Thursday, May 31, 2012

Will Windows 8 Kill the User Interface Competition?

Last night I was talking with my brother Manny (Manuel Palachuk), one of the most insightful technical people I know. He reminded me of something I said five years ago, which he disagreed with at the time (now he agrees completely):

"Today we are a Microsoft-centric company. We are Microsoft certified from top to bottom. We require it from employees and we promote it to clients. And that's for one simple reason: Microsoft is winning today. They own the server world. They own the desktop. They own the applications.

But that may not always be the case. When we can't make money on Microsoft . . . when someone else wins one of these markets . . . when Microsoft makes it difficult for us to make money . . . then we will become a different kind of shop."

We then proceded to discuss how much the world has changed.

I always thought the lawsuit about Microsoft being an operating system monopoly was absurd. When that lawsuit was going on, I was using Unix, Novell, MPE/ix, and McIntosh commercially (in addition to DOS and Windows). Two of those are still widely used today, and plenty of others are available.

Today, my company owns, manages, or hosts over 200 web sites. Exactly one -- which we inherited -- is on a Windows server. The others are on Lynux . . . and most on virtual machines. And the virtual machines are are . . . I don't care.

I don't care. My clients don't care.

How many processors are under that virtual machine? I don't care.

How much RAM is on that virtual machine? I don't care.

How many hard drives are on that virtual machine? I don't care.

What's the power supply on that virtual machine? I don't care.

How much total bandwidth is available to that virtual machine? I don't care.

Get the picture? Well, it's the same with other things as well. Right now today, I love and want Microsoft Exchange for myself and all my clients. That's what we sell. We push it. In fact, we don't give other options. It is the only way to go.

Today.

Microsoft is giving away the application market. Right now, Open Office is a horrible substitute for Microsoft Office products. Google Apps are worse. But WordPerfect's office suite is about 95% as good . . . and I don't know if I have any clients who use the other 5%. And there are a dozen other companies creating competing products.

So when I can't make money on Microsoft Office anymore (e.g., with Office 365), I will be happy to sell something else. I'm in business to make money. And cloud computing, with everything up in the sky, makes it much easier to compete.

Now consider the desktop. Microsoft has owned this market for about 20 years. Maybe more. I mean hands-down, no real competition. No one who is not a Lynux programmer has a Lynux desktop. And most Lynux programmers only have Lynux in a window . . . in Windows.

But those days may be over. And to be honest, Microsoft seems to be giving away this market intentionally. What does Apple own, ten per cent of the desktop market? Yet Microsoft appears to be copying everything they can. Droid and Google? Nothing yet, but Microsoft is going head-to-head with Droid O.S. That's fine for phones, but it is very clunky on the desktop.

Once Microsoft puts themselves in the position of following instead of leading, they unintentionally open the door for their competition to take market share. Instead of taking the lead, they are taking a position that they will be more like THIS operating system or THAT operating system.

There's a famous quote from General Norman Schwarzkopf: "When Placed in command, take charge."

Well let me give you a corollary for business: When you're in the lead, LEAD. Make everyone follow you. When you OWN the application space, don't give it away in fear that someone will take it away. Make them take it! Don't give it up. Same thing when you OWN the desktop: Don't give it away in fear that someone will take it away.

If your phones have always been second rate, then by all means, copy the more successful competition.

But please lead when you're ahead.


A Peak Into The Future Desktop

Anyway, so my brother and I were talking about about what's next. Where are we going?

We're moving deeper and deeper into the world of "I don't care about technology." Even technical people don't care about the underlying technologies in many cases.

Right now, many people are trying to create a truly usable cloud-based desktop. Whether virtual machines, terminal services, hosted desktops. Whatever. Today they are all below the level of performance we expect from a desktop computer in the real, physical world. But someday, someone will crack that nut.

And when they do, the world will shift on its axis.

Manuel spelled out the future of the desktop in a very simple sentence:

"Imagine that you load up your cloud desktop and the first question is 'What kind interface do you want?'" You can pick from a Windows interface, a McIntosh interface, a Red Hat interface, a Droid interface. Custom interfaces will proliferate.

How many processors are under that virtual machine? I don't care.

How much RAM is on that virtual machine? I don't care.

How many hard drives are on that virtual machine? I don't care.

What's the power supply on that virtual machine? I don't care.

I get the interface I want. And the hard drive structure is simply translated for my preferences. The UI is simply another choice. I want a beach screen picture on my desktop. I want blue menus. And today I'm in the mood for . . . a Windows interface.

The forums and blogs regarding the Windows 8 Consumer Preview have been very interesting. A lot of people really hate the Metro Interface. Some of that is just normal. It's new. It's different. We all had to get used to Windows 95 when it was released.

But part of the hatred is also because the Metro Interface is very clunky for technical people. I don't just want to work. I want to know and love my computer. I want to dig in and play with it. I want to own the knowledge of how it works. And I want it to be as customizable as *I* want.

As Tyler Pelletier posted on Facebook, there's a bit of a feud going on between people who want to "hack" a start menu for the new O.S. and the Microsoft development team that threatens to kill such attempts. At some point, the product will be released. At that point, the hackers will win because they have an essentially unlimited amount of time to figure it out and the code won't be changing under their feet.

I mentioned to Tyler that 30 years ago there were companies making a living creating user interfaces for various operating systems. Primarily these were attempts to build a graphical interface on top of Commodore 64/128, DOS, etc. Those companies still exist. But now they may actually have their hey day.

Personally, I think my brother is correct. If Microsoft opens the door to accepting that alternative UIs are really their competition, then the Windows UI becomes just another choice. And the really bad thing for Microsoft is that the competition can only win, and Microsoft can only lose, in such a scenario. When you own the desktop market, raising your competition to equal status can only hurt you.

Microsoft should offer lots of flexibility and choices *within* the Windows environment.

Don't compete with Apple. Continue to show them how to dominate the market.

Don't compete with Lynux. Simply continue dominating the market and making their desktop irrelevant.

Don't compete with Droid. For goodness sake. Ignore them and dominate the market you already dominate.

- - - - -

I've been using Windows 8 for quite awhile now. It's mostly the same. There are a handful of things that really need to change. It needs to be a lot more customizable. But it is certainly a usable desktop. I haven't found anything it does better than Windows 7. I hate Explorer 10.

Let me be clear: I am NOT passionate about anything I dislike in Windows 8. But I see a lot of people who ARE passionate about it. And that kind of activated, motivated, and technically capable people could be trouble for Microsoft if the O.S. is not flexible enough.

The bigger picture, to be honest, is the future of Microsoft. They dominate the Office suite but are destroying their own market and alienating their partners in the process. They dominate the desktop O.S. but appear to be copying their competition, raising the credibility of their competition.

I don't know enough about the inner workings of Microsoft to know whether this strategy comes from Steve Balmer on down, or whether there's just a huge group of people frightened about the competition. But I think Microsoft needs a top-down philosophy that they will dominate and lead in the markets they own.

When you're #2 or #3 in a market, then do whatever it takes. Why does every mid-sized car look like a Camry and Accord? Because they've dominated the market for twenty years, so they're slavishly copied.

But when you're #1, keep moving ahead. Don't look behind at #2 and #3. Put distance between yourself and your competition!

:-)




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IT Businesses Fail Because of Their Owners


We just put out a major press release about the SMB Online Conference in June. On day three, I will talk about consistency in running a company. It is easy to start a company, but most small businesses fail. And nine times out of ten, it’s because the owner has inconsistent practices.

There are no secrets to success. Everyone knows you need to focus. But we get distracted and constantly change our approach. If I followed every fad for the last sixteen years, I would have gone out of business several times by now!

All of our amazing speakers will address some facet of this topic. Please join us!

For information on this topic, and the rest of the agenda, please visit www.smbonlineconference.com.

Here's that press release:

- - - - -

IT Businesses Fail Because of Their Owners

Karl W. Palachuk, speaker, author, blogger
Sacramento, CA, May 31, 2012 – Technology author Karl Palachuk will address the successful operation of an IT consulting company in his June 28th keynote address at the first Online Conference for Small Business IT Consultants, Managing for Success 2012. His topic is Consistency Leads to Success.

