(Updated from November 2015): New IT solutions are constantly being developed and old ones lose their relevance. But how do you know if the latest disruptor could be a holy grail for your business or a security torpedo? And how do you know the solutions you’re using now are still the best ones for your organization?
Ask a solution analyst! Good solution analysts perform these five things so they can give you great advice:
- Test competing brands. Solution analysts test different brands regularly and relentlessly. For a new solution, this typically includes getting temporary licensing and support from the manufacturer, then putting the solution through the paces either in a lab environment or, if it’s a cloud-based solution, on an existing network. Without testing in a real-world environment, you won’t know if solutions that solve problems in some areas might create problems in others.
- Look at how the solution works across departments. It’s important to get people with different responsibilities involved in the testing process. Do the engineers find the solution intuitive or cumbersome to install? Is it easy to learn or will your team need a lot of training? How complicated is it to administer? Will it keep your support desk busy? How will your monitoring team know if it’s performing properly? When something goes wrong, how long will it take to figure out what the problem is and how to fix it? When you know these answers in advance, you’ll know how to compare it to your other options.
- Study the manufacturer. The health and capabilities of the manufacturer are important, too. Solution analysts look to develop relationships with manufacturers that will be in business year after year, offer good customer service, and confidently support their products. Start-up manufacturers are often acquired by their competitors who change the solution or offer zero support options. Solution analysts keep their eyes on the industry, do their homework, ask tough questions, and watch for trends that may signal when it’s time to recommend their clients make a change.
- Know which types of IT environments are a good match. Functionality is job one — in which IT ecosystems will the solution work best? What types of business operations can it improve? What unique problems can it solve? A solution evaluation isn’t complete without a thorough understanding of how it will actually function within specific businesses to meet their business goals.
- Report the facts. Solution analysts don’t rely on marketing materials or reseller enthusiasm. While everyone loves a good deal or opportunity, it’s not worth building a better mousetrap if the trap doesn’t catch mice any better. Solution analysts will be excited to share what they learn in their independent tests — pros and cons — because they did a lot of work to come to their conclusions. They’re committed to the results, not the brand or the product, and facts are seen as something to share, not gloss over.
At Leapfrog, one of our goals is to continually improve our clients’ IT operations. That’s why we created our Solutions Task Force. The Solutions Task Force is an internal team of specialists across several departments who test and analyze IT solutions, both new and existing. Our goal is to find out what works best, and our advice is strictly performance-based. We use a grading system (like a report card) and share the results with our clients. There is zero bias in our testing or our conclusions, and we’re not swayed by manufacturer incentives or their past performance. This means sometimes the conclusions might not be the ones you expect! We believe IT exists for one reason — to help you achieve your business goals.
If you’re interested in finding out how new or different solutions might improve your business operations, please contact Leapfrog to find out how we can work together.
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