In today’s fast evolving digital world, it is critical that businesses ensure they have a comprehensive and skilled IT support services company on hand to ensure business success.

IT is a critical driver of business across Africa, playing a vital role in driving greater efficiencies, better business innovation and more effective sales and marketing, as well as improved customer relationship management. Of course, without IT and system support services, businesses simply stop.

If the internet or phone service goes down in an office, explains Osagie Ibude, Axiz regional manager for West Africa, nothing can get done, since virtually every aspect of work today depends on functional computers and information systems. Not only do these services need to be operational at all times, they also need to ensure that the integrity of their data is protected and their systems are kept safe from cyber threats.

“IT support services covers a vast spectrum of possible options, all of which are equally important to the welfare of the business. They include support for both hardware and software, as well as network and application support services. Beyond this, there are specialised areas, like enterprise resource planning support, managed print services and security support services. Lastly, there is the hub around which all support turns, namely the help desk and customer support services,” he says.

“Of course, Africa has its fair share of challenges when it comes to ensuring effective IT operations and support. SA is not alone in its infrastructure and power challenges – in Africa there are far too many areas where the power is not stable; it is, for example, difficult to run a data centre in West Africa, where power is intermittent and the price of diesel for generators is very expensive.”

Other challenges Ibude highlights include the lack of requisite skills and the cost of training for such certifications, not to mention the difficulties of retaining highly qualified staff. Physical security, too, remains an issue, since IT support is often required at strange hours of the night.

“So what should you look for in an IT support services organisation? For me, the number one characteristic is that of skill and experience. If you are seeking a support services company, find out the projects they have undertaken before, and don’t be shy to request referrals.

“Another key attribute is responsiveness. They should not only react quickly and effectively to a problem, but should also communicate with the customer and provide regular updates. Professionalism and empathy are also important characteristics to have, although ultimately, they will also need to offer competitive pricing.”

He notes that it is imperative that organisations do not view IT support services as an area in which they can save costs. Too many businesses, he says, rely on the standard warranty when in fact their support expectations are much greater, which ultimately ends with them not having the relevant level of expertise and service to complement their requirements.

“Another thing businesses should always take into account is the ‘human factor’ – people can make mistakes easily, and this is often where failures happen and why support is needed. Organisations need to understand the value of support in relation to the human element: people are clumsy, they are often less concerned about a product that doesn’t belong to them and they may not technically understand what it can and can’t do, which is why support is so critical.

“The good news is that the advent of technologies like the cloud and the internet of things (IOT) now allow support to be provided from anywhere in the world. With remote support services, it becomes possible to access the best skills, wherever they may reside. Cloud also offers cost benefits to a business, in its ability to rapidly provision or segment new servers, while the IOT has made proactive maintenance a possibility too,” he says.

Of course, continues Ibude, the number one factor is to choose an IT support services organisation that ensures its employees’ accreditations and certifications are always kept up to date.

“Obviously, you want to know that the support you receive is provided by people with certified skills in the relevant areas; this knowledge is what gives you the confidence to trust them.

“I would recommend choosing a company that has a strong focus on continuously upskilling, certifying and accrediting their support staff, as it is only a business with a continual process of upskilling and development that will be capable of providing the necessary levels of support in today’s fast evolving digital world,” he concludes.