Don't be an A$$

Welcome back from Summer, and I hope everyone has had a great break.  Myself, I was able to take some time in July, but got real busy in August.  During the summer I helped two very close friends with some significant IT issues which made me embarrassed to be in this field.  What I saw primarily was extremely poor service, and outright abuse of the customer trust relationship.

In one case, it was a simple project – replace an aging phone switch with standard fixed line services with a PRI and a newer Nortel swtich.  Nothing was ‘special’ about the project – it was essentially a swap of equipment and move the lines over to the PRI.  Well, as most of us know in the provisioning and network environments, there are many interrelated and disjointed organizations that manage this process.  From a customer perspective, it was very disappointing.  It took 4 tries to even get the PRI to a point where it could be activated.  4 times!  This caused alot of consternation with the client, who only had 20 extensions.  On top of that, the ‘integrator’ involved a rude, crusty guy who had definitely been in the business way too long.  He had no problem bad mouthing the world – providers, vendors and partners – in front of the customer.

In another case, a good friend of mine called in a panic saying that the IT person had ‘left the building’ and the business was down.  I figured, ok fine, reboot a few servers, handhold a couple of users and get a new IT person in there.  Whoa..  If the show ‘hoarders’ had an IT person segment, this former employee would star in the show!  It was perhaps the most disorganized, undocumented and disgusting environment I’ve ever seen.  This was a sub 100 person company, with several offices.  Their IT usage was actually quite sophisticated (their own Asterix servers, Drupal for the customer portal, and heavy usage of Microsoft product for the Enterprise).  After 1 day of complete horror, I realized that nothing was documented, there were virtualized servers that weren’t set to auto restart, and none of the network was set for QoS properties.  This friend now has a 200 line project plan we did jointly, which includes all of the cleanup and documentation work required to enable a stable environment – one that survives any one person or technology.

Why the heck did I help these people – who in some cases ‘brought this on themselves’?  I suppose it comes from professionalism that I choose to exercise in my work.  For sure friendship came into play.  The main reason though was primarily that, deep in my core, I feel that technology is a significant enabler and business change agent.  I feel embarrassed, sorry for the neophyte and disappointed in the practitioner when cases like this come up.

One of my friends said they wished there was a certification or designation that did con notate some skill and professional standards (like our legal or medical systems).  To be sure, none of them are perfect, but after seeing what I saw (both to SMB clients who are the backbone of our economies) I see little wonder why IT service providers are not trusted.

I mean, would you if you were subjected to this treatment?

These people paid well for the expertise, supported the processes that were recommended – overall provided a level of trust that is served only to other trusted advisers.  These IT providers saw fit to abuse that trust, create unneeded stresses and costs, and in the second case, put a $10MM business at significant risk.
All in all, keep in mind your responsibilities and roles with your clients.  And remember the other sheisters/idiots that are out there.  From that perspective, it gives the good folks a great marketplace to position themselves in, but also a lot of responsibility.

Don’t be an A$$…  The $$ will come, you don’t need to abuse trust to get a strong operation and relationship with your customers.

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