This article is posted with permission from Sophicity’s CitySmart blog and shares non-technical, municipal-relevant insights about critical technology issues, focusing on how technology reduces costs, helps better serve citizens, and lessens cybersecurity risks. Sophicity is solely responsible for the article’s content.
Hiring reactive, “as needed” IT support begins with hope and temptation.
The hope? “I’m a small city. We don’t need much technology support. Our servers and computers should work fine most of the time.”
The temptation? “If those servers and computers work fine most of the time, then I’ll barely need to use our IT support—and we’ll save lots of money.”
And how does that hope and temptation usually turn out? Not well.
Why? The harsh reality of information technology is that it requires constant monitoring, maintenance, and patching in order to maximize your investment. Technology will have issues, break, or malfunction. Users will need help. A cyberattack or natural disaster may occur. A great deal can happen during a given year.
So, cities can either leverage proactive IT support at a fixed cost to minimize issues and maximize their IT investments. Or, a city’s technology will break often enough that they will call their “as needed” technology support on a regular basis.
Also, think about the incentive. If an IT support resource is billed hourly, they are incentivized to bill for more hours. But if your IT support resource is fixed cost, they are incentivized to minimize the chance of problems occurring and fix problems as fast as possible.
Here are five ways your reactive IT support costs can creep up and wreak havoc on your budget.
1. Break-fix mentality leads to unexpected projects and crises that eat up tons of hours.
First, a break-fix mentality leads to constant unpredictable IT costs. You never know when an issue will arise, and crises will especially cause disruptions to your budget. When you’re not receiving proactive IT support, every piece of technology at your city is like a ticking time bomb. Something will eventually go wrong—and it won’t be pretty.
Second, the specific costs for each incident will be quite high. Each break, major issue, or crisis eats up a lot of billable hours at a high billable rate. Your reactive IT support resource will charge for onsite time and likely need many hours to fix the issue. This makes reactive, hourly IT costs unusually higher than proactive maintenance.
2. Unexpected or unnecessary charges.
When you’re in an hourly, ad hoc relationship with your reactive IT support vendor, every interaction may lead to yet more costs. Cities tell us stories about getting charged for calling their vendors on the phone, emailing their vendors, or paying for travel time even when the IT vendor is local. Again, these costs add up when you have the inevitable constant issues from not dealing proactively with your technology.
3. Too many onsite visits.
We’re not saying all reactive IT vendors make excessive onsite visits. However, the collective stories we’ve heard from many cities over the years show that it appears many reactive IT vendors turn any little issue into an onsite visit. For example, a slow server, a need to install antivirus software, or a malfunctioning printer are all tasks that can likely be handled remotely but that reactive IT support vendors sometimes use as an excuse to plan an onsite visit. These onsite visits take longer than remote support and also include travel time—again costing you a lot of money.
4. City staff downtime.
We know you’re not a for-profit business, and so you’re not losing sales or revenue when employees can’t work. However, don’t kid yourself that you are not losing money when employees can’t work—or can only work very slowly. You are paying most of them a salary to perform work. When that work cannot be performed because of break-fix issues, then you might as well be paying employees to hang out at city hall. True, good employees will find things to do, but even the best employees will lose productivity. This is an indirect cost of encouraging a reactive IT environment.
5. Potential city revenue impact.
A city’s revenue collection can get impacted from reactive IT support in two ways:
Directly: Citizen service outages lead to inefficient revenue collection and possibly missing out on collecting revenue. When your online payment services for utilities, taxes, and fines don’t work most of the time, then citizens are less likely to pay you on time—leading to debt collection costs, time on the phone to process payments manually, and sometimes simply not receiving the revenue.
Indirectly: If you want to appear to the public as a vital, functioning city, then your website and city operations must appear professional and demonstrate that you are able to do business. Constant downtime with servers and computers doesn’t just affect you internally. It affects public perception. Each time you are unable to process a payment, follow up on a request, or fail to provide information because “our computers are down” says something to both current and potential citizens and businesses. Obviously, we’re not saying that constant server failures will lead to businesses and citizens leaving your city in droves, but this data point can form part of an overall perception used to assess your city—positively or negatively.
By following a proactive IT support model, cities will save money through:
- A fixed monthly cost.
- Proactive, preventative maintenance to address the root causes of problems.
- Remote IT support to quickly address many common issues.
- Less downtime.
- A more positive public perception of your city’s professionalism.