Managing for Success 2012 will be held “online” June 26-28, 2012 and features eighteen hours of training for IT professionals, computer consultants, and managed service providers who focus on the Small and Medium Business market.

As he opens day three, Palachuk will talk about consistency in running a company. “It is easy to start a company,” he said, “but most small businesses fail. And nine times out of ten, it’s because the owner has inconsistent practices.”

Palachuk is a successful entrepreneur and built an IT consulting company that lasted sixteen years. “There are no secrets to success,” he said. “Everyone knows you need to focus. But we get distracted and constantly change our approach. If I followed every fad for the last sixteen years, I would have gone out of business several times by now!”

Palachuk will start each conference day with a presentation of the “theme of the day” and then provide a discussion of some standard operating procedures related to the theme of the day. The June 28th theme – consistency – will tie together presentations by six speakers, including business coaches and IT community leaders.

Palachuk is a prolific blogger and is well known for his SOP Friday series at smallbizthoughts.com. The SOP Friday series picks one topic each week and explores the standard operating procedures that technology consultants might adopt.

The June 28th agenda includes IT coach Josh Peterson and community builder Arlin Sorensen. Peterson is a business coach for IT consultants and is the COO of FusionTek, a Managed Services Provider based in Seattle, WA. FusionTek is committed to proving that a professional sales team can make all the difference in our industry. Sorensen is the founder and CEO of both Heartland Technology Solutions and the HTG Peer Groups. Heartland Technology Solutions has seven offices in five states (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma) and more than 75 employees. HTG is now comprised of 270 member companies throughout the U.S., Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

“We want to help computer consultants to be better business people, with a vision for the future and strategies for success,” said Palachuk. “That’s why we named the conference Managing for Success 2012,” he said. “Conference sessions will cover managing a business, marketing a business, creating standard operating procedures, building a strong team, and even buying up your competition.”

The conference is “virtual” (online only) and will run 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM each day on June 26-28, 2012. Attendees can choose to listen live or also have access to the recorded sessions. In all, the conference will broadcast eighteen hours of programming in three days. Primary sponsors of the SMB Online Conference include ConnectWise and LabTech Software.

The online format is new for this kind of conference, says Palachuk. “We’re well into the fourth year of a recession and the large national I.T. conferences just haven’t had the turnout they used to. People have smaller budgets. Consulting companies are stretched thin. So an online conference saves time, travel, and money. It also means we don’t have to charge as much since we’re not paying for hotel meeting rooms and catering.”

To learn more about Managing for Success 2012, visit www.smbonlineconference.com.


About ConnectWise

Designed exclusively for the IT Channel, ConnectWise is the leading business management solution for service providers, MSPs, technology consultants, integrators, and developers. Today more than 62,000 IT professionals rely on ConnectWise to achieve greater accountability, operational efficiency and profitability. ConnectWise fully integrates CRM, sales, help desk ticket and tracking, project tracking, IT service management, SLAs, dispatch scheduling, mobile IT services, time and expenses into a singular IT management software to dramatically streamline IT companies. Over the last 29 years, ConnectWise has become the premier business operating system for IT solution providers. ConnectWise APIs are accessed by over 300 organizations, including ConnectWise partners and industry leaders of the IT Nation. For more information visit www.ConnectWise.com or call 800-671-6898.


About LabTech Software

LabTech is the only Managed Service tool for remote monitoring, management, (RMM) and automation developed by a Managed Service Provider (MSP) for MSPs. Our affordable, agent-based solution so closely emulates what technicians do in the field that techs can provide the same support remotely. Because we understand how to manage a growing MSP business, we make it easier to procure their software and allow partners to add agents as they grow. For more information please visit www.LabTechSoftware.com or call 877-522-8323.


About Small Biz Thoughts

Small Biz Thoughts is the training and content division of Great Little Book Publishing Co., Inc. Their programs are geared specifically for the Managed Service Provider and SMB Consultant communities. Their focus on future trends has helped them to build a reputation as a trusted advisor to fans and friends around the world. For more information, visit www.smallbizthoughts.com.


Media Contact:
Karl W. Palachuk
916-248-4301
sales@smallbizthoughts.com

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Robin Robins, Lou Ferrigno, and the Power of Consistency

One of the reasons I love Robin Robins is that she brings a huge amount of New and Different content into the SMB space. A great example came across the wire this morning.

Robin sent me a note, inviting me to view a 25 minute videco of Lou Ferrigno's presentation at Robin's Big Event this year. All I ever knew about Ferrigno before is that he played the Incredible Hulk and he was a body builder.

I didn't know that he has been 80% deaf since he was a baby. I didn't know the challenges he overcame to get where he is.

This is a short little video, but if you are in the mood for a powerful message on passion, personal power, and consistency, visit

http://www.technologymarketingminute.com

You don't have to opt-in and there's nothing for sale.

Thanks to Robin for posting this. Her consistency has helped many IT consultants improve their consistency!

:-)



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Bundling Cloud and Managed Services is the Road to Wealth for Small IT Shops


We just put out a major press release about the SMB Online Conference in June. On day two, long-time business coach and managed services pioneer Matt Makowicz will talk about sales strategies for success in the current economic climate.

We are extremely pleased to have Matt presenting. His books are extremely popular and are great educational tools for anyone who wants to step up to the next level.

For information on this topic, and the rest of the agenda, please visit www.smbonlineconference.com.

Here's that press release:

- - - - -

Bundling Cloud and Managed Services is the Road to Wealth for Small IT Shops


Technology author Karl Palachuk announced that IT Business Coach Matt Makowicz will give a keynote address at the first major Online Conference for Small Business IT Consultants, Managing for Success 2012, hosted by Small Biz Thoughts. His message will be a roadmap to success for small IT companies.


Sacramento, CA, May 29, 2012 – Technology author Karl Palachuk announced that IT Business Coach Matt Makowicz will give a keynote address at the first major Online Conference for Small Business IT Consultants, Managing for Success 2012, hosted by Small Biz Thoughts. His message will be a roadmap to success for small IT companies

Managing for Success 2012 will be held “online” June 26-28, 2012 and features eighteen hours of training for IT professionals, computer consultants, and managed service providers who focus on the Small and Medium Business market.

Makowicz has nearly 20 years sales experience and has personally managed over 200 salespeople. He currently owns Ambition Mission, Inc, a firm dedicated to the growth of small business focused IT companies, and VAR TREK, a firm focused upon providing resources to the VAR and vendor community within the SMB IT Channel.

Makowicz is the author of three books: A Guide to SELLING Managed Services; A Guide to MARKETING Managed Services; and A Guide to BUILDING a SALES TEAM.

As a long-time sales trainer and business coach, Makowicz consults IT firms with respect to growth, building a sales team, mergers & acquisitions, selling "the cloud," and transitioning to managed services.

“Many small IT guys are worried about what cloud services will do to their industry, says Makowicz. “Instead, small IT shops need to recognize the amazing opportunities to flourish in the emerging market. There is more opportunity for small technical consultants than we have enjoyed for the last fifteen years.”

Palachuk echoes that sentiment. “Matt was one of the earliest proponents of the Managed Services model now widely used by technical consultants worldwide,” he said. “He is a true leader and visionary. We are honored to have him join our amazing line-up of speakers.”

Other conference speakers include Ken Thoreson and George Sierchio. Thoreson is a well-known sales management consultant, recently named as one of the Top 50 Sales and Marketing Influencers of the Year for 2012 by Top Sales World. Sierchio is an entrepreneurial veteran who has owned and operated several successful services and consulting businesses in the last twenty years.

The conference is “virtual” (online only) and will run 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM each day on June 26-28, 2012. Attendees can choose to listen live or also have access to the recorded sessions. In all, the conference will broadcast eighteen hours of programming in three days. Primary sponsors of the SMB Online Conference include Autotask Corporation.

