Paid Technology Assessments Vs. Free Technology Assessments: Which is better for your organization and why?


Some business professionals love it, some hate it.

But why?

There are many different explanations for this dynamic. IMHO, the lack of proper training & education are the biggest culprits. Part of our mission here at Cooperative Systems, is to ensure that our clients understand the work we do for them. We’ve found that when people grasp the technology, or at minimum understand it conceptually, they’ll use as many of the features available to them, which in turn improves efficiency & productivity.

So, why am I saying all of this? Since you’re reading this, I’d like for you to think about where your company currently stands, with regard to your current use of business technology and ask yourself the following:

  • Do you see technology as an “expense” and nothing more than a necessary evil?
  • Do you see your IT as a tool that enables and facilitates growth? Or…
  • Do you see it as a “strategic asset”, as something your organization utilizes to maximize both efficiency & profitability, as referenced above?

If it’s not the latter, it’s a good indication that it’s time to assess whether or not your existing use of business technology is helping or hurting your organization.

On top of that, industry best practices suggest that it’s important to evaluate your IT: every 3 years,  upon a security breach, or after any update or change to your network. Are you currently following these guidelines?


So where do you start and how does your business determine the best approach for assessing your IT?

For starters, you’ll need to determine which IT company or Managed Service Provider (MSP) you’re going to work with on the engagement.

Think of the MSP as your doctor. We usually visit the doctor if we’re not feeling well or if we’re injured. However, there are also times that you’ll see a doctor for an elective procedure, which may be to improve or alter something about your body, while other times, you might be looking to gain skills or knowledge to improve your mental wellbeing or even your overall health & wellness. The purpose of this comparison is to highlight how each MSP is slightly different, not unlike doctors. They may specialize in working with XYZ industry or maybe they exclusively work with small businesses that are under 20 employees in size.

The point here, is to highlight how most MSP’s are all slightly different, in terms of with whom they work and the quality of services provided. Just like doctors, not all technology firms or MSP’s are created equal!

Due to this dynamic, it’s imperative that you do the necessary research and ask lots of questions – things like:

  • How long they’ve been in business?
  • What are their certifications and credentials?
  • Who are their technology partners?
  • What does their technology “stack” look like?
  • Are there any references we can speak with?
  • What does their onboarding process & timeline look like?
  • Do they have a formal “offboarding” policy or procedure in place?
  • Which industries do they support? Do they specialize in one or a few?
  • What’s an ideal size client for them?
  • Do they offer Cloud Services? Do they own their own Datacenter?

In summary, do your due diligence. Read reviews, ask questions and know that not every MSP out there will be a good fit for your specific needs. In the event you don’t know what you don’t know, and need additional information to decide which vision best fits the future direction of your organization, we’re happy to connect and help you work through that process.


Why free technology assessments aren’t worth the cost

Within the MSP world, there are two main strategies when it comes to the initial Assessment & Discovery engagement: FREE ASSESSMENTS and PAID ASSESSMENTS.

Let’s break down the two different models, which should help you come to a determination on your own, in terms of which is best suited for your unique organizational needs.

First, we’ll take a look at a standard “Free Assessment” and what’s involved.

Let’s say you’ve made contact with an MSP that offers an initial assessment at no cost. They’ll most likely go through a series of initial questions. Something along the lines of:

  • How many servers?
  • How many laptops?
  • How many staff?
  • How many locations?
  • How many switches & firewalls?
  • How is internal communication handled?

They’ll then set up a time to perform the actual assessment, typically scheduling an on-site visit or “walk through” as part of this process.  When they arrive, they will take a look around the building or office, maybe evaluate your network closet if you have one and speak with the primary point of contact. They may even speak with several other key staff, and certainly the IT team if you have one, or possibly the CFO or Director of Operations. The next step is performing several scans for high-level diagnostics reporting.

In terms of deliverables, you’ll most likely receive an auto-generated report, maybe 8-10 pages in length. It’ll contain findings and most likely high-level recommendations, should you wish to retain their services going forward. While this process isn’t inherently bad, it’s simply not a comprehensive 360-degree analysis, which leaves no stone unturned. If you’re looking to get the full picture of your current environment’s posture, so you don’t have any surprises down the road, the free assessment approach is not the best tool for the job.

In my view a business should only enter into an Assessment with the end goal of learning exactly where they stand, with respect to their entire environment. Additionally, entering into the engagement with the intentions of developing an action plan designed to improve in any area identified, that equates to increased efficiency, production & profitability.


Why paid technology assessments are worth every penny

Conversely, paid assessments should provide immense value when compared to the deliverables and roadmaps stemming from free assessments.

Most paid versions tend to run anywhere from $3,500-$7,500 and are comprised of, at minimum, 40-60 hours. They will utilize multiple individuals with a wide range of expertise and verifiable, hands-on experience. Your assessment should address and evaluate all components within your environment and should take at minimum, 3-5 weeks to complete.

We examine your server environment, workstations, email solution, network backbone, and your internal connections including remote access, security, and your telecom and phone systems. Within each section, you talk with our team and review everything, together, throughout multiple, targeted discovery sessions. You’ll receive everything we’ve reviewed in a final document, then provide our recommendations for a plan of improvement, or a plan to achieve a specific end-goal.

While the technical evaluation is paramount to the Technology Assessment process, equally as important is the Business Discovery. We perform what’s called an IT Operational Maturity Evaluation (OML) with your team, which covers areas such as scalability, governance and compliance, vendor management, and how your IT is strategically aligned with your overall business value.

We use this framework and methodology throughout the working relationship to continually improve how you operate while moving you towards a lean, mean machine of growth, profitability, and efficiency.

Another benefit of saying ‘yes’ to a paid assessment is eliminating any surprises down the road for you or your business, such as security threats, unknowns, vulnerabilities to your environment. Another great element of Cooperative Systems onboards a client, it’s a flat fee cost structure. With that in mind, if we aren’t properly supporting your environment, or making sure your systems & networks are performing properly, it’ll ultimately impact our bottom line, not yours.

Another great advantage of the Cooperative Systems approach is our flat fee pricing model. Once a client’s been onboarded, they pay the same amount every single month. It’s then in our best interest to ensure you’re network & environment are in excellent health. If we aren’t properly supporting them, that impacts our bottom line, not that of our clients

Technology Assessments should be the first step in your path to future-proofing your technology environment & network infrastructure. Call us today to discuss where you are now ,where you’d like to go, and how to get there –   Click here to learn more and get started.