Tracking client contact details, circuit information, network equipment, cloud services, software applications, telephony systems, workstations, servers, security and access control platforms, and extraneous notes is a complex process susceptible to error. Simple but important details and configurations are easily overlooked when you first meet a client and review their technology infrastructure. Documenting a site, determining and logging technology weaknesses and vulnerabilities that require attention, and tracking which recommendations have been provided to clients (in writing, no less) are difficult tasks.

Our comprehensive, customizable checklist will help. By completing the fields in the checklist, you can thoroughly catalog critical client network, workstation, and server information, identify weaknesses and issues that must be addressed, prioritize the issues the checklist reveals, and assign cost estimates to needed upgrades and repairs.

The checklist provides a method for auditing and documenting a client site and assembling an inventory of systems and software, as well as giving you a framework for developing recommendations, applying costs to them, and storing all that information within a single file. In short, the checklist is a single document that can be used to:

  • Record client contact information.
  • Create an inventory and health report for each workstation.
  • Create an inventory and health report for each network location.
  • Create an inventory and health report for each server.
  • Catalog security and door access control technologies.
  • Capture voice and data circuit details.
  • Record cloud services account information.
  • List an organization's critical software applications.
  • Document offsite backup technologies.
  • Add relevant notes to a site audit.
  • Associate client comments with each audit.
  • Present recommendations for moving forward.
  • Prioritize recommendations, upgrades, and repairs.
  • Present cost estimates associated with each recommendation.

You can also use the checklist to gauge the quality of a client's technology infrastructure. One of the most significant benefits of using the checklist, besides its ability to document a client location's technology infrastructure, is that it helps gauge the client's willingness to properly invest in the systems necessary to achieve their stated business needs and objectives.

My office has been burnt more than once by clients who talked a big game but, when it came to crunch time, balked at spending the funds necessary to build the infrastructure they require. We have invested numerous hours in understanding a client's specific business needs and security requirements, only to be told at the 11th hour that the $9,000 project they said they needed must really be completed for just $4,000. The checklist helps surface such discrepancies earlier in the relationship.

By completing this checklist up front, you can learn what's required to close technology gaps and implement appropriate security controls, properly license software, and meet best industry practices. The checklist gives you a barometer to determine how professional and serious a client really is.

If the checklist generates numerous red flags, and the client requests you overlook them, it's likely your office should jettison that client before becoming too invested. Clients who hesitate to replace student/teacher versions of Office software, to upgrade consumer-grade computers with business-class models, or to replace free residential-use-only antivirus applications with professional versions aren't clients with whom professional IT consultants should be working anyway.

SEE: Power checklist: Managing and troubleshooting Windows user accounts

CYA included free

Should a client choose not to proceed with a recommended repair, as sometimes happens, at least your office has written documentation that you identified the issue, recommended a repair, and even budgeted associated costs. A client can't come back and complain they did not receive your recommendation. Best of all, clients can't claim (sometimes a month later when trouble arises from a repair the client chose not to address) that you overlooked an important issue during an initial audit; the checklist provides proof.

Customization

The download includes the checklist as a Word document and as a PDF. You can edit it to meet any special needs your clients or office may have. Further, sample notes are included in the Workstation, Notes, and Recommendations sections to illustrate how to complete the various description and recommendation fields. Just cut-and-paste the table entries to accommodate however many locations and systems your client has. To minimize busywork, you may want to list just one workstation and/or server as representative of other systems; just be sure to record the number of corresponding systems within the Notes table.

My objective wasn't to create a fancy document with lots of design; it was to provide a comprehensive checklist that IT consultants can use to quickly and efficiently audit a client network, determine weaknesses, issues, and vulnerabilities, prioritize needed follow-up, and assign cost estimates to the resulting recommendations. It's already changing how our consultancy brings new clients on board.

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