Excessive downtime, tools that don’t work right, and glitches that haunt you. Taking charge of your own hardware and software support can bring frustrating, expensive problems most business managers don’t want to deal with. Here’s why you should think seriously about finding partners to take the responsibility off your hands so you can stay focused on your core business.
Backing into Harsh Realities
You’ve just invested in a software system designed with all the functions and calculations your business needs to compete. You’ve also found the right barcode scanners, mobile computers, surveillance cameras, access control, advanced two-way radios, or other hardware tools to go with it.
Together, your hardware and software are ready to become your workhorse and the last thing you want to think about is something going wrong.
“But then it happens,” says Mike Markham, Commenco’s Director of Technology Solutions. “You may have some terrific tools, but all technology hits bumps in the road eventually, and extricating yourself from a sudden issue you can’t fix yourself is a bad feeling.”
Business owners, facility managers, or IT staffers who just invested in new software and hardware are not always interested in following up with a maintenance and support agreement to go with it. They’ve just spent a substantial amount of money and would rather not spend more on problems they hope to never have. But Markham says those problems and other maintenance and support realities are nearly impossible to escape.
“We’ll get a call because something’s not right. They don’t know what to do and they’re worried. Troubleshooting is beyond their capabilities and that’s when they realize they shouldn’t have skipped over securing outside support.”
Solving a difficult technical problem in a moment of crisis also tends to be a wake-up call about bigger responsibilities that come with workhorse technologies. The value of outside partnerships becomes appealing.
“Managers start looking down the road and recognize they’re going to need more help over time,” Markham explains. “They also start seeing the benefit of having the distraction of support and maintenance responsibilities taken off their plate.”
While some businesses still juggle partnerships with software companies and hardware specialists separately, others are looking a little harder to find firms that make a point of working closely together and have a track record of collaborating to help customers. “When hardware and software firms collaborate to certify compatibility and fine-tune the relationship between their products, the client really benefits in a way that saves time and money, and eliminates worry.”
Streamlined, Specialized Support When You Need It Most
The shortest path between a technical snag and a solution is usually through the experts who specialize in the technology involved. While your in-house staffers may be able to roll with basic punches, more complex technical problems are going to get solved faster by specialists. Their work becomes even more valuable if your software and hardware are highly customized to meet the needs of your business.
“If you’ve hired software and hardware partners upfront to deploy your technology, they’re going to be very familiar with how exactly everything works,” says Markham. “They won’t be clinging to manuals and scratching their heads. They’ll jump right in and go to work. They’re dealing with these technologies every day and it becomes second nature. The result is shorter downtimes and far less trial and error trying to get to the bottom of what’s going on.”
Outsourcing to software and hardware partners also delivers the peace of mind of a more disciplined approach to the regular maintenance that prevents problems and keeps systems running without interruption. Plus, specialized partners will have a better understanding of what your technologies need to withstand the grind of your operation over time. And in the event of unusual or profound technical challenges, Markham says you can expect better access to manufacturers.
“Hardware specialists are almost always going to have a stronger relationship with hardware manufacturers and the same goes for developers who deploy software systems. If there are particular technical issues or questions, we’re going to be able to go right to the manufacturers for support as necessary. Trying to get that kind of help on your own can take a long time and be tough to coordinate. You’d be surprised how often we’re contacted just to help a business get the attention of a manufacturer.”
Advocates for Doing Business Better
Outsourcing support and maintenance for your software and hardware tools also translates to hiring advocates for your business. Developers who specialize in the software you depend on will make adjustments and refinements to strengthen performance for the particular needs of your business. They’ll remain aware of what your operation is trying to achieve and look for opportunities to help you compete. Hardware specialists will also sharpen their understanding of your business and explore available tools that can make a difference.
“It’s more than a technical advantage,” says Markham. “We’ll analyze the environmental conditions of your operation and the way your people use hardware to do their jobs. Those are key factors in choosing the right hardware matches as your business evolves.”
Hardware specialists with extensive experience can help you in ways you didn’t think possible just by taking all aspects of your work realities into consideration to help you make better choices. For example, strapping a consumer-grade tablet onto a forklift may seem like a smart, simple solution for your forklift operator at first.
“Then the vibration slowly destroys the electronic mechanisms inside that tablet until it’s useless,” Markham explains. “You’ve wasted time and money that we could have saved by pointing you toward a ruggedized tablet designed for use in industrial conditions.”
Software and hardware partners will also keep an eye on what’s coming to prevent your business from being trapped on a technology island. Markham says some business managers get too comfortable for too long, sticking with hardware tools and software operating systems that have performed reliably.
“They say ‘I’ve got something that works. Why should I change to something else?’ But the problem is software developers and hardware manufacturers stop supporting aging technology at some point and then you are completely on your own. Maintenance and support gets more and more difficult and expensive because it becomes ‘custom’ work. Firmware stops connecting and you eventually get shut off from upgrades. You wind up trapped by the system you love and that’s the opposite of what a growing business needs.”
Staying up with the technology times is critical for a business focused on getting bigger and better. When you outsource management of your software and hardware tools, you can expect your partners to keep thinking in your best interests as conditions change and opportunities arise.
“We’re always looking for the next generation of devices or new devices to hit the market because we want to improve solutions for our customers. It’s the same with software developers. They want to be compatible with better, more powerful tools as they come onto the market to help businesses in new ways. There’s not much reward in keeping software compatible with old tools that are fading from use.”
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