Separating IT Practictioners from IT Buyers


  • Service Provider

    In the SMB space there is an IT role that is incredibly common - so common, in fact, that I'd wager it might be the majority of all people working in the SMB IT space - but one that no one really talks about: the IT Buyer. This role is enormously important to understand, both because it represents an inordinately large portion of our industry, but also because effectively all businesses have one and should take a moment to understand who it is and how they should be treated.

    In general, in the IT field, even though job roles are rarely well defined we normally have a really good idea of what constitutes an IT Professional or IT Practitioner. These are roles that do, what we affectionately call, "real IT". IT work might be almost anything from helping end users on a help desk, managing desktops or servers, building out a network, looking at logs, managing storage, or whatever. IT is a big field that does a lot of stuff. IT are the doers and the decision makers of business infrastructure.

    In a lot of companies, especially in the SMB space, IT is handled by having an IT Generalist who can wear many hats and cover a lot of bases. IT is a big field and trying to have one person do it all requires them to task switch, a lot. Finding someone that can do this in a productive way, while keeping up with the needs of the company, keeping up with technology and being effective at all of the different roles can be very difficult. What is also common, and I would guess quite a bit more common, is to instead have a role that has a general IT understanding but instead of "doing IT" themselves is primarily tasked with finding and purchasing IT whether that be products (like servers, or storage) or services (hiring MSPs, ITSPs, VARs, etc.)

    These roles can be a bit confusing and often overlap. Any IT Generalist is likely to need to buy products and services from time to time, or even often. So an IT Generalist often wears an IT Buyer's cap part of the time. IT Buyers will sometimes do some IT work, often leaning to the more basic side.

    IT Buyers will often think of themselves, or at least present themselves, as IT workers. Perhaps this is because there is no concept of an IT Buyer and they don't know what else to call themselves. Perhaps they were brought into a company that taught them that this is what IT does and has always done and this is just the role of IT. They might not know anything else. Maybe they stepped into the role from another job to fill some empty shoes and have never had experience trying to do IT themselves.

    Are you an IT Buyer? You might be wondering this yourself. There is no clear cut delineation, but conceptually it is not hard to figure out which side of the line someone falls on. IT practitioners will see IT resources that are brought in as peers, people to augment the IT process. IT buyers will see them as the doers of IT that they need to oversee. IT buyers see their role as one of "selecting the IT people to do the work".

    Companies need IT buyers, in fact, I would argue that they need them far more than they need their own IT staff most of the time. What makes this distinction important is that we should not include IT buyers in the roll calls for the IT field as this provides a vastly bloated statistic when those people are much more accurately in business, not IT. More importantly, the skills of a good IT buyer are different then those of a good IT practitioner and IT buyers will not get this training, nor think of themselves correctly, unless we can identify them.

    The most important thing that an IT buyer can do is handle vendor relationships well and select good, trusted IT advisors. Having good ITSP, consulting and MSP resources to guide an IT buyer is crucial. High level IT resources that can understand the organization's need, shield it from predators, oversee other IT processes and such.

    Where we see IT buyers often failing is in turning not to IT resources, but to sales resources as their source of their IT knowledge and guidance. This is the worst thing that an IT buyer can do. Without an IT practitioner in place to know what is reasonable and what is not, when to get advice from experts and advocates and such an IT buyer is easy prey for a reseller looking to make a big sale.

    One of the reasons, I hypothesize, that IT buyers are so susceptible to resellers offering "free" IT services with a sale is that they don't take the time to acknowledge their role as IT buyers and do not then take the proper steps to prepare for the buying process. Because they are not IT practitioners, it can be more difficult to recognize when dealing with an IT peer rather than a sales person.

    Companies need to understand when hiring and managing their teams if they are managing an IT department or a department that is buying IT from the outside. How they are managed, how they are expected to work, how they are expected to interact should all be dictated by this.

    Businesses run the gamut from internal IT handling everything and never speaking to outside vendors at all, to doing zero IT work themselves and outside contractors handling everything; and everything in between. In reality, on staff IT buyers with all work outsources is more often than not the ideal situation, but doing this well is encouraged by understanding the roles that people have.

    Even things as simple as online peer communities and conferences are generally focused at one group or the other. IT buyers need conferences to connect them with vendors, tell them about products and such. IT practitioners need technical training and updates for the latest techniques.

