Of the 5.6 million firms in the United States, 99.7% of them employ less than 500 workers. Just as each of us as individuals are increasingly dependent on technology so these small businesses are increasingly technology-reliant. At some point, they have to consider whether at least some of their employees are technology specialists.
If your small business isn't a technology business, you may wonder what purpose an IT department serves for you. Read on to learn why you may need dedicated IT staff.
Small Business IT Department
If the question of whether you need an IT department has arisen for your business you should consider the options. There are three main options.
Firstly, a small business may be able to operate with some of your team having some responsibility for IT along with their core job. A multiskilled workforce is not unusual in the small business sector.
Many small businesses start with an entrepreneur who handles sales, manufacturing and employee relations before lunch and marketing and logistics in the afternoon. If there is a computer problem this is just part of their daily problem-solving role.
There are some technical problems that are beyond even the most adaptable entrepreneurs. A second option is to seek help from an external IT resource. This can be on an ad hoc basis as issues arise. Alternatively, it can be via an outsourced computer service contract.
A third option is to recruit an in-house computer department. An IT department can sit like other functions within the company and provide dedicated support. This has some important advantages.
An in-house team is familiar with the hardware and software used in the company. In-house know-how can extend beyond the technology into how it is used and applied in the company. This helps the in-house team understanding priorities, do problem-solving, and communicate with IT users.
Having an in-house team gives you more control. You can set standards and prioritize much more than you can if you are dependent on an outsources service. With outsourced services, you are governed by the service contract and this can be limiting.
An in-house team is on the spot. Response times are likely to be quicker. This can be very important for mission-critical systems.
It's good to know that if there is a breakdown or a computer glitch you can call on technical help immediately. It's an insurance policy that you wouldn't want to have to call on, but it's good to know it's there. A quick response means you can get an expert on-site and working on a problem rapidly.
Not only is it good to get a quick response, so you can get an expert on-site quickly. It's also important to get a quick fix. The earlier they get started the earlier they can fix things. A quick fix means the business can get back to work, customers can be served, and you can rest easy.
Good Cultural Fit
Having your own people do IT support allows you to recruit and develop people who are a good fit for your business.
Every company has a culture. This is a set of norms and values that govern the way you do things. External service providers will not share those cultural traits.
Having people who share the same norms helps with communication and engagement. Everybody is singing from the same hymnal and working in harmony. There is less conflict and greater efficiency.
An in-house IT computer department shares the same interest in the company succeeding. With a shared interest it's likely that their commitment will be greater than if they work for an IT services company with multiple clients.
Highly committed people will go the extra mile for you. They will use more of their discretionary effort to support the business and their fellow employees. They have an interest in the business being successful because it's the source of their salary and job security.
Highly committed and engaged people are likely to be more willing to be flexible about when they work and what they do. There are times when the company needs all hands on deck and having people with IT skills around might be especially useful.
Small businesses have few advantages over their larger competitors but one of them is the ability to be flexible. They can change direction quickly or meet customer needs more creatively. This is because they operate on a smaller scale.
Having an in-house IT team means that the IT aspects of the operation can also be flexible. Outsourcing IT can mean that you are inhibited from using the competitive advantage of flexibility because of a less flexible IT service.
Leverage External IT Services
There may be times that even your internal IT department is unable or unqualified to meet a need. On these occasions, an external provider may need to be brought in. Having an in-house team with some technical understanding means getting more out of the external IT professionals.
The external service can be recruited and supervised by the internal team. Their IT knowledge will ensure that you get better service than if non-IT people were tasked with managing the service. The in-house team can also handle the communication and customization of the service to your needs better than an external provider would be able to do alone.
It's Time to Think About It
When you are in the middle of an IT crisis it's a bad time to consider strategic decisions like developing an internal IT department. Better to think about it now. Take a balanced view and plan ahead for your IT support needs.
Talk to us about your IT staffing needs here.