The online format is new for this kind of conference, says Palachuk. “We’re well into the fourth year of a recession and the large national I.T. conferences just haven’t had the turnout they used to. People have smaller budgets. Consulting companies are stretched thin. So an online conference saves time, travel, and money. It also means we don’t have to charge as much since we’re not paying for hotel meeting rooms and catering.”

For more information about Ambition Mission, see www.AmbitionMission.com. For more information on VAR TREK, see www.VARTREK.tv.

To learn more about Managing for Success 2012, visit www.smbonlineconference.com.


About Autotask


Autotask Corporation provides the world's leading hosted IT business management software to streamline and optimize business processes for technology solution providers. Autotask is accessible from virtually any computing or mobile device connected to the Internet and features a world-class API that seamlessly integrates with the other systems and tools that providers rely on to run their businesses. For more information on Autotask Corporation, visit www.autotask.com.


About Small Biz Thoughts


Small Biz Thoughts is the training and content division of Great Little Book Publishing Co., Inc. Their programs are geared specifically for the Managed Service Provider and SMB Consultant communities. Their focus on future trends has helped them to build a reputation as a trusted advisor to fans and friends around the world. For more information, visit www.smallbizthoughts.com.


Media Contact:
Karl W. Palachuk
916-248-4301
sales@smallbizthoughts.com

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Means . . . It's Sales Time!


I don't have any pillow cases or used cars to sell. But I do have . . .

Everything at SMBBooks.com!

Abe Lincoln says
you should spend your money
on Memorial Day.

One Day Only. May 28th.

Go to www.smbbooks.com and save 25% right now on everything. Enter the code Memo2012.

This code will work on top of any other discounts. That means you can combine the automatic discounts on the site plus any other code you might have from ASCII, SMBTN, or elsewhere.

This is a perfect time to save big on the NEW Network Migration Workbook - 2nd Edition and the SMB Online Conference.

For example:

- Add Network Migration Workbook =$249.95

- Add SMB Online Conference (Live + Recordings) = $299

- Automatic Discount = $82.34

- Your total = $466.61

- Enter Code Memo2012: Your New Total = $329.37


That gets you the $250 Big Book plus the $399 version of the SMB Online Conference . . . all for less that $330 !

Please browse all of the Books, Audio Programs, Seminars, and Sale items at SMB Books. Then save an extra 25% today.

http://www.smbbooks.com

:-)

Friday, May 25, 2012

SOP Friday: Guide to A Service Call

There are three stages to any service call. A service call means that a technician goes to a client's office to perform work, as opposed to connecting remotely to client systems. The three stages are pretty obvious: Before the visit, during the visit, and after the visit.


1. Preparation

1.1. Company Materials, Parts, and Tools. Each technician needs to have certain supplies and tools to be able to perform their daily work tasks. We'll talk about the "Scary box" of supplies in a few weeks. For now, just know that you need to make sure that each technician has what is needed to be successful. The goal is to never be on site without something you should always have on hand.

1.2. Personal preparation. Opinions vary on this, but I haven't changed my tune in 20 years. I believe computer technicians should be dressed professionally. That means a shirt with a collar. No jeans. Decent shoes. You should look like someone who is worth $150/hour if you want to get paid $150/hour. If you look like you work out of your trunk and charge $40/hour, then expect to get paid $40/hour.

1.3. Technical preparation. If you are going to send someone onsite, you should try to have that person work as many tickets as possible while there. There are a lot of little things that can be knocked out much faster in person than over a remote connection - especially with slow machines or slow internet connections.

Of course technicans should be aware of working in real time, working tickets from highest to lowest priority (and oldest to newest). But there are important exceptions to these. If a tech is going onsite, he should first look at the service board and print out a list of all open service requests for that client. Then figure out how many he can knock out in the time allotted for the visit. If he can knock out five small tickets in an hour, that can make a big difference.

1.4. Supplies. Think ahead and obtain or arrange to have everything you might need on site. This includes wireless access to the internet if the job is to fix or troubleshoot a problem with the internet connection. It also includes tools and any hardware, software, or supplies that need to be delivered.


2. At the client's Office

2.1 Parking. Please park in Visitor Guest parking as designated.  Try not to take spaces close to the building out of courtesy to the clients. Always park in a for-pay parking lot that gives a receipt rather than on street with metered parking. The company pays for all parking fees while on the clock. The company does NOT pay for in and out fees if you choose to go somewhere for lunch other than what is available. The company does not pay for parking tickets.

2.2. On Site Routine

Follow the Company guidelines for phone etiquette. In particular, do not use your phone for anything other than to talk to another company technician or third party tech support. That means no texting, no email, no phone calls. This is the client's time.

Follow the Company guidelines for Email Etiquette. Again, unless it's related to solving this client's immediate issues, don't worry about email until you are done with this visit.

Check in with the client contact when you arrive, if possible.

Always work from an SR.  If someone has a "new" issue with no service request, create one, get it prioritized, and go on.

Follow the Company procedures for Service Request escalation. If you work on any task for more than the allotted time (60 minutes) you must call another technician or your supervisor. Stop, if you are not making progress, and get another set of eyes.

We have an on-site minimum of 1 hour so:
o Never leave the client's office without checking with the client contact to see if there are other things they need done.
o If they have nothing pressing then review and work on any open SRs.
o Attempt to put in the remaining time performing some desired and useful work either on the Server(s), workstation or at a minimum the Network Documentation Binder.

3. After the Visit.

Never be in a hurry to get out of the office.

Before you leave, talk with the Client Contact and convey the status what you did and all outstanding issues.

Make a final round check with all users especially those who had issues to be resolved.

If required, create Service Requests for all unresolved issues.

At all times, and with every service request you touch, you must keep the PSA (Autotask or ConnectWise) up to date. You must work in real time. In addition to keeping the board neat and orderly, this means less clean up at the end of the day. Do not leave the site until the PSA is completely up to date for your visit and all items you touched. This includes:
o Time
o Travel Time
o Mileage
o Expenses (if possible)
o Detailed work documentation including Internal Analysis notes.
o Product delivered to the client.  Billable or Not.

Remember: All work must be done on a service ticket. So there is no "shoulder tap" support onsite. If the client wants to add a task, they need to enter a service request. Or the tech needs to create it. But he cannot do the work before the ticket is created. Period. No exceptions. Absolutely.


Comments

Please note that this process brings together many things we have discussed. Obviously, the technician has to know about the PSA procedures, priorities, etiquette, and more.

Following this process consistently has many advantages. It gives the client a reliable, predictable, and positive experience. It keeps the board clean because the tech is always working in real time. It cleans out a few lower-priority tickets simply because you're on site.

And to be honest, this process allows technicians with fewer social skills to still connect with the client and provide a personal service.


Your Comments Welcome.

- - - - -

About this Series
SOP Friday - or Standard Operating System Friday - is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.

Find out more about the series, and view the complete "table of contents" for SOP Friday at http://www.smallbizthoughts.com/events/SOPFriday.html.

- - - - -
Next week's topic: Service Manager Roles and Responsibilities

:-)

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Only the Excellent Will Survive IT Challenges to Come


We just put out a major press release about the SMB Online Conference in June. On day two, I will give an introductoin and overview that includes a pretty stark message: You need to be excellent to survive.

To be honest the day of reckoning is at hand for many IT consultants. We've been warned for years that pieces of this business will become a commodity. And when that happens, you better either be the clear leader or in a different part of the business. There is no money to be made as "just another computer consultant."

How will you be excellent in the years ahead?

For information on this topic, and the rest of the agenda, please visit www.smbonlineconference.com.

Here's that press release:

- - - - -

Only the Excellent Will Survive IT Challenges to Come



Sacramento, CA, May 23, 2012 – Technology author Karl Palachuk will address the marketing and sales tactics needed by IT consulting companies in his June 27th keynote address at the first major Online Conference for Small Business IT Consultants, Managing for Success 2012. His topic is Only the Excellent Will Survive.

Karl W. Palachuk
Managing for Success 2012 will be held “online” June 26-28, 2012 and features eighteen hours of training for IT professionals, computer consultants, and managed service providers who focus on the Small and Medium Business market. Palachuk will start each conference day with a presentation of the “theme of the day” and then provide a discussion of some standard operating procedures related to the theme.

