – meaning that when IT breaks, the trouble it causes can be substantial.
This fact contributes to the frustration SMEs feel when their IT systems don’t perform.
What also contributes is what they perceive as a lack of help from the industry when things go wrong.
The fact is many customers don’t get the support they’d like from those who create their software and systems. And, in this regard, there is room for the industry to do a better job.
IT systems can be complex. However, SMEs would rightly argue that they experience far too much pain when it comes to bugs and other errors that are no fault of their own.
There’s the pain, for example, of spending umpteen hours fixing technology that doesn’t work this week – even though it did last week – when seemingly nothing has changed.
If your business hasn’t partnered with an IT services provider who you can call on to provide some very technical people to scour log files or trace network traffic to get to the source of a bug, you don’t stand much chance of resolving your problem quickly.
Indeed, where they aren’t critical, many SMEs chose to work around such problems, or simply live with them.
Something that’s helping to drive the problem is the cost of having issues resolved.
By the time a technician has spent six hours trying to solve an issue with a software package on a laptop, for example, it often will have been cheaper to buy another laptop.
These economies are having an effect – arguably leaving too many bugs unaddressed.
It’s sometimes the case that 1.0, 2.0 and even 3.0 versions of software contain bugs that should have been discovered during beta testing. Most software companies do the right thing, but it’s my feeling that some are relying on the marketplace to find the problems that are subsequently solved in versions 1.1, 2.1 and 3.1.
What your business can do
There are some steps that your business can take:
Wait for known good versions
Unless there is a good business reason for upgrading to an initial X.0 release, wait.
Holding out for the 1.1 release of a product will save the headaches for others and give you more confidence that most of the bugs have been ironed out.
Budget for testing
When upgrading or installing new products, make sure that you have the resources to test them with your systems before switching to production.
Have expert help on hand
Making bugs somebody else’s problem by using managed services or cloud solutions will help to control their cost to your business. Teaming up with an IT services provider will also allow you to leverage their relationships with different vendors.
What the industry should do
I think the IT industry would be helped by doubling-down on its customers’ priorities.
There needs to be better understanding within industry that what’s most important to SMEs is often Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
New features and capabilities are important, but not where they introduce problems and bugs that aren’t within the power of SMEs to solve.
Dave Stevens is MD, Brennan IT.
(This blog post was first published on the SmartCompany website on June 21 2012)