Providing IT Support To Your Small Business Is A Team Sport

IT SupportAs a small business grows, owners hire an IT person to support the increasing complexity of their IT infrastructure and growing employee base; typically an owner hires one IT employee.

They hire that person with the expectation that the new hire will be able to provide all the IT support the company will need; my 30 year experience in providing IT services shows me that is an incorrect assumption!

I just returned from a two week Boy Scout backpacking trip in northern New Mexico that I attended with my 17 year old son and ten other Boy Scouts from his troop.  I knew I had to be physically prepared to carry a 45-50 pound back pack and hike 10-15 rugged wilderness miles every day in the blazing desert sun.

I spent 6 months in preparing for the trip; getting the right gear, learning how to use it, hundreds of boring hours on a treadmill and dieting. I was absolutely certain this trip would be a success based upon being 100 percent personally prepared. 

I quickly found out on the trail that hiking with a group is a team sport, no matter how well I had prepared, I was still largely at the mercy of the slowest hiker. Plus, in a Crew of 12 people, everyone has another role; we have a cook, a water gatherer, a bear safety person and so on.  Everyone on the Crew is dependent upon each person performing their role in a timely and effective manner.  

The total effectiveness of the Crew requires many skills delivered by a group of people.  If one person fails to cook diner on time, the whole Crew suffers. 

I believe providing IT support to a company is much the same as hiking with a Crew.  At first blush, we think that IT support can be delivered by one person, so we hire what we feel is an all-around IT generalist.  Once that person is hired, your employees begin to receive a level of support they had never experienced before and the business Owner receives positive feedback (reinforcing that single IT hire approach.)

After making the IT hiring decision,  is everything IT really all right?, I mean after all, as the Owner, do you have the time or the knowledge to evaluate if everything related to the company’s IT systems are correctly set up and optimized?

Back in the day, a small business IT support employee needed to know about Windows Operating Systems, Windows Servers and they could support 95% of the IT environment.  Today technology has crept in and with that has come additional IT complexity.  Today you need to be able to support the servers and desktops, but also Firewalls, VPN’s, VoIP telephones, Wide Area Networks, Local Area Networks, Wireless, VMware, and Storage Area Networks, to name a few…. Advanced Network Products has 11 engineers who each specialize in each narrow technology subset.  There is simply too much to know about Firewalls or any other IT specialization to expect an $80,000 a year IT generalist to know and understand.

IT has certainly become a team sport, with so many new technologies to understand and support; it’s become extremely specialized.  Imagine breaking your hand and going to your primary care physician and asking him to set your hand in a cast.  The doctor would first send you to a radiologist to interrupt the x-ray that was taken by an X-ray technician, then to an orthopedic doctor to read the x-ray and cast your hand.  The same is now true in IT, there are so many diverse and complicated technologies, you need a stable of IT specialists.

Before you take the plunge into hiring your first or even your second IT employee, consider IT outsourcing; you get access to a much larger pool of IT talent, all focused on specific areas, and typically at a much lower cost than hiring your own team.  Plus the outsourced team comes at a fixed monthly fee, they never ask for a vacation or a raise and they never call in sick.  IT has certainly become a team sport, how is your IT team?

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