HP and Google recently announced they were teaming up to offer “IT in a Box” for small businesses. I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be a disparaging term, but I don’t mind using it as one.
The concept is simple—offer hardware, software and management all in one place, all from one company. In theory, it’s a good deal, as it reduces complex IT purchases to, “How many do you want?” In practice, it has never worked.
Small business computing is not a one-size-fits-all model. Forget, for a moment, about the pitfalls of forcing customers to all use the same software. HP is trying to roll in management as well. We’re an IT management company. We know what it takes to manage small business computer resources. It’s not something that can be done from afar.
I don’t mean IT management can’t be done remotely. That’s how it’s primarily done. What I’m talking about is a connection with the business whose resources are being managed. Businesses are not consumers; they’re producers. Consumers have desires that can be managed in aggregate. Fulfill the desires of the majority and you’ll be successful. Producers have needs that are unique to each company—sometimes to each department. Each business entity must be managed differently.
Certainly there are universal standards and practices, but the software, policies, hardware, and communication methods that work well for one company don’t necessarily work well for another. The only way to properly manage business technology is to get to know the business, and the people in the business who use that technology. That’s why we take a holistic approach. It begins with our Customer Technology Officer, a dedicated, management-level Clocktower employee who interfaces directly with our customers’ ownership or management. The CTO ensures that our service desk techs and engineering staff know the business needs of the customer, that they know how best to interact, and that they share the customer’s priorities.
HP and Google may be able to throw piles of money at IT management. They may have amazing technology, but they’ll always be missing one critical component—something that technology can never replace—a real, human relationship.