Last week I was having lunch with a friend who works for an IT company. Having a web developer on board, they were looking for ways to increase their revenues by fielding more web design and development projects. The catch, however, was that managing web design and development projects can be a whole different beast than managing IT work. The world of IT is driven by panic-induced short-lived tickets escalating upwards and downwards until they are resolved. Whereas building web sites can take weeks or months to complete with relatively minimal client interaction. IT requests can be extremely disruptive to the web developer trying to build out a large project, making them undesirable. Was there any other way to get web site design and development work as an IT company?
After finishing our burrito and quesadilla we were able to put our heads together and come up with something that would work — focus on maintaining existing web sites instead of building new ones. For those IT companies out there looking to bulk up their revenue stream without chasing new clients, here are some ideas on how to add web site maintenance to your list of services. The overhead is small and the diversification can help you through a skittish economy.
How to contract web site maintenance work
You already have a running client list, so start there. Find out which of your clients have a web site online. Familiarize yourself with the web site and decide if maintaining it would fall inside your staff’s realm of competencies. Call up each client, or take them out to lunch, and tell them you have a new service you would like to offer them, that you would like to maintain their web site as an additional service to the IT support you already provide them. If you are in need of a maintenance contract that clearly spells out hourly rates and response times, please download and use our free web site maintenance contract (PDF). Most small businesses out there have a difficult time finding someone to maintain their site once it’s been built, so they will likely be receptive to your offer. Once they’ve agreed, it’s just a matter of getting them signed up with the appropriate rates and handing them off to your project manager. From there, the project manager can handle obtaining the server credentials and other pertinent information required for accessing and maintaining a web site.
How to manage web site maintenance work
Chances are you already have a ticketing system in place for the IT side of your business. If not, you may want to check out our task management system, Intervals, for tracking requests and the time it takes to complete them. Web site maintenance requests are going to be very similar to IT requests. Usually, something has broken, is behaving incorrectly, or someone can’t login. And every so often a mail server may go down or a web server may stop responding to SSL requests, in which case your IT skills are perfectly suited to handle the issue. The incoming request is usually urgent and the time it takes to complete is usually not very long. Because web site requests are so similar, they can be tracked in the same manner as IT requests. A ticket is created and assigned, and the assignee completes the request and records her time so the client can be billed accurately. As the project manager, you can run a report for the client to show how much of their budget went to IT versus how much went to their web site. In the end, it’s really not different than IT work, except that the project manager must now handle a few additional work types and possibly one or two more support staff.
How to complete and deliver web site maintenance work
This is the easy part. As an IT business you should have no problem setting up a development server with the system requirements needed to mirror your clients web sites. Once you are ready to begin work, create a staged copy of the site on a development server using virtual hosts and use this server for client approvals before pushing the completed requests to the live web site. You can take it one step further by setting up versioning for each site you maintain and track the history of changes completed under contract in case the site needs to be rolled back to a previous version or you need to dig out a snippet of code deleted long ago. The staging server makes it much easier and safer to work on client web sites without endangering the live web site. And since you will be doing maintenance work on mostly simple web sites, the staging environment should not require a whole lot of custom implementations and administration.
What you end up with is a win-win situation for you and your client. The client can have their IT and web site maintenance needs handled by one business with whom they already have a trusted working relationship. And the IT company can add an additional stream of revenue with little change to their internal workflow and infrastructure.