    Knowing who you are is the first step to doing what you do well.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Separating IT Practictioners from IT Buyers:

    The most important thing that an IT buyer can do is handle vendor relationships well and select good, trusted IT advisors. Having good ITSP, consulting and MSP resources to guide an IT buyer is crucial. High level IT resources that can understand the organization's need, shield it from predators, oversee other IT processes and such.

    This seem strange - you need an IT buyer to basically handle the MSP/ITSP that they hire to make all of the recommendations - what exactly does the IT buyer do then? "so, you take the plans from the customer and give them to the engineers?" "well not, my secretary does that", "Soooo.. What exactly do you do?" - Office Space


  • Service Provider

    @Dashrender said in Separating IT Practictioners from IT Buyers:

    @scottalanmiller said in Separating IT Practictioners from IT Buyers:

    The most important thing that an IT buyer can do is handle vendor relationships well and select good, trusted IT advisors. Having good ITSP, consulting and MSP resources to guide an IT buyer is crucial. High level IT resources that can understand the organization's need, shield it from predators, oversee other IT processes and such.

    This seem strange - you need an IT buyer to basically handle the MSP/ITSP that they hire to make all of the recommendations - what exactly does the IT buyer do then? "so, you take the plans from the customer and give them to the engineers?" "well not, my secretary does that", "Soooo.. What exactly do you do?" - Office Space

    Well, ask it another way. If you don't have an IT buyer, how do you acquire those services? Someone has to select them, oversee them and pay for them.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Separating IT Practictioners from IT Buyers:

    @Dashrender said in Separating IT Practictioners from IT Buyers:

    @scottalanmiller said in Separating IT Practictioners from IT Buyers:

    The most important thing that an IT buyer can do is handle vendor relationships well and select good, trusted IT advisors. Having good ITSP, consulting and MSP resources to guide an IT buyer is crucial. High level IT resources that can understand the organization's need, shield it from predators, oversee other IT processes and such.

    This seem strange - you need an IT buyer to basically handle the MSP/ITSP that they hire to make all of the recommendations - what exactly does the IT buyer do then? "so, you take the plans from the customer and give them to the engineers?" "well not, my secretary does that", "Soooo.. What exactly do you do?" - Office Space

    Well, ask it another way. If you don't have an IT buyer, how do you acquire those services? Someone has to select them, oversee them and pay for them.

    Sure, the manger of IT - granted that's probably not their only role. It's just one hat of many that some poor smuck has to wear. ;)

    I guess that's your point.


  • Service Provider

    @Dashrender said in Separating IT Practictioners from IT Buyers:

    @scottalanmiller said in Separating IT Practictioners from IT Buyers:

    @Dashrender said in Separating IT Practictioners from IT Buyers:

    @scottalanmiller said in Separating IT Practictioners from IT Buyers:

    The most important thing that an IT buyer can do is handle vendor relationships well and select good, trusted IT advisors. Having good ITSP, consulting and MSP resources to guide an IT buyer is crucial. High level IT resources that can understand the organization's need, shield it from predators, oversee other IT processes and such.

    This seem strange - you need an IT buyer to basically handle the MSP/ITSP that they hire to make all of the recommendations - what exactly does the IT buyer do then? "so, you take the plans from the customer and give them to the engineers?" "well not, my secretary does that", "Soooo.. What exactly do you do?" - Office Space

    Well, ask it another way. If you don't have an IT buyer, how do you acquire those services? Someone has to select them, oversee them and pay for them.

    Sure, the manger of IT - granted that's probably not their only role. It's just one hat of many that some poor smuck has to wear. ;)

    I guess that's your point.

    It would be indeed :)


  • Service Provider

    This just came up in an IT buyer's community and I think it is really important:

    IT Practitioners get their knowledge from IT peers, industry training, logic, math and experience. Same as any other technical pursuit like civil engineering.

    IT Buyers should get their knowledge for IT Practitioners

    IT Buyers who believe themselves to be IT practitioners use whitepapers - a quasi-technical sales tool that looks like technical advice but is actually vendor sales advice. Whitepaper is an IT industry term for a marketing brochure with technical information used to guide customers to what the vendor wants done - which is not necessarily bad, but is not the same thing as industry advice. The vendor's agenda is not the same as the customer's agenda in all cases. IT works for customers, whitepapers represent vendors.

    Similarly, Gartner could be considered the same as whitepapers, without the technical benefits.


Log in to reply
 

Looks like your connection to MangoLassi was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.