There are plenty of reports on this topic from companies like IDC and Gartner who have a focus on the cost of IT per computer for large organisations. These reports take multiple cost factors into account, such as the obvious cost of hardware, software and support, but also the less-tangible aspects such as staff productivity and cost of downtime.
In the SME space, there are other factors to consider; such as who’s time is going into fixing the problem. We often see the wrong resources being used to resolve IT issues, and it can make a significant difference to the real costs of IT.
So, what are some wrong resource scenarios?
Often, in small business, the person who starts doing the computer support is a senior member of the team who is forced to dabble in IT when the business has a need for the function, but no budget for the right resources. This may continue to the point where a key resource is spending a significant chunk of their time on the distraction that is the IT system.
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Often, there is simply not enough capacity in a business to support the equipment, and so staff work around problems unproductively in what is typically a stressful environment.
Sometimes the person responsible has some knowledge in IT, and has fallen into the role but really lacks the strategic knowledge to drive the change and systems required as the business succeeds and grow. This person can become the expensive roadblock to progress. They may be generally okay at IT, but lack the specific skills needed to access the right or new technology that would make all the difference.
So, bringing this back to costs, the SME business may be spending as much per employee on IT as its larger counterpart, but not be getting the benefit of the investment for all the reasons listed above. It’s important to frequently consider how the IT systems can be improved without spending more money but instead by having the best possible resources assigned to resolving each problem.
After all, there is no point having people standing around discussing how good it would be if the IT system would just perform better. So, look to productivity as an indicator of IT success and create a roadmap for getting the right resources in place and the right solutions designed, implemented and managed.
Remember, it is unlikely that the person who can design or implement the right system is the best person to maintain it going forward. Design is a creative process that requires an understanding of business processes and knowledge of a wide selection of technologies at a strategic level, whereas maintenance is a repetitive task that requires rhythm and specific knowledge of the systems in place.
Engaging with a team of experts who have strategic advisors all the way though to hands-on doers is highly likely to get you a better financial result than making use of the in-house skills of people who simply fell into an IT role. You are also likely to get a better handle on the real costs of IT by stripping it out of the day-to-day activities of your entire workforce.
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David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.