Palachuk was recently named as one of the 150 most influence people in the small and medium business (SMB) IT consulting business. This is the second year in a row he has held this distinction. He has also received a number of other honors, including MSP Mentor’s “Top 250” list of experts in the field of managed services four years in a row.

Palachuk is a prolific blogger and is well known for his SOP Friday series at smallbizthoughts.com. The SOP Friday series picks one topic each week and explores the standard operating procedures that technology consultants might adopt. See www.sopfriday.com.

He is best known as the author of several books targeted at the small business IT consultant. These include Managed Services in a Month, Service Agreements for SMB Consultants, and The Network Migration Workbook – now in its second edition.

The overall theme for the first day is “Organize or Die.” Palachuk hopes to use that the stark message will motivate IT business owners to take an honest look about how they will succeed in the years ahead. The second day’s theme – “Only the Excellent will Survive” – is about taking sales and marketing strategies to a new level as the recession drags on.

“We have an amazing line-up of speakers on day two,” said Palachuk, “Every one of them is a super-star. Six hours of rock solid information for IT consultants that are looking to take their businesses to the next level.”

The June 27th agenda includes business author Stephanie Chandler and tactical execution expert Patrick Schwerdtfeger, two nationally renowned experts on marketing for small businesses.

“We want to help computer consultants to be better business people, with a vision for the future and strategies for success,” said Palachuk. “That’s why we named the conference Managing for Success 2012,” he said. “Conference sessions will cover managing a business, marketing a business, creating standard operating procedures, building a strong team, and even buying up your competition.”

Other conference speakers include Ken Thoreson and George Sierchio. Thoreson is a well-known sales management consultant, recently named as one of the Top 50 Sales and Marketing Influencers of the Year for 2012 by Top Sales World. Sierchio is an entrepreneurial veteran who has owned and operated several successful services and consulting businesses in the last twenty years.

The conference is “virtual” (online only) and will run 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM each day on June 26-28, 2012. Attendees can choose to listen live or also have access to the recorded sessions. In all, the conference will broadcast eighteen hours of programming in three days. Primary sponsors of the SMB Online Conference include ConnectWise and LabTech Software.

The online format is new for this kind of conference, says Palachuk. “We’re well into the fourth year of a recession and the large national I.T. conferences just haven’t had the turnout they used to. People have smaller budgets. Consulting companies are stretched thin. So an online conference saves time, travel, and money. It also means we don’t have to charge as much since we’re not paying for hotel meeting rooms and catering.”

To learn more about Managing for Success 2012, visit www.smbonlineconference.com.


About ConnectWise

Designed exclusively for the IT Channel, ConnectWise is the leading business management solution for service providers, MSPs, technology consultants, integrators, and developers. Today more than 62,000 IT professionals rely on ConnectWise to achieve greater accountability, operational efficiency and profitability. ConnectWise fully integrates CRM, sales, help desk ticket and tracking, project tracking, IT service management, SLAs, dispatch scheduling, mobile IT services, time and expenses into a singular IT management software to dramatically streamline IT companies. Over the last 29 years, ConnectWise has become the premier business operating system for IT solution providers. ConnectWise APIs are accessed by over 300 organizations, including ConnectWise partners and industry leaders of the IT Nation. For more information visit www.ConnectWise.com or call 800-671-6898.


About LabTech Software

LabTech is the only Managed Service tool for remote monitoring, management, (RMM) and automation developed by a Managed Service Provider (MSP) for MSPs. Our affordable, agent-based solution so closely emulates what technicians do in the field that techs can provide the same support remotely. Because we understand how to manage a growing MSP business, we make it easier to procure their software and allow partners to add agents as they grow. For more information please visit www.LabTechSoftware.com or call 877-522-8323.


About Small Biz Thoughts

Small Biz Thoughts is the training and content division of Great Little Book Publishing Co., Inc. Their programs are geared specifically for the Managed Service Provider and SMB Consultant communities. Their focus on future trends has helped them to build a reputation as a trusted advisor to fans and friends around the world. For more information, visit www.smallbizthoughts.com.


Media Contact:
Karl W. Palachuk
916-248-4301
sales@smallbizthoughts.com

Monday, May 21, 2012

IPv5, IE10, and Microsoft Bob


If you're not a nerd, keep browsing. The entire analogy in this blog post won't make sense. Fair warning.

We all know and love IPv4. It's the Internet Protocol we grew up with. It's been the backbone of inter-networking since ARPANET standardized it in RFCs in 1979-1981 and BSD 4.2 Unix made the source code and standards for TCP/IP public domain in 1983.

And most of us are aware of the basics of IPv6, even if we haven't fully implemented it. We've been told it's coming for fifteen years, so we're used to ignoring the advice to learn it.

So . . . where's IPv5? Oh, it's out there. It's little known and less used. But it does exist.

Basically, when it was time to create a "Next Generation" of internet protocal (IPng) work was started on creating, standardizing, and documenting the next version. Before it could have an official designation, IPv5 was already given to a specific transmission process called Internet Stream Protocol (commonly known as ST, ST+, or ST2). So IPng became IPv6.

Anyway, IPv5 does exist. Basically no one uses it, and we've moved on to something that will be widely used.

Microsoft take note. Internet Explorer 10 will suffer the same fate. It's not a completely "horrible" browser. But every other browser out there is better.

My assumption is that engineers were told to come up with something so completely different that no one would recognize it and it would stand on its own as a thing of beauty. Well, you certainly can't recognize it as a useful tool. No borders: I can live with that. No menus: Ummmm. No status bar? Opens strange programs and program hooks within the O.S., sometimes when you don't expect it. Never closes completely. If it were any other program, you might think it's a virus. Very disorienting, overall.

Grandma won't have any idea how to use it. Technicians will just feel alienated. And business people will be disoriented.

Now, all of that is fine. It's a crappy version. Put out the next version as soon as possible. Move on, right?

Wrong. In its current incarnation, Windows 8 is a bit too integrated with the IE browser. For example, when you click on something from within another program or file, the ONLY option is to open the link in IE 10. This is true - currently - no matter what your default browser is. For example, if I send you a PDF with a link and you have Chrome set as your default browser, links within that PDF document will open in IE 10. Same for links in email.

I have finally come to realize that 90% of what I don't like about Windows 8 is really what I don't like about IE 10.

I have standardized on the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser since 1998. In the last few years I have had added another browser because some web sites don't work properly with IE (and some work only with IE, so I have to have two browsers).

But with Windows 8 (that is, IE 10), I have finally changed my default browser to Chrome. My backup browser is Firefox. I am still forced into IE 10 a lot more than I want to be. Whenever it happens, I just get out as soon as I can.

I am sure that the next version of IE is under development. These things take time and that's the way things go. My suspicion is that IE 11 will get an extra boost of development funds - or that IE 10 will get a major UI face lift - before Windows 8 is released.

The trend for browsers to ignore agreed-upon standards and each do whatever they want (and they are all guilty of this) is bad for the consumer. I have to use THIS browser with my bank, THAT browser with the merchant service, and the OTHER browser for my primary supplier. Grrrrr.

It's a huge gamble to have the browser so tightly integrated into the operation system that you literally can't escape it. But it's a huge mistake to take that strategy with a browser that's so unknown and uncomfortable to most users. Taking such a huge risk with a browser and then integrating it in the O.S. will mean big, big trouble for Windows 8.

To be honest, I've never understood the appeal of the Chrome browser. It's good. It's fast. It's easy to configure. But it's a browser. It's 95% just like IE 9 or Firefox 12. With IE 10, the appeal of Chrome is easier to see. Whatever else it is, it's NOT IE 10!

- - - - -

I was going to post this today . . . then Statcounter announced that Chrome had overtaken Intenet Explorer as the most popular browser last week (32.76% to 31.94%). Other sources report IE still has more than half the market (see http://idealab.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/05/is-google-chrome-now-the-worlds-most-popular-browser.php).

All sources show a downward trend for IE. Believe me, IE 10 will make that drop like a rock.

