The financial aspect of SBS

On February 22, 2005, in Best Practices, by

From the mailbag today comes the question from Dick about moving from an hourly basis firm to a SLA [service level agreement and/or maintenance contracts].  He asks “ The big question is of course at what price level can i start for let’s say full support (telephone, remote, patches,upgrades?).

The first thing I’m going to tell you is that I’m only one person in Fresno, California and you need to “bounce” ideas off of other consultants, especially those in your region [remember too I’m more of a SBS admin per se], but in general I can tell you what is happening in the SBS marketplace:

  • Blocks of time — first off consultants are starting to sell blocks of maintenance time.  No computer system is a “install and walk away” these days so many consultants have these blocks of time. 

  • Remote access means you don’t have to drive across town – you remote into the server – remember to log in using the console session but you may not need to drive across town to do tech support.  Train the end users to leave the computer systems turned on.

  • Consider additional charges for the “value add“ stuff like remote monitoring which is provided with tools like MOM Express and Level Platforms.

  • Discounted time blocks for more time that’s bought – typically the larger the contract, the slightly smaller the rate per hour is.

  • Premium rates for weekends and holidays

  • Hotel billing – it’s key that you capture the time on the site and not afterwards.  If you do use hourly billing ensure that the technician uses some sort of data capturing device like a Pocket PC to capture the work performed and then ensure it’s transferred to your accounting package.

  • Hourly rates [or even hour bundles] should be charged based on the going rate of other “maintenance“ professions – so many times I see IT firms undercharge compared to other professions – don’t undervalue yourself – look at what auto repair professionals are charging or even other technology firms in your area.  There’s nothing to stop you from calling your competition and just asking them for their hourly rate.

  • Security assessments, education, security awareness, acceptable use policies – ensure that your client puts in place the HR and human side of technology,  Having a kewlamundo computer is great, not knowing how to fully utilize it is not so great. 

  • SBS “and“ as I call it – putting SBS in a firm is just the beginning – adding on Sharepoint and now adding on CRM as additional services you can generate sales from.  But keep in mind that CRM… like installing accounting packages is a bit of an “art“.  You may want to joint venture with a SBSized firm that specializes in this.

  • Lastly remember that there’s a long standing arguement about hourly billing versus value billing.  People down in small biz want to know “how much will this cost“

So I’m sure you are saying…well great but all you’ve done is make me ask the questions and not get answers….. but I will get you answers… from your fellow “Been There and Done That’s“ that are dealing with this same issue

There are two communities where you can ask your questions and they’ll tell you that in your region, this is what they are doing…..

So Dick, don’t just ask me….. ask the Community of SBS these questions….you’ll get your answer.


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