Do you remember that time an Internet message said you needed an operating system update and, when you pressed “Install,” your computer was never quite right again? How about that time you sent a document to the printer and there was two pages worth of blotchy ink on a single piece of paper? Or what about that day you pressed “Delete” instead of “Save” and realized there was no possible way to get that five-page proposal back?
Technology is a wonderful tool that offers us greater efficiency and a higher level of work productivity – most of the time. But things can periodically go awry – technology is a combination of digital data and analog (mechanical) equipment that requires skill to use, needs to be properly set up, and every once in a while, things can even break or wear out. As a business leader, technology is likely not your strong suit. Even if it is, your efforts are needed to meet new clients, make sales and represent your firm in the best possible light. Replacing the bulb in your projector as your client’s C-suite stakeholders enter the room is not the light we’re talking about.
IT is What IT is
Whether you’re a sole proprietorship or you have full-time staff, there comes a time when you might want to leave the technical work to those who know it best – information technology (IT) professionals. What do IT people do? According to the Association of Information Technology Professionals, their members serve the technology needs of industry and society, and “span every level of the IT industry from mainframe systems, to micro systems, to PC based LAN and WAN systems, to virtual systems and the Internet.” Your Chief Technology Officer (CTO) may upgrade your OS, manage SSO and LDAP configurations; maintain DNS accounts and IMAP configurations; integrate systems using APIs; set up RAID configurations on HDD devices; ensure compliance with SOX, GLBA or scores of other federal and industry regulations; oversee Pen tests; and much, much more. Now, do you really want to learn all these acronyms, let alone spend hours upon hours trying to perform the actual work that is required to keep your networks and devices running strong? Frankly, we didn’t think so.
Information professionals serve as consultants and hands-on technicians, helping companies of all sizes to develop technology strategies appropriate to their business, and build strong and stable technology environments aligned with that strategy. As data becomes the backbone of many enterprises, the role of the information technology professional to protect and manage data creation, storage and retrieval is increasing in importance. According to AIIM, a trade association for information professionals:
Organizations are facing an avalanche of information, in forms and formats and via devices that weren’t even on the radar screen five years ago. Images and documents are the core of systems of record. Conversations — in a wide variety of forms and on a dizzying array of devices — are now the challenge.
Perhaps you want to create a network of computer systems, manage data in the “cloud,” build and secure a mobile or social media environment, establish security protocols, integrate your systems with those of business partners, or create data stores of mission-critical information. For many companies, these activities are necessary and routine business activities and require the expertise of technology-proficient resources.
Finding IT Talent
It’s not uncommon for “mom and pop” firms to find a computer-savvy niece or nephew to help with computer maintenance or web development. While such a gesture is great to give your family member confidence and experience in the real world of business, you’re probably leaving a lot of knowledge on the table – and leaving a lot of security holes in your technical environment. Your technology investment and information assets are very valuable, and they should be treated as such. So, look for technology professionals who are accountable, degreed or certified (CISSP), and available when you need them.
Fortunately, there are different options for obtaining IT support. Which one is right for you?
If you have – or expect to develop – a complex IT architecture, having one or more IT professionals in-house may be just what you need. According to Information Age, developing in-house expertise is valuable when:
- You have specific business needs
- You want resources to be available immediately for support or to respond to security threats
- You want to retain talent that provides strategic advantage
- You want expertise that is accountable to and invested in your success
- You have the budget for the salary and benefits required to keep high-quality IT resources
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)
While IT outsourcing has slowed in recent years, many organizations – especially small and medium size businesses – can benefit from contracting with IT managed services providers for all or some of their IT requirements. The Smart Data Collective suggests that a managed service provider can provide significant advantages when:
- You can’t afford full time salaries or want predictable monthly IT costs without investing in in-house resources
- You would rather commit your FTE budget to staff that directly support revenue generation
- Your business model and regulatory environment permits you to use off-site data centers and network infrastructure, supported 24x7x365 by skilled IT professionals
- You like the idea of third-party, centralized maintenance of security and application upgrades that can be seamlessly distributed across your staff wherever they reside
- You prefer third-party management of technology functions like e-mail hosting, web development and hosting, data storage and backup, network monitoring, and more
You might also consider a hybrid model of IT support, in which you have a single paid employee or small team that runs mission-critical aspects of your technology operations while retaining a managed service provider to address other functions that are considered lower priority or lower risk to the business.
IT’s Role in Procurement
One of the “invisible” benefits of in-house or contracted IT professionals is their ability to help your finance or procurement teams when you need to acquire hardware, software or services. Technology purchases are rarely as simple as, say, pens or pocket folders. Many technology purchases are accompanied by performance, scalability and compliance specifications requiring an understanding of the business, the industry environment and the current and proposed IT architecture. For example, let’s say you are considering the purchase of Contentverse. While our team can be helpful in providing you with recommendations and prospective configurations, in-house or contracted IT resources may be able to validate how the application will operate in the current environment and work with Contentverse and business stakeholders to ensure that any upgrades and expansions are addressed for optimal system performance.
As you can see, the role of information technology resources is no longer that of resident “computer repairman” or “software coder.” Rather, IT plays a strategic and functional role that is as important as finance, marketing, and other departments supporting revenue generation and operational success. Ultimately, it’s not whether you retain IT resources within your organization, but how you structure technology support to maximize its value to your staff and business strategy.