Having been involved with some product advisory panels at Microsoft, I know they do an incredible amount of research and study with real human beings before this stuff gets released. So I am confused. How can IE 10 be so bad?

Whether it gets released and not used, or gets retooled and never released, the current incarnation of IE 10 will soon be on the shelf with Microsoft Bob.

:-)


Friday, May 18, 2012

SOP Friday: Technician Time Management Guidelines

This procedure covers the standard "routine" for a technician. Before you get into any details, please note one critically important thing: The point of all of this process is to

Avoid being Interrupt Drive.

By "interrupt driven" I simply mean that you allow yourself to be interrupted and therefore end up doing whatever interrupted you most recently. This is so important that I've addressed it in several books and many times in my blog. It's a simple phrase and a very difficult concept to implement. Just like exercise, if you get out of the habit of non-interruption for a few days, it can take some work to get back on track.

We allow ourselves to be interrupted by the telephone. How often is the telephone call more important than what you were doing? 2% of the time? We allow Outlook to pop up and beg for our attention. Then we have to go back to work. We let instant messengers from three different channels pop up and grab our attention. We check Facebook, Twitter, and our cell phones non-stop as if the world might actually end and we'd miss it.

This process does not end interruptions. But it does provide a framework for getting things done based on priorities rather than "most recent interruption."

Flowchart of the Technician's Day
The Technician’s Day

The Technician’s Day is a routine and it is expected that all technicians will follow it very closely. This routine is simply a continuously looping process of subroutines.  After each numbered subroutine, begin at the top of the list again.  For example, if you have managed to complete the subroutine "Work P2 Tickets" you go back to the top and work your way through the subroutines in order. See the diagram.

Don't let the diagram confuse you.
The basic process is this:

1) Check the time. Remember that scheduled work always takes precedence over "regular" priority-based service tickets.

2) Check email to process. You have two options here. You can have technicians check email every time they loop through, or limit it to a few times per day. For example, if the time is 8 AM, 10 AM, 1 PM, or 3 PM, then check email. Technicians do not need to hang out in email all day. Neither does anyone else, really.

3) Check for the highest priority items that you can work on. You cycle through these in the following order: P1 Tickets, High Priority Activities, P2 Tickets, Medium Priority Activities, P3 Tickets, Low Priority Activities, and P4 Tickets.

If you are very busy, it is unlikely that a technician will clear out all P1, P2, P3, and P4 tickets. If so, then you move onto

4) Other things that need to be done. This includes studying for exams, administrative work, cleaning up the office. Whatever needs to be done.

Since the entire process really amounts to beginning the day, working everything in priority order, and ending the day, it is easy to learn. Remember, one of our mantras is that nothing should ever be lost, dropped, or forgotten. That's why it is critical that everything be in your PSA system (Autotask, ConnectWise, or whatever). Once it's in the system, and every technician is cycling through this process, you will eventually work every ticket and every task.

The Warm Up

There is a bit of process that takes place before the technician starts the day. Because a service environment is always changing, it is reasonable to expect that a technician will check email and the PSA in the morning before heading into work (or perhaps the evening before).

The service manager might want the technician to show up at a client's office first thing in the morning. Or perhaps pick up supplies. Or whatever. The main thing you want to avoid is having the technician show up at the office and discover that he should be at a client's office instead.

In our project management, we sometimes use the "golden hour" of 7:00 AM to 8:00 AM to accomplish tasks before clients show up for work. If your technician is expected to be at a client's office (or working remote) at 7:00 AM, they need to know this before showing up for work at 8:00 AM!

Checking the service board and this bit of email are trivial tasks. They amount to "checking your work schedule" and are not paid time. Technicians are NOT expected to do anything else with the service board at this time. Technicians are NOT expected to process all of their email at this time. The only thing they need to do is figure out where to be to start the day.

Not Every Tech Can Work Every Ticket

If you have more than one technician, then you know that not every technician can work every ticket. This might be because of knowledge, skill, client relations, or whatever. In addition, some tickets will be assigned to specific technicians. So, if a tech looks at a ticket and sees that it is assigned to someone else, he should move on to the next ticket.

It is not uncommon that you will have a scenario such as this: Tom shows up for work and starts the process. He checks email and then looks at tickets. There are no P1 tickets and no high priority tasks (this is very common). He checks P2 tickets. There are five. One is assigned to Bob, one is assigned to Mike. One is waiting for client feedback. One is scheduled for Friday.

At this point, there is only one P2 ticket that Tom can work. When Tom reviews the notes, he might discover that it's a system he doesn't understand, or that it has escalated to a level beyond what he is able to do. That's fine. He moves on to Medium Priority tasks (internal "to do" items), and then on to P3 tickets.

There are two key things to remember here. First, each technician is expected to do what he can to move each ticket forward as much as possible. Part of the measure of a successful day is moving tickets through the system.

Second, you want to avoid (at all costs) the scenario in which a technician opens a ticket, looks through the notes, decides he can't make progress, logs time, and then logs out. Really good notes, and direction from the Service Manager go a long way to avoiding this scenario. Use the code WITNS (what is the next step) to flag the obvious next step. If the next step is to call tech support, then your technician should not begin this work fifteen minutes before the end of the day. If the next step is to deliver hardware on site, the tech can't work that from home.

Don't let techs log useless time against tickets. A good process will keep them from this is the first place.

A key piece of the service manager's job is to "massage" the service board. To the extent that it makes everything run more smoothly, he should also keep the technicians up to speed about what they should be doing. The formal process is a framework for success. But a little human wisdom and common sense go a long ways. Most of the time, most technicians will be working on P3 and P4 tickets, and low priority tasks. In other words, these are not time-sensitive issues. So there is some flexibility.

For example, if a specific program needs an update across several clients, you might have a technician work all of these at P3 tickets in one sitting. The tech will be more efficient, and you'll know that the issue has been handled. The formal process has no way of "knowing" that kind of information. But people can handle this very easily!


Implementation

This procedure takes a little time to implement. First, you need to create a flow chart similar to the one posted here. It needs to make sense for your company, so make adjustments as needed. Next, you need to write up the process and how it affects technicians. Finally, you need to train the technicians and then make sure everyone is working the system.

It will take a little effort for the service manager to monitor that everyone is working from highest priority to lowest priority. It means checking in with them, watching the tickets they complete, and reminding everyone of the process. You might even print up your flow chart and have everyone post it at their workstation.

Another one of our mantras is that we work from highest priority to lowest, from oldest to newest. This process is targeted at achieving exactly that goal. If that's your goal, then this is a good place to start.

Your Comments Welcome.

- - - - -

Related articles:

SOP Friday: Schedules and Time lines for Running Your Company


SOP Friday: Time Tracking for Employees


SOP Friday: Setting Job Priorities


SOP Friday: Working in Real Time

SOP Friday: Managing Internal Administrative Tasks


- - - - -

About this Series

SOP Friday - or Standard Operating System Friday - is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business. Find out more about the series, and view the complete "table of contents" for SOP Friday at http://www.smallbizthoughts.com/events/SOPFriday.html.

- - - - -

Next week's topic: Guide to a Service Call

:-)





Check Out the #1 ranked Managed Services book at Amazon:

Managed Services in A Month
by Karl W. Palachuk

Buy it as a printed book, Audio book, or ebook!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Small IT Companies Are Growing Through Mergers and Acquisitions

We just put out a major press release about the SMB Online Conference - June 26-28. George Sierchio, a very well respected coach in the SMB space, will talk about Mergers and Acquisitions. In fact, he'll discuss how M&A can be a strategy for growth -- even if you're the seller!

For information on George's presentation and the rest of the agenda, please visit www.smbonlineconference.com.

Here's that press release:

- - - - -


Sacramento, CA, May 16, 2012 - Technology author Karl Palachuk announced that long-time IT Coach George Sierchio will be a featured speaker at the first major Online Conference for Small Business IT Consultants, Managing for Success 2012 in June, hosted by Small Biz Thoughts. His topic is "M&A in the IT Channel: Growth by Acquisition as a Strategy for Buyers and Sellers Alike."

