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As IT creeps into more and more areas of an organisation's day-to-day running, it is increasingly important to select the right service provider. No longer is “good enough” sufficient, you need a business focused IT solution to capitalise on your investment.
Given the number of IT "experts" in the market, it is all too easy to be overwhelmed by jargon or beguiled by deceptive pricing. With this handy guide, however, you can avoid the top seven pitfalls of finding an IT provider and be well on your way to getting the solutions that are right for your sporting organisation.
1. Don't just choose the cheapest provider
Everyone knows that if you buy cheap, you get cheap. In the confusing realm of IT, though, it's often tempting to go for the lowest price, simply because you don't have much else to go on.
A provider who's offering well under the market rate usually has a good reason for doing so. Perhaps they haven't been in business long; do you really want to be the organisation that they practice on until they're ready for the big leagues? Maybe they're a small company with fewer staff - in which case, can you be sure that you'll be able to get the support you need during deployment and afterwards?
If you're left with IT systems that aren't fit for purpose, you'll end up having to pay for new solutions down the line. The fleeting satisfaction of a cut-price deal won't be much consolation if you pay twice for something that could have been done right the first time.
2. Ignoring specialisation
As a sporting organisation, your IT needs are different to those of other enterprises. If your provider doesn't grasp this, it's possible that they'll overlook key factors. By looking for a provider who's got a good track record in delivering effective IT solutions to organisations like yours, you can save a lot of headaches later on.
3. Forgetting the need for 24/7 availability
Imagine this: you've found a great provider and put together what looks like the ideal solution. Deployment has gone smoothly. There's just one small problem: when devising the system, your provider assumed that having everything go offline for backups for a couple of hours a night wouldn't be an issue.
Sport is a global business. For example, it might be the small hours of the morning over here but in London, Australian officials will need to access their data. In a 24/7 world, downtime is unacceptable. As well as the systems themselves, your provider must be able to deliver round-the-clock support if there's ever a problem. Which brings us to another big IT mistake...
4. Hiring a lone gun
He's a freelance IT professional with armfuls of qualifications and recommendations from satisfied clients. You're a smaller organisation with modest IT needs.
Before you recruit this Lone Ranger, consider the following. Freelancing instead of taking a comfortable job at a big firm is not unheard-of but not typical. Virtually anyone can set up as an IT expert and it's not hard to wrangle recommendations out of friends and colleagues. Even if everything checks out, what happens when the project is finished and he moves on - what kind of support is he planning to offer? You could be left high and dry if there's a problem.
5. Poor ERP/CRM selection and planning
ERP systems help your organisation manage resources and
handle your customers' needs more effectively. CRM (customer resource management) is a part of ERP. Without an effective ERP, you are most likely not able to perform some critical functions and other functions are probably wasting valuable administrative time.
It's important to choose the right systems and line up the right approach to deployment. You can integrate ERP/CRM with existing systems, or upgrade everything to a single unified solution. Either option can have pitfalls which could cause you trouble down the line. You also need to roll out new ERP systems slowly so that your organisation can adapt to the new procedures - if a provider who wants to do everything in a hurry, avoid them.
6. Failing to allow for communication between clubs and the organisation
The free flow of vital information between the organisation as a whole and the clubs that constitute it is a crucial consideration. Clubs need to be able to gain access to records and other data held by your organisation whenever it's required. Your IT provider needs to understand the importance of allowing all the clubs under your organisation's umbrella to connect with central systems.
7. Failing to check the safety net
Even the best IT solutions can suffer technical hitches from time to time. Failing to allow for this by providing a comprehensive and reliable backup system will put you at risk of losing important data.
As well as backups, you need to consider IT security: if your organisation isn't in compliance with current regulations on sensitive data storage, you could be legally liable if unauthorised access occurs.
In conclusion, choosing an IT provider needn't be a gamble if you carefully consider your needs and choose the company that can best meet them. Before you hire your friend's cousin's cut-price IT start up, remember the old adage: if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
- Ask about the technicians: their training, qualifications and experience
- Ensure they'll spend time helping you understand any problems
- Ask for testimonials from past clients
- Make a list of any questions relating to your organisation's unique needs