More often than not, entrepreneurs are about vision, growth, sales and development of products and ideas. Unless they are strong with governance they will typically miss seeing all the risks associated with growing a business and how important IT decisions are in reducing those risks.
If you are a company executive or senior manager responsible for governance, but you are not the entrepreneur in the company, chances are that you have taken the IT systems under your control to ensure the investment made in building the business around the entrepreneur is protected from the inherent risks in building an IT system to support business outcomes.
In any business with computers there is a necessary commitment and investment in systems, data, storage, IT management, licensing and more, and that typically results in the entrepreneur deferring or avoiding expenditure in this area.
We have seen some disasters created by digital entrepreneurs who failed to build suitable backup systems or factor in “what if” scenarios. And it’s clear today that you do not need to be a technology company to be 100% dependent on your computers. Good governance should have in mind all the potential risks a business faces and rank them in terms of probability.
As we all know, computers are providing a large part of our business communications today and when the computers are not working, your business can grind to a standstill. I recently heard of a debt collection firm that was off line for a few days. In that time the cost of not collecting debts was significant. The phones were still working, but without the flow of information from clients about who to collect the debts from there was no work to do and no fees to claim from collections. The time was lost and the impact on top line revenue was significant.
Another scenario I’ve seen is that entrepreneurs don’t like to be slowed down and will often choose to have an on-site IT support person to “look after” them. But they fail to see the limitations of the internal “IT department” and while the rest of the staff pray for a broader more available solution to the IT services the entrepreneur struggles to justify the outsourcing of the job or jobs. This also leaves the business exposed to risk, as eventually the internal IT person grows older and loses touch with technology or needs to take holidays, sick leave or, even worse, leaves permanently, taking the IP of the company’s systems with them and leaving a mess behind.
As a business moves from the start-up and adolescence phases to a structured organisation with many staff, it is the systems that have been built from staff induction processes to service delivery methodologies to staff departure processes and everything in between that determine how scalable the business is. Most entrepreneurs (myself included) would rather focus on the future potential and activity of the business than build these robust processes and so it is important to have people on the team take responsibility for ensuring robust systems are in place. At Combo, our commitment to this end is to have a joint managing director who is process driven to ensure robust decisions are made and actions taken.
It seems to me that entrepreneurs often make terrible IT decisions as their eye is on the future prize. However, it’s not hard to find the right resource to focus on the IT risks, recommend the appropriate changes/policies and take proactive steps to keep those risks from coming to life and damaging your business. The question is; do you have anyone in your organisation that can stand up to the entrepreneur and ensure the right decisions are made for the long-term health, security and scalability of your business?
David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.