Managing for Success 2012 will be held "online" June 26-28, 2012 and features eighteen hours of training for IT professionals, computer consultants, and managed service providers who focus on the Small and Medium Business market.

Sierchio is an entrepreneurial veteran who has owned and operated several successful services and consulting businesses in the last twenty years. This includes his work as a consultant and coach to owners of IT companies, providing guidance in profitability, overall growth and mergers and acquisitions activities.

"This is a hot topic right now," said Palachuk. "And it's been ignored by a lot of the media in the IT Channel. This will be one of our hottest presentations."

"Everyone knows that big companies grow through mergers and acquisitions," said Sierchio, "But a lot of business owners don't realize that this is a viable growth strategy for small and medium companies as well. It's obvious that being on the buy side in M&A is a growth strategy, but being on the sell side is also a strategy for growth and stabilization - not just a means to an exit plan."

Other conference speakers include Ken Thoreson and Jeannine Edwards. Thoreson is a well-known sales management consultant, recently named as one of the Top 50 Sales and Marketing Influencers of the Year for 2012 by Top Sales World. See www.topsalesworld.com/topInfluencers.php for more information. Thoreson is the president of Acumen Management Group. For more information, visit www.YourSalesManagementGuru.com.

Edwards is the Director of ConnectWise and LabTech Communities and will be speaking on how small IT companies can dramatically increase their cloud services revenue. Edwards has more than twelve years of diversified Business-to-Business development experience in the technology industry. She has become a well-known figure in the IT Solution Provider channel.

"We are so glad to have speakers like George Sierchio at this conference," said Palachuk. "We have managed to get sixteen world-class speakers in all. As a result, we have a lot of great topics that just aren't being discussed at other conferences. George's presentation is top on that list."

The conference is "virtual" (online only) and will run 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM each day on June 26-28, 2012. Attendees can choose to listen live or also have access to the recorded sessions. In all, the conference will broadcast eighteen hours of programming in three days. Primary sponsors of the SMB Online Conference include Autotask Corporation, the world's leading hosted IT business management software to streamline and optimize business processes for technology solution providers.

To learn more about Managing for Success 2012, visit www.smbonlineconference.com.


About Autotask

Autotask Corporation provides the world's leading hosted IT business management software to streamline and optimize business processes for technology solution providers. Autotask is accessible from virtually any computing or mobile device connected to the Internet and features a world-class API that seamlessly integrates with the other systems and tools that providers rely on to run their businesses. For more information on Autotask Corporation, visit www.autotask.com.


About Small Biz Thoughts

Small Biz Thoughts is the training and content division of Great Little Book Publishing Co., Inc. Their programs are geared specifically for the Managed Service Provider and SMB Consultant communities. Their focus on future trends has helped them to build a reputation as a trusted advisor to fans and friends around the world. For more information, visit www.smallbizthoughts.com.


Media Contact:
Karl W. Palachuk
916-248-4301
sales@smallbizthoughts.com

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Designing Successful Cloud Service Offerings With Microsoft SBS Essentials

Join me May 23rd for a free webinar: Designing Successful Cloud Service Offerings With Microsoft SBS Essentials.

Looking for a great combination of tools and practices for moving your smallest clients to The Cloud?

You've heard of SBS Essentials - But how do you build a business model around selling it with Cloud Services? And where does Managed Services fit in the picture?

Join me and Len DiCostanzo (Autotask SVP Community & Business Development) for a very practical and actionable look at making SBS Essentials a key part of your cloud offering. I'll give a bit of a "quick start guide" that will get you moving in the right direction immediately.

And then we'll talk about integrating that Cloud+SBS Essentials with Managed Services.

Register and get a big step up on the practical application of cloud services and managed services in the very-small client environment.

  • What is SBS Essentials and how does it fit in your solution stack?
  • Which cloud offerings make the most sense for getting started?
  • How does The Cloud work with Managed Services?
  • How can Autotask help autotmate and scale service delivery and drive revenue and profitability?
Find out more and Register free.

:-)

Friday, May 11, 2012

SOP Friday: Service Board Backlog Management

With luck, you are very busy with lots of service requests. If not, I hope you will be soon!
When you have a busy service board, it is important to make sure that you don't lose something "between the cracks." Here's a process to take care of that and then attack any boacklog that may exist. Please note: A backlog is not bad! It's better to know that all your techs are busy than to have pockets of inactivity.

This process is to be completed by the Tech Support Manager/Service Manager or the Service Coordinator. It should be somebody that can make decisions to re-allocate resources to get tickets un-stuck and moving toward completion.

The Service Board needs constant attention, but the complete process of prioritizing, assigning and scheduling resources really needs to be done at most two or three times a week. Early Monday AM is a must and toward the end of the week is good to help bring the next week into focus. See Massaging the Service Board.

Since all SR’s are to be acknowledged within a set time of creation during business hours, that process is at the top of the to-do list.

Note: When new service requests enter the system (created by clients or your technicians), you need to always go through the process described in the SOP Friday article "Service Ticket Updates."

Basically, the goal is that that service coordinator - and everyone who touches the ticket - needs to verify the ticket title, priority, work type, service agreement, etc. Here's the result of that process: Every time you touch an SR, you update as many fields as possible. So, the next time you refine your search in an attempt to reveal SRs needing attention, you actually find fewer tickets that need attention.

What you'll see in a minute is that we use a variety of sorting methods to view all the tickets. The reason for reviewing the entire list of SRs after changing the sort order is to be sure that you have a complete understanding of the overall workload on your company and the needs of the clients. If the list is viewed in several different ways this will become apparent.

While reviewing SRs, request a Status update from the assigned tech(s) on any SR that is believed to either be in the wrong status, incomplete, or has incorrect information.

Don't Be Overwhelmed

If you don't regularly massage your service board or review tickets, you might have a huge number of tickets that need to be cleaned up. If you have totally neglected your service board, it might take you a whole business day to go through this the first time. But four days later, it will be much cleaner and easier.

The following Monday, this process will actually be pretty fast. The is due in large part to the fact that you've now touched every ticket in the system at least once in the previous seven days and you know which ticket are correct and don't need to be evaluated again.

The first time you go through this, be sure to read each step very carefully and do exactly what it says. After you've gone through the process 3-4 times, you'll get by with just a checklist that says
- Acknowlege New Tickets
- Review Completed Tickets
- Sort by Priority
- Sort by Age
- Sort by Hours
- Sort by Status
- Schedule Work

Eventually, this will become second nature, you will have a very good handle on your board, and it will take less than half an hour.

Note also that the first time you go through this process, you will move many tickets to "Closed" or "Completed" status. You'll re-prioritize a lot of tickets. You will probably combined some tickets into one. And you'll set reasonable time budgets for all tickets.

That will be a huge relief and greatly diminish your perceived backlog. Through this process, you'll learn about your PSA system, how tickets flow through your system, and what you need your technicians to do better.

Of course you will fine-tune this process based on your ticket statuses and procedures. This is a place to start.

Tackling the Ticket Backlog

Step One: Open the Service Board and review the Primary Sort. Our Service Board is set up with a default sort of "By Status." With this, you can determine which status you want first, second, third, etc. We have the system put "New" status on the top, followed by:

- Acknowledged
- Assigned
- Schedule This
- Scheduled
- In Progress
- Waiting . . . (Results, materials, customer, vendor)
- Customer Reply
- On Hold
- Completed

Step Two: Acknowledge each New Service Request as detailed in the Acknowledging New SRs procedure.

Step Three: Review all SRs in the Completed Status. Tune up these SRs as follows:
- Verify that everything is in order and update as necessary
- Review the time entries and other pertinent information
- Pay close attention to all time entries and the Service Agreement applied to the ticket. These determine whether the work will be billed or not.
- Change the status to Completed when all fields and notes have been updated

Step Four: Sort the Board by Priority (Highest to Lowest) and review the entire list of SRs.
- Review the entire list to verify correct priority
- Pay close attention to the age of high priority SRs and why they are getting older
- Update other fields as necessary

Step Five: Sort the Board by Age and review the entire list of SRs.
- On Mondays (or the first day of the week) pay close attention to SRs that are 0 to 3 days old as they have come in over the weekend and need to be addressed right away.
- Verify that any SR over 60 days old is at Priority 3. Update other fields as necessary.
- Verify that any SR over 90 days old is at Priority 2. Update other fields as necessary.

