Not too long ago, I was contacted by a friend in need of some technical advice; he was looking to hire a new IT manager for his company as his previous manager was leaving. As he’s not a technical person, he wasn’t sure what the required skills and knowledge would be for such a position – other than the general manager attributes. So I embarked on this journey to help him out and as I did, it got me thinking of a number of issues.
The level of integration and reliance of the business world today with the technology industry can really have an impact on the operational aspects (if not other sectors too) of a firm. The IT department is no longer that dingy support department that fixes your computers and makes sure that your phones are working. This department, which was considered nothing more than a help desk, has now evolved into the life-blood of most firms’ business operations today. Just think about it: With the emergence of IP telephony and the heavy reliance on e-mail, instant messaging and other more critical systems, a sturdy and robust IT infrastructure becomes the backbone rather than the auxiliary part of the company.
Even the smallest start-up or business today needs a knowledgable IT person that (at the very least) understands how to setup and administer an email system. Yes, although as a business owner, you might know what it is that you need (for example, an email system, a local network, sustained uptime from my systems and keeping all documentation or accounting up-to-date), it’s the “how” that will ensure it all runs smoothly rather than the “what”. This triggers important questions for the person setting up this system such as:
- How are you going to get these systems up and running?
- And once you do, how do you know that they’re running properly or efficiently?
- What are the factors that you need to consider in the Service Level Agreements (SLA) that you request? Do you even know what an SLA is?
- And most importantly who are you going to get to take care of all this, and what are the credentials of this person?
Having seen my share of broken-down, under-developed, under-sized, under-funded, over-worked, and sometimes even nonexistent IT departments over the years, I’ve realized that the most common pitfall comes back to a lack of knowledge and/or awareness about such issues by upper management who need to rethink their approach to this department.
Three factors that will change the way you view IT at your business are the following:
- IT (and technology) in this day and age is no longer just a help desk, it has become the lifeblood of your operations
- IT is not easy; not just any regular Joe Shmoe can manage your IT operations for you
- Don’t be afraid to reach out for help; because you probably need it.
The third point resonated the most for me. It’s amazing how many business owners are well-aware of the first two points but very often hesitate reaching out for right help for the very services required to uphold their infrastructure. I appreciated that my friend reached out to me on this, because by doing this, he acknowledged the value of IT in his business and that he needed an experienced professional (not to blow my own horn but that is my job after all) to make sure that he was leveraging his IT infrastructure to properly serve its purpose.
In conclusion, if you’re a business owner, the sooner that you come to terms with the above, the sooner you will realize that having the proper IT resources can evolve your business into its full potential. And if you’re on the other side of the spectrum as an IT person, make sure that you’re giving your job its value, because remember: IT is no longer just a help desk job so don’t be lazy with it simply because the client or boss isn’t aware of what can be done better. It’s our role to support them and guide them through it, which will reward both of you in the long-run and make you an invaluable part of the organization.