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Data Protection Audits, IT Assessments: Your Foot In the Door

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Everyone working in the IT channel these days knows that leading with product when engaging the client is a thing of the past. The solution provider relationship with the client now revolves around the delivery of services. But how does a solution provider determine precisely what services to deliver? What is most important to a client? Here are some clues.

The answer is to conduct an assessment of the client’s IT environment or more specifically its data protection processes. While this may seem obvious, there are many variables to consider when doing these assessments. Many solution providers simply don’t do it because they continue to operate within the old product-centric, break/fix paradigm. Especially if you are working within the managed services, SAAS, HAAS and cloud models, success going forward will hinge on a keen understanding of the client’s current needs and anticipation of future requirements.

Those needs and requirements transcend an organization’s IT environment. You can’t look at IT independently of the overall business; a solution provider must understand the client’s business operations, challenges and goals to be effective in delivering the right services. If you use Data Protection as your focus, that elevates the discussion.

Getting Started

With that in mind, when assessing the client’s needs, it is imperative to take into consideration technology-dependent business objectives and plans, overall business issues and challenges, and interdepartmental issues. On the IT side, an assessment must deal with software and hardware capabilities, processes and performance. It must also determine priorities, risks and opportunities, and ultimately lead to recommendations that align IT processes with business goals. A detailed checklist will allow you to stay on course and gather the information necessary. Time must be invested in creating this audit form so that, ideally, when you visit a prospect and complete the form a nice report is generated.

The recommendation phase is what will lead to sealing the deal with the customer. Before you get to that phase – and this is extremely important – you must make sure that every step of the IT assessment has been documented. The documentation has to identify best practices and flaws, what works and what doesn’t. Documentation also must address needs the client may be unaware of – those issues that left unaddressed, cut into productivity and profits, and pose the risk of costly IT emergencies that can be avoided with proper maintenance and upgrades. Hardware and software are easy to rate but those are only a small component of the total.

Overall, a successful way of presenting audit results would be to use the information gathered in each section to feed into some high level objectives. The company could be rated on a score of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent and 1 being a glaringly deficiency. Benchmarks must be identified against which your rating scale is constructed.

Your Target Meetings

So whom should you be working with as you assess your client’s IT environment and determine current and future needs? The natural inclination would be to seek out the IT department and whoever is in charge there. But while you want the internal IT staff (if there is one) as an ally, you need to communicate primarily with the people who hold the purse strings, the C-level executives who will make the final decision of whether to retain you as their trusted IT services provider. This can be a very touchy situation and can make you or break you so be careful in your approach. You want to “help” the IT manager if there is one and if not you want to “protect the business” when talking to the C-levels.

Solution providers need to find out what insights the CEO, CFO and COO have into the organization’s IT needs and performance, and determine if those insights match reality. Eventually, you will be in a position of whether to validate the C-level executives’ mindset. Keep in mind that your recommendations will be less effective if you don’t take the time to learn that mindset.

Once the assessment is completed, a solution provider should be in a position to recommend solutions to pain points, and help position the client’s company for future growth with a solid plan. Be ready to demonstrate how you can save the client money, perhaps not immediately but in the long term, while increasing productivity, safeguarding data and delivering peace of mind through services that keep the clients’ systems reliable and secure.

Zenith Infotech’s Maurice SaluanAnd remember, if you’re not doing a data protection audit, you are turning your back on business.

Note: Maurice Saluan is VP-Channel Management for Zenith Infotech as well as seasoned sales veteran in the managed service arena. Guest blog entries such as this one are contributed on a monthly basis as part of MSPmentor's 2010 Platinum sponsorship. Find all of Saluan’s blog entries here.

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