Step Six: Sort the Board by Budget Hours and review all SRs with a Budget of 0 hours remaining.
- Estimate and update the Budgeted Hours
- Update other fields as necessary
- Starting from the bottom of the list (largest budget hours) review all SRs that are over budget.
- Update other fields as necessary

Step Seven: Sort the Board by Status again and review all SRs in the following order. Scrutinize the status and update as necessary.
- In Progress - Verify the status is still valid and update as needed. Is it moving forward right now?
- Scheduled - Only items with a status of Scheduled that have a scheduled date in the past need to be reviewed. It is most important that if the schedule was missed or moved that it be re-scheduled immediately. If necessary, determine why the SR was not worked when scheduled.
- Acknowledged - These tickets need to be moved to Assigned, Scheduled, or some other status that will move them forward.
- On Hold - Only the Service Manager can place a ticket on hold. This basically means that no one should work on the ticket until further notice. If there are tickets on hold, determine whether this is still appropriate. For example, if you are waiting for a payment from the client, you might leave a ticket on hold.

Step Eight: Assign tickets to technicians and schedule work that needs to be done on a specific day or at a specific time.
- If status is Schedule This: Work from highest priority to lowest and from oldest to newest. It is the best practice to schedule the technician who is already assigned to the SR if the work is an ongoing issue that would not easily be passed from one technician to another.
- Sort the Board by Required Date. Verify that all tickets with a due date approaching are assigned to a technician so we don't miss the required target.

Forms
There are no specific forms for implementing this SOP. You should write up a brief checklist, based on what we've presented here. Everyone who might be called upon to go through this process should do it at least once with a supervisor before being left to do it on their own.

Your Comments Welcome.

- - - - -

About this Series

SOP Friday - or Standard Operating System Friday - is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.

Find out more about the series, and view the complete "table of contents" for SOP Friday at http://www.smallbizthoughts.com/events/SOPFriday.html.

Next week's topic: Technician Daily Time Management

:-)

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Amazon Web Services Hold Their First Partner Conference in November

Got a memo from Amazon Web Services: They're holding their first "customer and partner conference" in November. It looks much more technical than business oriented. The sessions appear to be on coding, languages, and development platforms rather than the business side of making the most out of the cloud.

No word on pricing yet, but here are the key dates:
  • Call for Presentations closes May 31, 2012
  • Speakers will be notified early June 2012
  • Registration opens June 2012

Here's the announcement:

- - - - -

Dear AWS Customer,

We are excited to announce our first global customer and partner conference, AWS re: Invent. This three-day conference is the largest gathering of the AWS community held November 27-29 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is an ideal opportunity for you and your team to learn how to get the most out of the AWS Cloud. Whether you are an experienced user or new to the Cloud, you will find the tools, content, and connections to help you be more successful, including more than 100+ sessions and technical workshops.

This conference is all about you, our customers, and we want you to be involved in making it exceptional. We want to hear your success stories, best practices, or lessons learned. The call for presentations is open until May 31, submit your presentation ideas.

At AWS re: Invent you will:

• Discover all the latest AWS services and how to use them for big data analytics, high performance computing, mobile development, enterprise IT applications, web applications and more.

• Find language-specific getting started sessions for new developers: AWS for PHP, Ruby, Python, Java and .Net.

• Attend advanced technical sessions to expand your skills in architecture, monitoring, configuration management, and performance optimization.

• Join the all-day Coding Challenge to compete for cool prizes and show off your coding skills.

• Hear stealth start-ups launch their businesses live in front of press, analysts, VCs and the AWS community in the start-up launch theater.

• Get your technical questions answered by AWS engineers and service teams. We look forward to seeing you at AWS re: Invent.

Find more information and sign up to be notified when registration opens at http://reinvent.awsevents.com/


Best regards,

The Amazon Web Services team


:-)

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

IT Consultants Poised to Get Rich with Cloud Services

We just put out a major press release about the SMB Online Conference - June 26-28. Jeannine Edwards - Director of ConnectWise and LabTech Communities and a well-known figure in the IT Solution Provider channel - will talk about how IT Consultants Poised to Get Rich with Cloud Services.

For information on Jeannine's topic, and the rest of the agenda, please visit www.smbonlineconference.com.

Here's that press release:

- - - - -

IT Consultants Poised to Get Rich with Cloud Services

Sacramento, CA, May 9, 2012 – Technology author Karl Palachuk announced that IT Community leader Jeannine Edwards will present a keynote speech at the first major Online Conference for Small Business IT Consultants, Managing for Success 2012 in June, hosted by Small Biz Thoughts. Her topic is how small IT consultants can make huge profits with cloud services.

Managing for Success 2012 will be held “online” June 26-28, 2012 and features eighteen hours of training for IT professionals, computer consultants, and managed service providers who focus on the Small and Medium Business market.

“We are extremely pleased to bring Jeannine to this conference. She has a long history in the channel and has been instrumental in developing educational programs for some of the most successful companies in our business,” said Palachuk.

Edwards is very optimistic for the average IT consultant. “Cloud profits don’t all have to go to the big cloud providers,” she said. “Small business IT consultants can triple their profits if they have the right strategies.”

As the Director of ConnectWise and LabTech Communities, Edwards leads a team charged with identifying and providing collaborative conduits for the powerful ConnectWise and LabTech communities, facilitating their ability to connect with each other and with the ConnectWise and LabTech leadership teams.

Edwards has more than twelve years of diversified Business-to-Business development experience in the technology industry. She has become a well-known figure in the IT Solution Provider channel. Her experience spans vendor program development, research analysis, two tier distribution, and partner profitability within the channel community. She has been recognized two years in a row on the CRN Power 100 Women of the Channel, named in the MSPmentor 250 List, and included in the SMB PC Magazine SMB150 Power Players.

Before joining ConnectWise, Edwards worked as a Senior Engagement Director for The Institute for Partner Education & Development (IPED), a division of Everything Channel. In this role, she assisted in growing the company's first professional services division by spearheading research, consulting, and training business development within vendor organizations such as Microsoft, Cisco, Tech Data, Ingram Micro and more. She also helped to conceive and launch IPED's signature Channel Elite Program, a yearlong MBA-like initiative for select Solution Providers that culminated in a two-day educational immersion event at Babson College in Massachusetts. One hundred of the industry's most progressive Solution Providers participated in the program.

Other conference speakers include Josh Peterson and Arlin Sorensen.  Peterson is a business coach for IT consultants and is the COO of FusionTek, a Managed Services Provider based in Seattle, WA. FusionTek is committed to proving that a professional sales team can make all the difference in our industry. Sorensen is the founder and CEO of both Heartland Technology Solutions and the HTG Peer Groups. Heartland Technology Solutions has seven offices in five states (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma) and more than 75 employees. HTG is now comprised of 270 member companies throughout the U.S., Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

“I love our line-up of speakers,” said Palachuk. “We have an amazing collection of professional speakers, trainers, and practitioners. With sixteen world-class speakers in all, this is an event that no IT consultant or VAR should miss!”

The conference is “virtual” (online only) and will run 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM each day on June 26-28, 2012. Attendees can choose to listen live or also have access to the recorded sessions. In all, the conference will broadcast eighteen hours of programming in three days. Primary sponsors of the SMB Online Conference include ConnectWise and LabTech Software.

The online format is new for this kind of conference, says Palachuk. “We’re well into the fourth year of a recession and the large national I.T. conferences just haven’t had the turnout they used to. People have smaller budgets. Consulting companies are stretched thin. So an online conference saves time, travel, and money. It also means we don’t have to charge as much since we’re not paying for hotel meeting rooms and catering.”

To learn more about Managing for Success 2012, visit www.smbonlineconference.com.

