How can I get our IT guy to build our IT strategy, when he can’t even keep up with changing the ink cartridges in our printers?
Has your organisation grown to the point where IT was a big enough pain to hire someone to fix it for you on a full-time basis? Did you go out to the market place and hire an “all rounder” to replace the toner in the printers, fix the PCs, build and maintain the servers, train the staff on the applications, run the reports from the ERP system, and help out with the webpage and email issues?
This is exactly what many small growing businesses do. And chances are that if you are in the same situation, you hired someone who knows a lot more about IT than you do. After all, we are often told to “hire up” to get someone into the business who is better at an area than you are. So, well done, you have hired up! But why are you still having these problems?
To put it simply, you have a depth problem; you have one guy trying to cover the small problems for which he is too expensive to be fixing, as well as the big problems that he doesn’t have the skills or experience to resolve. Maybe, you have a jack of all trades and master of none.
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To have only one person covering all the bases means that they have to stop designing your future business systems to perform simple tasks like tracing an unplugged network cable. I’m sure you would agree that this probably isn’t the best use of your money. If they are capable of designing the right solution then they will be an expensive resource to be performing the simpler IT tasks.
It is likely that when you first added this resource to your team, it was like a breath of fresh air, and you found them to be really useful. No doubt things have grown since then and your IT systems have become more complex. And now you are dependent on the one guy to maintain your IT system. The one guy who probably has all the IP locked away in his head and you therefore fear the day that he is no longer there.
Occasionally in my travels I have come across an in-house IT guy who looks after the whole IT environment and has documented all important data about the systems that are in place. But this is rare.
And that brings us to you, and now. Although your IT guy got you to where you are now on his own, this does not necessarily mean he has the capability to get you to the next point as your business grows. You need to consider your plans for supplementing his capabilities or replacing them completely if he can’t take you to the next point.
So how do you progress from this point in your business growth cycle?
To get an independent view of what is going on in your business, see our recent article about IT auditing Why should we audit our IT environment? This will also let you take a step back from the tactical day-to-day operations of maintaining IT and give you a strategic overview of IT in your business and what needs to be accomplished over the next few years.
Once you have the strategic plan you can budget to remove “creaking infrastructure”, and get the right software and implementation. Then you will be able to get the right support services in place to maintain and expand the system as your business continues to grow.
The right people and the right systems can underpin the growth of your business. If you think you may have a problem developing in the IT area chances are that it is already a larger problem than you think, as poor planning in IT can lead to over spending and under performing systems. Just throwing more money at the problem will not solve it until you have the right people working in the right areas.
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice.