IT isn’t just about filling seats

No matter the size of your business, no matter what the product or service, your company is at least partially reliant on technology to survive and function in today’s marketplace. It is just unavoidable. A significant portion of everyone’s business is online in some fashion or other. And internal operations and administration are dependent on databases, servers on-line access, etc. A large and diversified company has the depth of staffing to fully support all of its IT infrastructure needs. Unfortunately, this is not the case with small- to medium-sized businesses, and it is absolutely not the case for recent startups struggling to get a foothold in the market. SMBs are generally forced to focus all of their resources on the operations that drive revenues. For example, how many small firms have a trained human resource practitioner on board, even though the lack of one can leave them vulnerable to a number of legal and staffing issues? Very few. They just don’t have the resources to devote to anything that isn’t sales or a critical line operation. The same tends to be true for an IT infrastructure support staff and the personnel “required” to support it 24/7.

The question then arises, how does an SMB begin to bring on the necessary resources to support their IT needs? A common solution is to bring on a generalist who will act as the IT director/manager and then that person will bring on additional, more specialized staff as revenue growth permits.

This is a pretty standard model for addressing IT support needs for a growing SMB. But does that really make the most sense? The issue with this model is that it follows a typical, hierarchical company org chart, but doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of a SMB. The IT demands of a typical company are very diverse, and one individual doesn’t have the depth and breadth of experience to significantly support every corner of your IT infrastructure. When resources for IT staffing are limited, creating the IT department that covers everything can be unrealistic. Building out this traditional model takes time and resources to make sure you have the IT support that possesses all the diverse skills needed to meet the many requirements of a sound IT infrastructure. As a result, this model may not truly meet the immediate/urgent needs of a developing or transforming organization. The alternative IT support is not from an organizational chart approach but from a risk management one.

What do we mean by a risk management perspective? For any business, but especially a smaller one without deep pockets, the consequences of some disaster may mean the end of the business. As a result, risk evaluation becomes critical. There are an endless variety of events, from mishaps to major disasters that challenge your viability. Risk management inventories all of the possible risks that could befall the organization and places them in a hierarchy of significance. At the top are single points of failure disasters or extreme events that would shut down the business, at least temporarily. Risk management then works to channel limited resources toward mitigating the most serious risks. How does this reflect on how you bring on IT support in your business? You bring on the support, either through hiring or an MSP on the basis of where your IT infrastructure is most vulnerable, not on the basis on “positions’” to be filled. This is a different approach and more appropriate for a SMB that has limited resources.