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Rules of Engagement for SMB IT Providers November 8, 2008

Posted by Jim Locke in IT Business.

In military or police operations, the rules of engagement (ROE) determine when, where, and how force shall be used. Such rules are both general and specific, and there have been large variations between cultures throughout history. The rules may be made public, as in a martial law or curfew situation, but are typically only fully known to the force that intends to use them.

In the IT services business, you should estbalish your own rules of “engagement”. No, I am not suggesting that you treat your clients, as enemy combatants. I am just suggesting that you establish a set of rules or standards for doing business with a client. Some may be public or private. Others, may be hard and fast or soft and flexible.¬†Regardless, you should truly consider outlining these and adhering to them, time and again. I find that every time I fail to do so, I do a disservice to myself, my business, my client or my family. Hence, I have outlined my Rules of Engagement for IT services below:

  1. Always do a written assessment of some sort. It establishes the baseline for your relationship.
  2. Establish minimum standards for the IT environment that you will support.
  3. Establish that client can pay your bills.
  4. Scope your work. Scope creep is the enemy of both business owners and IT professionals alike, so make sure that you properly communicate the scope of work you will perform and communicate any changes required to the client along the way.
  5. Use a contract or letter of engagement. Make sure it outlines both what you will deliver and what your expectations of the client are.
  6. Provide a written report of the work you perfromed. This can take the form of an invoice, report or ticket but reestablishes how you left things when compared to the initial written assessment you performed.
  7. Manage your client’s expectations. Communicate with them regularly on issues related to their business and technology and suggest where improvemants can be made.
  8. Consider how the client will likely impact your business, family life, personal health and your overall quality of life.
  9. Follow your gut.

Before you write your own rules of engagement for your IT business, consider taking a look at the Moscow Rules, the fabled, practical rules of engagement supposedly used by CIA operatives in Moscow during the Cold War. I think you will find them to be a good start when considering your own rules of “engagement”. Hence, I invite you to join the discussion and comment on the rules of engagement for your IT business.



1. Jim Sterling - December 4, 2008

Just read about the Moscow Rules. These are a very good starting point for any business, but are especially good for our business. Several times my guy has said one thing and I have done another. In the end, my gut was right.

It would probably be good to develop a discussion on this subject for everyone to use and contribute to.

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