Is your IT person really the hero you think they are?
I speak to lots of people who have a great relationship with their IT person, whether in-house or outsourced. In fact, the IT person often feels like a friend. Perhaps this is because it’s your IT person who comes running when you have a problem and need help. They like hero-work, where they can swoop in to save the day and fly off again, to the fading sounds of cheering fans.
These heroes are lovable characters - they can be loyal and friendly and ever so helpful...Of course, this makes it very hard to let them go, especially if they seem to be doing a good job of fixing the problems.
But, have you looked at the downside of relying on this hero figure? Heroes need your systems to fail to justify their position, and they probably make money off each failure too. Heroes rarely keep good records or documentation and like to keep key, strategic information to themselves as it protects their role.
Heroes don’t think strategically about long-term outcomes - they prefer to focus on the ‘here and now’ tactical solution. They also love quick workarounds that save the day, but often these are sleeper problems that strike back later when other changes are made.
We see these characteristics in our own staff and work very hard to change the behaviour of the technical hero to make them a team player, which in our mind makes them a stronger asset. Not all technical people can be converted to the team mentality without completely breaking the hero spirit that attracted them to the industry in the first place.
However, IT is changing and business needs of IT people are shifting. Moving from crisis to crisis is no longer a suitable approach for a growing business that is totally dependent on IT systems. And covering a wide range of technologies with good breadth and depth is no longer possible for just one person, so teams are required.
In the SME sector, this means outsourcing is becoming more important, to ensure costs are kept down and productivity of IT services is maximised. Your business needs access to the right skills as soon as a problem occurs, not days or weeks later. IT problems that land in the too-hard basket will cost your organisation money, as workarounds are put in place. Outsourced IT teams can provide your business with access to specialists with the capabilities that you need. For example: you might need to upgrade a server, which, for the right specialist is a two week job, or, for someone who hasn’t done a server upgrade for a few years, is a three-month project with variable outcomes.
You may need a specialist for a few days to migrate your in-house mail server to the new online exchange system. Your in-house team may take weeks to achieve this ¬¬(with many mistakes made along the way), but a specialist who has already done a few might complete a trouble-free migration in a few days with no impact on your business productivity or staff morale. The apparent cost savings of using the person you have are drastically outweighed by speed and accuracy of the specialist.
We are also seeing huge benefits in the SME sector for getting new IT strategies brought into a business. As discussed in the recent Gartner article, the landscape is shifting and new solutions are available that let us work off mobile tablet devices and smart phones or allow us to open up new geographical regions with good scalable systems. This takes a strategic overview not often associated with IT tactical IT heroes.
We still need our heroes, but they need to get smarter and they need to be backed by good teams of specialists with strategic foresight. If it’s not time to let go of your IT hero, it may be time to wrap a whole lot of support around this person to ensure you get the outcomes you need.
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David Markus is the founder of Combo - the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.