For businesses that are in the small-to-medium-sized (SMB) category (25 to 100 computers, 25 to 100 employees or a mix), the IT labour requirements of their computer network can be quite significant. And that significance can be enough for consideration to be given to the idea of hiring a full-time employee to dedicate to the various IT support roles.
The question here is, is that the right way to go for your business? It may be and it may not be. Let us give you some guidance on this decision.
The alternative to having a full-time IT person on staff includes having an in-house employee support the organization on a part time basis, while this part-time person also serves other significant roles. This may or may not pull your decision toward outsourcing or (ala Seinfeld) outsourcing with benefits.
A company can outsource their IT support — while keeping an IT person on-staff — to companies like Smart Dolphins — this may be referred to as co-managed support. This arrangement works very well when you get to near 100 computers or computer users. There are several considerations here, many of which are often overlooked. I will be sharing some of these with you 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.
Small businesses need IT leadership
Companies that choose to hire an internal employee (full time or part time) need to recognize that they are now in the IT business, and they need to actively lead the IT path for their organization. This is true over the short term as well as the long term. Every organization (that wants internal support) needs an employee that dedicates time to being the chief information officer (CIO).
This CIO function is extraordinarily challenging as a part-time role, as this person would have to balance this function off the side of their desk while also trying to be effective at one or more different roles. What tends to happen is the more urgent elements of the various responsibilities get the most attention. The long-term CIO leadership tends to get neglected because it always seems like issues (that often simmer under the surface) can wait “until things settle down.” Sometimes that day never comes. In fact, instead of things simmering down, there is IT upheaval, and the business owner is forced to make hard decisions.
Similarly, a great CIO usually does not always make a great day-to-day support technician and vice versa. The two roles take different skills, experience, and processes that aren’t as complementary as one may think.
To be able to see the whole forest while you’re also examining specific trees takes rare talent and discipline.
Every company also needs to have a consistent systems administrator, and this is another set of skills altogether. This function is responsible for maintaining IT on an ongoing basis. This role needs to be methodically scheduled, structured, and adhered to in a consistent fashion, all year round.
What tends to happen in organizations where there is a single person trying to fulfill the IT role is that the important duties of the CIO and systems administrator get 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 various roles tends toward the diverse, enough-so that companies typically hire someone with the propensity for one of the roles, but not all of them.
Considering today’s labour market, good luck with that.
At Smart Dolphins, we have segregated each of these primary roles; these are fulfilled by different people within our organization. We call our account managers vCIOs (Virtual Chief Information Officers), and our systems administrators “Virtual IT Managers” (vITM). Both roles can ignore the noise of the reactive issues — they are supported by our dedicated IT support team. Our vCIOs can instead spend time understanding our clients’ business and creating a well-researched and expertly crafted IT roadmap.
And speaking of that noise, it comes down greatly after our best-in-class onboarding process has taken place and clients are setup for success.
Meanwhile, our vITMs can consistently engage in the critical process of applying our best practices, regardless of what the other roles they are immersed in. My next post in this series is on over-investing in your IT. Find that post here.
About Smart Dolphins IT Solutions
Started in year 2000 by Victoria native Dave Monahan, Smart Dolphins originally offered tech support in any way you can imagine. We didn’t look much different than all the other IT providers out there. So, Dave decided that there is a better way to go for clients and for Smart Dolphins. That better way is to work where the POD isn’t just putting out fires all the time, but strategically managing client IT success so there is less chance that fires would flare up (and need to be put out in a panic or emergency).
Two decades later Dave and the POD have built a world-class IT provider for small to medium sized businesses. If your business has a dozen or so computers and upwards to around 100, you are the right size for an MSP/TSP like Smart Dolphins.
Feel free to contact us!