Much of what IT does is solve problems. They have many names: issues, complications, symptoms, or incidents, but they are all basically changing something that isn’t functioning into something that is. The other half of our role is adding new infrastructure to the environment. For many of the new software and hardware additions, I turn to qualified vendors for support. Our business sits in the sweet spot of being big enough to make use of all the great productivity and communication software and the hardware that supports it, while being small enough that we don’t have the need for full-time engineers to support the annual upgrades and additions. This means that I am spending much of my time communicating with service providers as they work in my environment in one of these two capacities: supporting existing infrastructure or integrating new systems.
I would like to highlight one of our vendors that we added this year who has both supported existing infrastructure and helped as we upgraded nearly our entire network. In January, we started working with Vision Computing Solutions (VCS). Over the last five months, they have helped us to replace our aging network switches, VMware hosts, NAS and overhaul our network and offsite backups. They have also assisted as we have upgraded our phone system, security software and ERP software. Through all of this, there are three key areas where VCS has shined: work philosophy, communication and employee morale:
- Work Philosophy – We pride ourselves on being a fast company, on being agile and aware, on being able to adapt new technology and quickly integrate it into our workflow. I am genuinely excited to have new tech in my office and I enjoy figuring out how it can solve issues and change the way people work. It’s been my experience that finding vendors who share this philosophy is rare. I could immediately see this same excitement during our first sit down with Pete and Kevin from VCS. Even before we started work on our projects they asked us to weigh in on the documentation they used to communicate with new clients. It was most impressive to see this feedback integrated and know they listen to their clients and want to continually improve.
- Communication – Working successfully with vendors often boils down to being able to get a hold of them and having them care enough to figure out what the problems are. As far as availability goes, I’ve never worked with a vendor who is more available than VCS. Between the projects we have added and supporting our infrastructure as our MSP, VCS has literally always answered the phone. I have called nearly every day and the phone is always answered by someone who can actually fix the issue I am working on. No receptionist, no dial-by-name directory, no recorded message. When I have an important issue, I know I can call and turn it over to VCS to be taken care of so I can move on to the next issue. The company does a great job of managing its staff and clients so another client’s issues don’t prevent it from being able to fix mine.
- Employee morale – IT support can be miserable; demanding clients, difficult nebulous issues and late night schedules are an established part of IT support. It’s odd to find a few employees at a company who love what they do, let alone an entire staff. I have worked closely with more than a few of the staff and have found them to enjoy what they do and have a passion for IT. I was surprised to find that when we discussed onboarding with VCS, they needed to confirm which month they had available. They purposely limit their own growth and plan ahead to be sure they can support the additional work load. Usually there’s a disconnect between the sales department and fulfillment, with an attitude of “First get the work, then figure out how to support it.” Vision clearly sees the value in knowing itself and its limitations, which in turn means that its staff members can trust that they won’t be overburdened.
I know what you are thinking, “this must have been written by someone at VCS.” I can see why you would think that. I have worked with at least a dozen different IT vendors in the last six years and had settled on the expectation that vendors were difficult to work with, unresponsive and generally didn’t meet the promises made by the sales team. I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop with VCS, but after five months of solid work including six figures in upgrades, I am happy to report that they have changed my expectations. Being able to solve IT problems is what we hired VCS to do, but the consistent way they communicate, the quality of work provided by pleased employees and the alignment to our IT philosophy make them a true partner.
What soft skills do you look for? Who’s your favorite IT vendor?
Tony Onofrio is the Technical Operations Supervisor for Airfoil, a high-tech PR and marcomm firm with offices in Silicon Valley and Detroit.