Techie translation guide: What your business IT provider says and what they actually mean.

Does your IT provider really know what’s best for your business? Find out with this techie translation guide.

Like any business relationship, your partnership with your IT provider should be based on trust. But when they insist on speaking some odd variant of Klingon you have a problem. A simple request often turns into an extended discussion where only one of you seems to know what’s going on (and it isn’t you).

When you make a request, you expect it to be done quickly and efficiently. But instead you get any number of the following excuses (and what they really mean)

What they say – “It can’t be done.”

What they mean – “I have no idea how or why you would want to do that, so the answer is no.”

When dealing with a smaller IT provider, it’s hardly surprising that there are limits to their knowledge – but instead of promising to investigate your request you receive a flat refusal, potentially holding your business back and ensuring you cannot make the best use of newer technologies.

The reality is that almost anything can be accomplished these days. The only limit is your budget and your IT provider’s knowledge.

What they say – “You have to upgrade.”

What they mean – “I haven’t seen one of these in years. And I’m darned if I’m going to try and hunt down the manuals for it either. Especially if I can make a few quid out of your upgrade.

New technologies almost always offer improvements and cost savings. But sometimes your older equipment or software is essential to fulfill a core business function. There are often ways of using what you already have more efficiently, but if your provider is motivated by fees from vendors for new sales, they aren’t likely to be interested in helping you recognise them.

WARNING: Just because a provider recommends an upgrade does not mean they are simply “in it for the money”. Older computer systems cost more to maintain and run than newer equivalents. Your teams should also become more efficient with up-to-date technology helping to reduce costs in the long term.

What they say – “Insufficient bandwidth – nothing to do with us, guv.”

What they mean – “It’s definitely a network speed issue, so I assume it must be your broadband provider’s fault.”

Network speed issues are often completely subjective – what your users think is “slow” may actually be the best that your network can handle. Without proper investigation of network conditions though, it is impossible to accurately diagnose faults. You would also hope that your IT provider could help liaise with your broadband provider to get the issue fixed anyway.

What they say – “You could slash your IT costs by moving to Google Apps or Office 365.”

What they mean – “Here’s a great way for me to make four times the revenue I get for licence costs in additional consultancy and support…”

Certain Cloud apps and services may offer potential savings and benefits to your business, but the recommendation from your IT partner may not be completely altruistic. Both Google and Microsoft advise partners that by selling ‘cheap’ Cloud subscription services like Apps and Office 365, they can expect to increase their own professional services fees by up to 400%. The software is cheaper, allowing your IT partner to corner more of your budget for their services. This is turn offsets much of the cost saving you may hope to make from the move. It’s far wiser and more cost-effective to look into a complete IT as a service solution, rather than just the productivity suite.

What can you do?

Sometimes your IT provider may be trying to avoid a technical conversation for fear of overwhelming you. Other times they may simply be covering their own ignorance. Either way, your business is in trouble if you cannot get the answers and the improvements you need to improve efficiency and cut costs.

Part of the trick to cutting through tech speak is to brush up on the basics before engaging engineers and account managers in conversation. This guide should already have given you a few tips, allowing you to prepare for those all-important techie conversations in advance.

If you cannot reach a satisfactory level of understanding with your current provider, the only solution is to look for one with whom you can.

Key actions

  • Even if you think you can trust your IT provider to give informed advice, always give them time to properly formulate an answer – otherwise it will always be ‘no’.

  • Upgrading may or may not resolve your IT issues – always check the provider’s motivations for recommending it first.

  • Choose a provider that offers a complete IT-as-a-Service solution, not just the productivity suite.

  • Networking problems are troublesome to sort out – that’s why you pay an IT provider to do it for you. Make sure they do.

Don’t let anything hold your business back. Download your free eGuide now: Business, interrupted: How to fight back against poorly performing IT


About Danny Walker

David Walker works as the Managing Director at IT Farm. He is passionate about helping businesses achieve their efficiency potential, by refining their IT service and ensuring IT projects make a difference.