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The IT Services Break-Fix Conflict of Interests

by Uneeb Khan

At some point since your business purchased its’ first computer, something has gone wrong. It could have been a software problem, a hardware problem, a network problem or a vicious attack from a hacker to steal your data, but when it happens your only concern is to … fix it fast!

When you are in a crisis and need something fixed now, you are vulnerable to the repair person’s knowledge, skills, abilities, tools and ethics. It’s not a place anyone wants to be, but when you are desperate, you will often look for help anywhere you can get it.

In the IT industry, we call this the “break-fix” model.

Why “Break-Fix” Works Entirely in the Consultant’s Favor, Not Yours

Under a “break-fix” model, there is a fundamental conflict of interests between you and your IT firm. 

The IT services company has no incentive to stabilize your computer network or to resolve problems quickly because they are getting paid by the hour; therefore, the risk of unforeseen circumstances, scope creep, learning curve inefficiencies and outright incompetence are all shifted to YOU, the customer. 

Essentially, the more problems you have, the more they profit, which is precisely what you DON’T want.

In this model, the IT consultant can take the liberty of assigning a junior (lower-paid) technician to work on your problem who may take two to three times as long to resolve an issue that a more senior (and more expensive) technician may have resolved in a fraction of the time. 

There is no incentive to properly manage the time of that technician or their efficiency, and there is every reason for them to prolong the project and to find MORE problems than solutions. 

Of course, if they’re ethical and want to keep you as a client, they should be doing everything possible to resolve your problems quickly and efficiently; however, that’s akin to putting a German shepherd in charge of watching over the ham sandwiches. Not a good idea.

Second, it creates a management problem for you, the customer, who now has to keep track of the hours they’ve worked to make sure you aren’t getting overbilled; and since you often have no way of really knowing if they’ve worked the hours they say they have, it creates a situation where you really, truly need to be able to trust they are being 100% ethical and honest AND tracking THEIR hours properly (not all do). 

And finally, it makes budgeting for IT projects and expenses a nightmare since they may be zero one month and thousands the next.

Hourly Break-Fix Fees

Most IT services companies selling break-fix services will quoting a wide range of fees range based on the scope of work outlined. 

If you are hiring an IT consulting firm for a project, we suggest you demand the following:

§  A very detailed scope of work that specifies what “success” is. Make sure you detail what your expectations are in performance, workflow, costs, security, access, etc. The more detailed you can be, the better. Detailing your expectations up front will go a long way in avoiding miscommunications and additional fees to give you what you REALLY wanted.

§  A fixed budget and time frame for completion. Agreeing to this up front aligns both your agenda and the consultant’s. Be very wary of loose estimates that allow the consulting firm to bill you for “unforeseen” circumstances. 

The bottom line is this: it is your IT consulting firm’s responsibility to be able to accurately assess your situation and quote a project based on their experience. 

You should not have to pick up the tab for a consultant underestimating a job or for their inefficiencies. A true professional knows how to take into consideration those contingencies and bill accordingly. 

Conversely, most managed IT services firms will quote you a monthly fee based on the number of devices they need to maintain, back up and support your IT infrastructure.

Break Free from “Break-Fix” with Our Free Network Assessment

Since 2001, Xperteks has provided managed IT services, cybersecurity and cloud infrastructure transitions for clients in New York City and around the world. 

We invite you to take advantage of our free network assessment to explore how breaking free from the “break-fix” model and implementing a managed IT services approach can safeguard your IT infrastructure:


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