Small business IT support is typically an afterthought for most owners and/or executives of organizations with under fifty employees. In some cases the owner is involved in support herself. In others, a key employee has this responsibility in addition to another important role. Occassionally, there is a dedicated employee for this activity, but at this size, it is usually hard to justify. In most cases, the company avails itself of a reactive break-fix IT services company. The problem is that reactive support yields sub-optimal results.
Here are four things to consider when determining your small business IT support strategy:
- Planning is profitable. When one approaches information technology organically and reactively, there are often costly, unintended consequences. Typical examples of these include not planning for operating system upgrades, not being aware of technology that can drive revenue and efficiency and incompatibilities with applications. Unfortunately, many small business owners are not aware of all of the complexities that come with even deploying a handful of personal computers. If you try to plan yourself and sense that there may be things you are missing, you probably are and it may be time to seek some expert guidance.
- Application and infrastructure support. In an effort to contain costs, many small business owners attempt to combine both application and infrastructure support into one person, perhaps an existing employee with other responsibilities. Line of business applications are critical, but it is an entirely different skill set administering an application and running healthy information technology infrastructure. Force-fitting these two functions together can be problematic.
- Opportunity cost. Something that I often hear from a president or controller of a small business is that they handle the IT themselves. They will tell me that they plan on growing the company 15% in a year, yet they are willing to dedicate 8 hours of their time to IT every month. Consider a conservative case of someone paid $50 per hour. Their time is probably worth three times that in terms of what they bring to the business. At 8 hours per month, this is an opportunity cost of $1,200.00 per month. Outsourcing this function is immediately profitable and drives better results due to enhanced expertise, automation and process.
- Performance and downtime. While downtime is fairly obvious, performance degradations may be more insidious. Even with downtime, what is the value of that downtime for the business? For some, it is thousands of dollars per month. How much is an hour of productivity across the entire employee base worth? Again, for a typical small business that could be hundreds or thousands of dollars per month.
These are only some of the things to consider regarding small business IT support (risk and capital investment being other interesting areas), but they begin to paint a picture. Technology has many layers and has a deep effect on a business whether it is readily apparant or not.
How do you do small business IT support?
- Reactive support yields sub-optimal results
- Planning reduces costs by anticipating problems before they occur
- Support for applications and infrastructure require different skill sets
- The opportunity cost of using internal resources for IT support may be hundreds or thousands of dollars per month