For larger small businesses (25 to 100 computers/employees), the IT labour requirements of their computer network can be significant enough that consideration is given to hiring a full time employee to dedicate to the IT Support roles. The alternatives are having an in-house employee support the organization on a part time basis, while also serving other significant roles. Or a company can outsource their IT support to companies like Smart Dolphins. There are a number of considerations here, many of which are often overlooked. I will be sharing some of these considerations through a series of six blogs over the coming weeks. Here is the third.
Last week I reviewed the total costs of hiring a full time person. This week I will be considering IT leadership and the other proactive roles needed in the organization.
Information technology needs leadership. Companies that choose to hire an internal employee (full time or part time) need to realize that they are in the IT support business and they need to actively lead the IT path for their organization over the short term and long term. Someone in the organization needs to dedicate some of his or her time to being the Chief Information Officer (CIO).
This CIO function is extraordinarily hard for a part time person as they have to balance this off the side of their desk while also trying to be effective at a different role. What tends to happen is the more urgent elements of the various responsibilities get the most attention. The long term leadership (CIO) tends to get neglected because it always seems like it can wait “until things settle down”.
Similarly, a great CIO usually doesn’t make a great day-to-day support technician and vice versa. The two roles take different skills, experience and processes that aren’t as complimentary as one might hope. To be able to see the whole forest while you’re also trying to examine specific trees takes rare talent and discipline.
Every company also needs to have a consistent Systems Administrator role functioning and this is another beast altogether. This function is responsible for maintaining things, on an ongoing basis. The Sys Admin role needs to be methodically scheduled, structured and adhered to on a consistent basis.
What tends to happen in a small business, when there is a single person fulfilling all the IT duties is the important, but non-urgent duties of the CIO and Systems Administrator are neglected. The value of putting out today’s fire, in the moment, is seen as more important than investing in the future. Further, the nature of the roles is different enough that a company typically hires someone with the propensity for one of the roles, but not all of them – this can over-weight the stronger role(s).
Smart Dolphins has segregated each of these primary roles I’m describing; these are all different people in our organization. Our Virtual-CIO and Systems Administrator can each ignore the noise of the reactive issues – they are sheltered by our dedicated Service Desk team. Our VCIO can spend time understanding our clients’ business and draw up an IT roadmap. Meanwhile, the Sys Admin consistently delivers those pedestrian, but critical proactive duties, regardless of what the other roles are doing at the moment.
I’d be happy to meet with you to discuss how we do what we do and see if we can figure out a good way to get all the roles functioning appropriately in your organization. Just give me a call.
Next week I will be examining the dangers of over-investing in I.T. support.