Victoria Murgatroyd-McNoe BA
Growing up in the 80's, I was privileged to have a Dad who loved technology and tinkering, so when computers for the home became affordable, Dad bought one. An Atari 8bit computer.
Dad used it for bookkeeping. Me and my siblings used it for games. I tried (and failed) to learn how to program it using BASIC. That was the beginning of a life long (though not straight forward) journey into the world of computers.
As technology was not yet a focus for schools, I was encouraged not to take the computer class, as I would be better off taking more suitable classes, like Math. So I did as I was encouraged to do, and steered toward a wider range of topics that I enjoyed, but wasn't exactly passionate about.
Once I entered University I was once again inspired to take up computing as a topic to learn. While I enjoyed the computing courses, I found that the topic of Classics and Ancient Greek took my focus instead, and I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Otago in the mid 1990's.
What does an Arts graduate do once they enter the workforce? Well this one wasn't really sure, but due to the connections of my soon-to-be husband, Mark, I did manage to land a job in the sales team of what was Computerland here in Dunedin.
That position propelled me into the world of computers once again, and I began to feel my passion for computers and all things techie spring to life once again.
I was vastly curious about tech and the many ways it could benefit us, and I was intrigued at justhow accessible much of it was to someone with relatively low levels of knowledge. So I began reading and experimenting with a wide variety of tech resources. Database design, web design, programming, system administration, you name it, I was prepared to have a go at it. While my expertise at any one of these topics remained average, I began to develop an appreciation for the technologies as they interacted with each other, and how they could be combined to form powerful resources for business use.
By 2001, Mark (who had actually graduated with a Bachelor of Science (majoring in IT), and moved easily into the IT tech world) and I decided to open our own IT provider practice in Dunedin. We were regionally successful, and maintained our business together for 17 years until Mark passed away in 2018. Somehow during those 17 years we also managed to have three beautiful boys, all of whom spent many hours in our office when they were still young enough to carry around.
2018 became a defining moment for our business, and it was devastating to me and the clients we worked with. The decision was mine to figure out what to do next. Initially I did very little, except listen to our staff and listen to our clients. Everyone had worries, everyone had questions, and I didn't have many answers.
Over time, it became clear that our staff and our clients didn't see us the same way anymore, so we needed to view ourselves differently too.
So I did the only thing I knew what to do when I didn't have the answers. I researched. I asked questions. I talked to clients. I talked to staff. I talked to friends and family. I read books. I listened podcasts. I read articles. I read blogposts. I took training courses. I watched youtube videos. And then I asked more questions.
After all that researching I came to the conclusion that we could be doing things better. We needed to bring our business into line with what our customers needed and wanted. And what they wanted was for someone else to deal with it. They didn't want to know about it. They didn't really understand it, but they felt they should try to understand it, but actually they were busy doing their own business stuff, and didn't have time to be the IT admin as well. They just wanted it sorted, with the least fuss possible.
They didn't want to have to worry about whether their network was safe, or protected, or performing well, or functioning well. Wasn't that our job? Yes. Yes it is our job. Couldn't you just go about doing it? Yes. Yes we can.
So, I set about making that happen. We have the It skills to make that happen. Why were we putting the options back in your court? If you have an opinion on how something should operate, great! But if you don't, why should you need one? Your job should be making sure we have all the relevant business requirements to meet, with technology solutions. Our job should be making sure your business needs are met. Full stop.
You may be surprised to learn that most small businesses have almost the exact same business needs. Identify the users, secure the data, allow access to the data, keep the users working. Everyone is the same from a tech point of view. This realisation made it easy for us to design a solution, because we only needed to design one solution, that would literally fit everyone.
Designing a single solution allowed us to follow best practices for all areas of the solution, so we began in earnest to build a standard solution. We, in fact, built two standards. A Technical Standard and a Security Standard. Each of these standards defines what it means to build and maintain a functional, well performing, secure network. We have built our new solutions on top of these standards, and use the standards to bring and keep networks of any size performing as they should.
These standards allow us to give our customers the confidence that their IT needs are being met, and that their input is to make sure we are delivering on our promises. And these standards has also allowed us to streamline our costs. Now when we maintain a site, we maintain the same things for all sites. This reduces our admin overheads enormously. Now when we secure a site, we secure every site the same way. This means we don't have to track as many variances between sites, which reduces our overheads even more. When we are running reports for a site, we are running the same reports for everyone. Even less admin. Every time we standardise something, our costs go down, and your value goes up.
This standardised solution became Universal Support.
But we didn't stop there. We also came to see a gap between us and our customers staff. They didn't always know who to contact if they had an IT problem. Some would ask their colleague for help. Some would talk to their manager for help. And there was a tonne of confusion about who to call for help with the EFTPOS machine, or the photocopier, or when the internet was slow. This slowed down other staff members and managers because they were fielding support calls. So we gave some thought to how we could solve this issue. Mainly the issue was information and communication. All staff members needed a number to call, or an address to email, and they needed it where they could see it.
The answer was obvious in the end; the contact details for computer support should be on the computer (duh!). So we created a button that you can put on your taskbar, that has the initials IT on it, so it is obvious, even to those who don't use it much, what it is for. Click the button and all the contact details you could ever want will appear on screen, ready for action.
This button became the Universal Support Service Portal.
But we didn't stop there. The opportunity was to good to make this as useful as possible, so we added in a tonne of extra features, and we have a tonne more planned. Training, alerts, events, chat, access to your reports and many other functions have been added in to the portal, so you know you are as on top of IT as possible.
We are excited by the possibilities Universal Support brings to our customers. We can't wait to see what the future holds for us all.