When Your IT partner Doesn't Know Your Systems: What Could Happen, and How to Prevent It from Happening
We’ve seen it many times with many companies: The IT team decides to make updates to an application, operating system, or platform without first checking to see how that update will affect other systems—and something “breaks.” The fact is, one team doesn’t necessarily know what another team is doing, the tools they’re using, or how they’re configured. Even an IT team might not know if the accounting staff has made modifications to the ERP or has installed other applications or tools (it happens more and more these days with the ease of which you can purchase and install an application). But your technology partner should know.
This is story with a two-part moral: First, your partner needs to understand the impact of your systems on one another, and second, you need to communicate with your partner before making changes, especially if you are on an older version of Microsoft Dynamics NAV or other on-premises software in a cloud environment. In fact, lack of communication is a common mistake companies make when working with a technology partner. Without this understanding and the proper configuration, you could end up with entirely inefficient allocation of resources, not knowing your backups are failing, problems with your hardware (POS, barcode scanners, etc.), and interruptions to your business.
Most of your systems—from operating systems and applications to SharePoint, Microsoft 365 (Office), SQL Server Management—have some interdependency that can cause issues if one is changed or updated without consideration of the effect it will have across all your technology. Lets’ dive into how you can mitigate or prevent these types of issues before they become costly problems.
3 Cautionary Tales Make the Case
The best way to illustrate the importance of having a knowledgeable technology partner and communicating with them before making changes is with some common, real-world examples:
- When companies using older versions of applications like NAV upgrade their servers to the latest version of Windows, for example, NAV will stop working because it’s not compatible with that version of Windows.
- Often companies spend thousands of dollars on licenses they don’t need because they don’t fully understand the software or how it can be configured. While something might be technically possible, it’s not always the wisest or most cost-effective move, and it can cause disruptions, particularly if the environment is hybrid–that is, it contains on-premise and cloud-based technology.
- If technology is changed, updated, or upgraded inappropriately, performance and other issues can occur. In one case, performance issues were only the tip of the iceberg and were caused by the company’s technology partner. Because the partner did not understand the entire technology ecosystem, the company was using more resources and spending more money than necessary.
The Solution is Simple: Communicate and Be Proactive with Your Technology Partner and Your Organization
We said right up front that the two things to do are to make sure you have a knowledgeable technology partner and to communicate with them, but here are some specific tips to help you avoid a similar situation to those discussed above:
- Do your due diligence on your technology partner. Get them to show you that they understand your systems—all of them, from the ground up—and the various configurations. If they do not, find another partner to either help or replace your current partner. It seems harsh, but a partner that understands your ERP or POS system doesn’t necessarily understand the cloud or SQL Server or even SharePoint. You need someone who understands the big picture.
- Before you upgrade or update or change the configuration of any tool, application, platform, or system, reach out to your partner and discuss those changes in detail. Tell them what you’re trying to accomplish, because they might have a better or less expensive way to go about it, but more importantly, ask them to advise you on the strategy for executing the desired change. This works. For example, a client recently reached out to us with a plan to upgrade a key system—and it’s a good thing they did. That strategy would not have worked, and they would have been in trouble. We were able to work with them on an appropriate strategy to maintain their systems and have an effective disaster recovery/business continuity plan in place.
- Consider a managed services plan with your technology partner. If you’re trying to save money by doing it yourself, consider the possible consequences. Is it worth the risk? A better approach is to have an agreement with your partner that covers you while being kind to your budget. With most plans, break-fix calls are unlimited, and one break-fix call can get you a full return on your monthly investment. Also, many plans include a certain number of hours allocated every quarter to engage with an expert technical resource to discuss the strategy and implementation plan for upcoming projects. The best approach is a proactive one, and a managed services agreement is a great way to be proactive.
- Whether or not you have a managed services plan, it’s a good idea to schedule a yearly review of your technology with your partner. At that time, you can devise a plan for the upcoming year and schedule meetings at critical points, for example, if you’re planning a major operating system update. You can also use these annual reviews to make sure things like backups are working and set up alert systems to ensure you know about issues as soon as they arise.
- Before making any changes, inform everyone in the company that they must have a dialog with the key stakeholders of that system. So, for example, if you’re going to be doing something with your ERP, talk to the finance team first. They need to be aware of what you’re planning, and you need to be aware of how they operate. Explain your plan clearly, including what, if any, impact the changes will have on them and their systems. Let them ask questions, too.
Need Expert Guidance with Your Technology?
At ArcherPoint, our technical team knows more than just Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. We have an in-depth understanding of the entire Microsoft platform, including Microsoft 365 (Outlook, etc.), SharePoint, SQL Server, Azure, and industry specific technology like retail POS, manufacturing, and NAV/Business Central upgrades–along with the accounting, business, and industry experience to help you make smart strategic and tactical decisions about your technology.