Developers of industry-specific software are great at what they do. In many cases, the enterprise applications they create for specialized professions meet their clients’ needs far better than out-of-the-box productivity software can. However, it’s not uncommon for vendors to put significant effort into encroaching on their clients’ IT management as well. Whether their motivation is to remain “sticky” with their client (making it extremely difficult for them to part ways in the future), or simply to maintain greater overall control of the environment where their software applications are installed, a software vendor being allowed to manage a client company’s IT infrastructure can quickly become problematic.
Unfortunately, it is all too common for business owners, business managers, and other IT decision-makers to make the assumption that all practitioners in the IT field can provide every technology need with equal and sufficient expertise. This is simply not the case. Information technology is a vast industry, and software development is much, much different than managing a network infrastructure. Asking an expert programmer or developer to plan, deploy, maintain and upgrade your computer network would be akin to asking a company that develops plumbing products to design and build your entire home. That company may make excellent pipe materials and the like, but they would be out of their depth when it comes to laying building foundations, framing, electrical, etc.
Case in point: our company maintains the network of a client in the manufacturing and warehousing industry. They have a separate consulting company in which their main function is to support printers and multifunction machines, but which also sells “paperless office” solutions software. One of their sales managers had convinced the client that she didn’t need to consult her IT service provider for the planning stages of installing their software. This software required administrative access to the server, Microsoft SQL admin access, a new SQL database, and other requirements which were not revealed to us until the day of the install job. This created issues with an incorrect version of SQL being installed on a production server, and other headaches and confusion. Luckily, the incorrect implementations were reversed without any damage to the infrastructure, but obviously it would have been much more advantageous to the client company to allow us as their IT service provider to handle the planning and deployment in cooperation with the software vendor. We could have asked the right questions from the beginning, and made provisions with the current setup to allow for an easy rollout.
Often, companies are on a tight deadline to implement new software applications or upgrades, and software vendors are in a similar situation, having to rollout dozens or hundreds of installations to meet their bottom lines every month. Nonetheless, it is wise not to let the urgency of impending deadlines to supercede prudent practice when it comes to your overall IT environment. While leaving your IT consultant out of the loop during planning stages may seem to save some time and money, you may not be saving much of either when the deployment goes off the rails due to some oversights or omissions that your software developer missed, and your regular service provider could have helped circumvent. And even if some of those issues could not have been prevented, an IT provider that is fully committed to the support of their clients’ networks, and with extensive knowledge of such, is much more well-equipped to remediate problems than a software installer whose main concern is to install an application and move on to the next job.
Whether it’s enterprise software or software-related services for a new ERP or CRM package, a new paperless office system, or an application specific to manufacturing, insurance or finance sectors, it’s best to consult with your IT service provider before making any decisions that could affect the health and productivity of your overall network. A good managed service provider has seen many different configurations and implementations of enterprise software, and can best guide a client company in collaboration with the software provider.