Writing The IT Handbook for Business

In his book, The IT Handbook for Business, Managing Information Technology Support Costs, author William Couie aims to help small to mid-size businesses (SMBs) save time, reduce costs, increase reliability and enhance their productivity using what he calls “simple yet effective techniques” in the business.

Couie, a field technician that has worked in the IT field for the past 30 years, said he never intended to write a book. In fact, over years of in-field experience, he said it was evident that a lot of businesses hire firms to perform IT-related tasks but, in fact, these firms usually aren’t actually qualified to perform the work they do. What usually ended up happening was Couie would have to go into these organizations and perform “clean-up” to fix the network and security issues that other IT firms created a “mess” out of.

After years of observation, Couie began compiling notes that he hoped he could turn into a guide to help organizations solve and avoid some of these “avoidable” IT issues.

“The goal was to help them learn that if they were to implement the techniques I mention in the book, they can afford to have the best support and best people in their organizations,” Couie said. “There are a lot of people that don’t know to ask (firms) about their certifications and qualifications. This book teaches them how to ask these questions to get the best results.”

What usually ends up happening is these SMBs will need work done inside of their organization and they’ll just look in the phone book and call someone, Couie said. They assume that if the IT firm has a phone number and an address, it’s qualified to do the job.

CDN had the opportunity to interview the Alexandria, La.-based author to discuss his book in more detail, learn what he’d like his readers to come away with, and to talk about some of the over-arching themes and messages in the book.

CDN: What is this book about?

William Couie: The book teaches businesses how to implement certain procedures so they control their own IT destiny by using proper support and policies. Often times when businesses need work done, they’ll just write a cheque and be done with it instead of looking for multiple options. The book will teach businesses how to properly analyze quotes and invoices to see whether or not they’re detailed correctly, or if it’s written with techno-babble. I also dedicate a chapter to Internet acceptable use policies. No business should be in business if they don’t have one of these in place. Internet acceptable use policies help alleviate entirely some of the worse IT problems, such as viruses. I also want people to know when someone’s taking advantage of them. I discuss things like software piracy to show businesses what’s allowable and what’s not.

CDN: Who are the target readers for this book?

W.C.: The book is aimed at the SMB owner and manager because it teaches them how to properly implement certain things in their business.

CDN: You mention techno-babble. What is this and why is it a problem?

W.C.: I find some of the low-bidding IT firms will utilize techno-babble to take advantage of and confuse clients so they can increase their incomes. I sometimes go into businesses and see non-complementary equipment and when I go back and review the proposals and the way they’re worded, it confuses not only the clients, but even me at times. I don’t think clients know how to ask for explanations. Every business should locate an IT consultant and talk to them before they solicit any work to be done. That way, the IT consultant can go in and look at a business’ requirements and analyze the proposals and they can also help guide you to the correct firms. All businesses should also have themselves audited to make sure they’re still going in the right direction and make sure people have the correct certifications. It’s important to remember that networks and workstations were meant to serve us in the business, and not be annoyances.

CDN: What would you like your readers to take away from your book?

W.C.: The most significant thing a business can do is to implement an acceptable Internet usage policy because this stuff is literally out of control. There are some avoidable issues, such as with confusion with employees. They’re using network workstations that have confidential information on them as if they’re home computers. As a result, businesses often have to spend money to bring in IT to help clean-up (security) issues which could have been avoided in the first place. I want readers to learn to interview an IT firm and realize they’re being interviewed by that firm at the same time, because you’re forming an alliance and partnership together. The book is focused on knowledge, protection and self-policing.

CDN: You’re working on a second book called Information Technology Support Secrets Revealed. Tell me more.

W.C.: This book will be hopefully completed by January or February 2011. I’m hoping it will be out in May or June of next year. This book is my attempt at running the scam artists and the less than competent people out of the business. Over the years, I’ve seen, first-hand, good quality IT firms with competent people actually go under because the landscape was so peppered with unqualified technicians that were diluting and removing opportunities for good firms to do a good job.

The IT Handbook for Business, Managing Information Technology Support Costs is now available from Createspace, an Amazon.com company and sells for US$29.95.

Follow Maxine Cheung on Twitter: @MaxineCheungCDN.

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