About ConnectWise

Designed exclusively for the IT Channel, ConnectWise is the leading business management solution for service providers, MSPs, technology consultants, integrators, and developers. Today more than 62,000 IT professionals rely on ConnectWise to achieve greater accountability, operational efficiency and profitability. ConnectWise fully integrates CRM, sales, help desk ticket and tracking, project tracking, IT service management, SLAs, dispatch scheduling, mobile IT services, time and expenses into a singular IT management software to dramatically streamline IT companies. Over the last 29 years, ConnectWise has become the premier business operating system for IT solution providers. ConnectWise APIs are accessed by over 300 organizations, including ConnectWise partners and industry leaders of the IT Nation. For more information visit www.ConnectWise.com or call 800-671-6898.

About LabTech Software

LabTech is the only Managed Service tool for remote monitoring, management, (RMM) and automation developed by a Managed Service Provider (MSP) for MSPs. Our affordable, agent-based solution so closely emulates what technicians do in the field that techs can provide the same support remotely. Because we understand how to manage a growing MSP business, we make it easier to procure their software and allow partners to add agents as they grow. For more information please visit www.LabTechSoftware.com or call 877-522-8323.

About Small Biz Thoughts

Small Biz Thoughts is the training and content division of Great Little Book Publishing Co., Inc. Their programs are geared specifically for the Managed Service Provider and SMB Consultant communities. Their focus on future trends has helped them to build a reputation as a trusted advisor to fans and friends around the world. For more information, visit www.smallbizthoughts.com.

Media Contact:
Karl W. Palachuk
916-248-4301
sales@smallbizthoughts.com

Monday, May 07, 2012

Make The Competition Irrelevant

My target audience is small businesses. There's an interesting pattern with small businesses and competition. On one hand, many small businesses do not think about their competition enough, or in the right way. On the other hand, small businesses tend to identify their competition completely wrong. By that I mean that they name someone as their competition who doesn't even know they exist.

Several thoughts here . . .

First, how much should you think about your competition?

Second, how do you properly identify your competition?

Third, ignore the "big guys" as much as they ignore you.

Let me tell you a story in very broad strokes that represents what I've seen small businesses do over and over.

I had a client who developed a very cool new product. It made an important process available at a price low enough to bring lots of new clients into the market. No one else appeared to be working on a similar product. In fact, the industry was completely dominated by REALLY BIG players. The two biggest players were owned by IBM and General Electric. And their clientele were literally the biggest companies in the world. This new product would provide critical services to a much broader audience. It would create a new sector of the business that did not exist before.

My client was worried - VERY worried - that IBM or GE would find out about what they were doing and crush them. Either of these companies could dedicate a tiny bit of their revenue and create a competing product. My client worried and fretted over this. It affected the testing and almost secret deployment of the product. As their clientele grew, my client worried every day that the competition would see them and swat them like a fly.

And guess what? Nothing. Nada. Even after growing successful enough to be a takeover target by the #3 business in the industry, IBM and GE never paid any attention to my client. As far as the big guys knew, this company simply did not exist.

I've seen versions of this again and again.

Let's say you and I are in the same business. Say, technology consulting. Are we competitors? Do we go after the same clients? If I win, do you lose? Is your victory my defeat?

No.

Here's the thing that most people never realize about competition: YOU can't decide who your competitors are. You can guess about it. But you'll probably be wrong. Only someone who chooses to compete with you is your competitor. In other words, I can choose to compete with you. But if you don't choose to compete with me, you're not my competitor.

This disconnect happens all the time. Small businesses go tilting at windmills, attacking imaginary monsters, and wasting their resources worrying about nothing.

How much should you worry about your competition?

That depends on where you are in the continuum between "commodity" and "unique." If you run a gas station on the corner and there are two other gas stations on the same corner, you have a very clear picture of your competition. If you run a service business that provide something clients can't get anywhere else, then don't worry about your competition: You probably don't have any.

Not have any competition? Yes. Ask your clients why they don't go shopping for a new IT person every year. The answer is probably YOU. You provide something they can't get anywhere else: YOU. You are the unique product that keeps your clients loyal and keeps you in business.

What about other IT shops? If they don't know you exist and are not coming after you, then they're not your competition. My local IT Pro user group has about 130 members. I have come up against one of these other companies exactly twice in the eight year history of the group. In the first instance, a prospect had won a technology make-over from Microsoft. They called Microsoft and wanted to know the names of some local companies who could fulfill the deal Microsoft name three companies. Mine and another member were two of the three.

In the other instance, my co-leader Bob Nitrio and I gave a presentation to a local group. After the meeting some people came to talk to me and some went to Bob. Only one person asked both of us for a quote. We talked to each other because the project seemed fishy and we suspected that they were just looking for high quotes so they could hire a relative. Neither one of us submitted a bid.
In other words: We have no competition!

If someone's really gunning for you and wants to take you out, fine. You have competition. But that's probably not the case.

You should think about "the competition" enough to figure out what makes you unique and valuable. In most cases, you will need to construct a fictional "competitor" to use as a foil in this exercise.

How do you properly identify your competition?

You should only think about your competition in terms of what the clients (and prospects want). Do you give your clients what they want and need from an IT company? Do you offer or sell them things they don't want or need? And what else could you offer them that you don't today? If someone else is provide your client with something you could but do not, that might be your competition.

If you think about this from time to time, and give serious consideration, it is MUCH more likely that you will begin offering your client new things before they have a chance to buy them from someone else. New monitor technology? Sell it. New software package? Sell it. Cloud services? Sell it.

If you DON'T think about what you sell and how well if fits with what your clients want and need, then YOU are your own competition. You, the person who doesn't want to sell managed services, who doesn't believe your clients will sign a contract, and who is waiting for the cloud fad to pass.

You need to re-invent yourself. Don't be the company you were before the recession. Be a new company with a forward-thinking vision and you won't have competition (from yourself or anyone else).

Ignore the "big guys" as much as they ignore you.

At IT conferences, I occasionally hear someone bemoan the fact the Staples and Office Depot (and Dell and Ingram Micro and Microsoft) are selling consulting services direct to small businesses.

So?

Those companies could not possibly serve your clients. For one thing, they don't have you on their team. More importantly, big companies have big-company attitudes and procedures. You have small-company attitudes and procedures. You know what it means to tighten your belt. People who work for big companies have big company sensibilities. Everyone at Staples, Office Depot, Dell, Ingram, and Microsoft will have a job tomorrow if they screw up a project and lose a client. And they'll get paid exactly what they got paid today.

For about five years now, Best Buy has tried to break into the small business market with their Geek Squad. They've recently notched this up a bit by offering Managed Services.

And what should your response be? Bring it on!

Any success they have will be with people who are not (currently) your clients. These folks will get introduced to the concept of Managed Services, but many will be very dissatisfied. And where will they turn? To established IT consultants who have been servicing small clients for years.

In other words, having a large company promise something they can't deliver into your market can actually increase the pool of potential clients.

Is Best Buy your competition. No. Remember what I said above. You don't get to make them your competition. Only they can choose to be your competition. They're not after you. Really. They don't know you exist. They don't care about you. They just want "market share" of a market they don't really understand. They can see on paper that the market is big and they a "share" of it. They don't want your lunch. They want to make their own lunch from the market.

You will probably never go up against Best Buy.

But you might develop a marketing strategy using them as a straw man. I take my car to a local Toyota dealer for service. They have a sign in the service department that reads "We fix $29 break jobs."

Robin Robins is the ultimate marketing wizard in the IT space. One of her best campaigns is the "Bad Date" letter. Basically, does your IT guy treat you like a bad date. You call and he doesn't call you back? etc. Great stuff.
Maybe Robin can come up with a similar campaign. "Did that that big company promise to take care your business IT and then let you down when you needed them most?"

Best Buy will never be your competition because they're not coming after your clients. But you could be their competition if you want to.

The bottom line: Your company is irrelevant to virtually everyone you might define as your competition. Make them irrelevant to you. Simply don't worry about them.

What you do depends on YOU - not your competition.

:-)



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