(updated with comments….scroll down)
Last week I visited a small business and was introduced to their “IT guy”. Like many small businesses with less than 50, less than 20 employees they didn’t have an IT department but only an “IT guy” (larger business have an IT staff of at least 1 or 2 persons if not more). Their IT Guy, I’ll call him Jack, helped them evolve from the age of dial-up modem to a network of about 8 computers, with shared files, centralized small business accounting and more.
Without him, I’m sure they could get by, but that’s if they’re lucky. Most likely they’d get by for a few months, but as the email piles up, as a computer goes down here and there, as files got lost with no back up – they’d start to slowly spiral down and go out of business. Successful companies have some level (maybe not the latest and greatest) of technology efficiency.
Of course you can have all the technology in the world but have sucky customer service and you’re technology will not make customers happy – they’ll just vote with their dollars..
Back to Jack. Jack didn’t seem like some guy with 40 technology certificates, nor someone able to program an $80 video game in his sleep. But Jack was smart. Honest. Friendly. Quick and a “jack” of many (if not all) IT trades (no pun intended). These traits are very important to having a successful IT guy or gal. Another VERY important skill is being able to find answers. Often I don’t know EVERY small business technology answer. But guess what? I know almost 100% of the time where to find the answers I need (it’s Google about 99% of the time).
As your business grows from 1 – 5 to 20 employees and more, technology MUST play a crucial role if you are going to thrive. As you get 50 and more employees my guess is you’ll have a full time IT person – either your own staff or a local consultant. Either way it will be a full time job managing your IT. Smaller businesses, like the business I visited recently can get away with having their IT person do one part IT and one part other things.
What about your local solution provider?
The best combination is to have local staff (either full time or part time) who know about technology and keeps up with it. This way you have a blend of someone who knows your business very well and can apply technology to your particular situation.
This person, along with you (hey it IS your business) would work with a local solution provider who can implement technology solutions (software updates, hardware upgrades and more) that your in-house person might not have the time or skill to do properly.
Be on the lookout for conflicts between your IT guy and local solution provider. If your IT guy is a “weekend IT person” but does not really know about small business technology he might recommend a solution that your local solution provider does not agree with. Being afraid to show what she does or does not know – conflict, tension and jealousy might crop up. So be careful and know who you can and cannot trust.
Ideally speaking your in-house technology “gal” (or guy) should feel 100% comfortable in telling you what he (or she) does not know. They should know their limits and feel free, with no shame to rely on the local solution provider to do the heavy lifting.
The best use of your in-house IT person (assuming this is NOT their full time job) is to a) brain storm technology ideas for further development with your local solution provider b) keep up to date with technology so you can be informed of the latest technologies to boost your business c) encourage this person to read and attend trade shows and technology events on technology to sharpen their skills and knowledge d) do research and prepare to work with your local solution provider on a solution.
If your IT person is really skilled they can save you a lot of money in time and costs by doing quick tech repairs and tech support.
Finding an IT guy/gal is kind of hard – but look around your community for that smart, bright, smiling, honest, well spoken, geek. That’s probably someone you should have a look at.
A solution provider? Here’s a list:
Your local Chamber of Commerce can also direct you to local solution providers
Rob Levin, Editor, New York Enterprise Report
In the old days, you needed someone who could run the network, keep it secure, install software etc. That is not enough for any business these days. With sub Fortune 1000 companies (who have a CIO), you need someone who understands knowledge management and business process. Someone who can help with an Intranet, information sharing, indexing (making sure things can easily be found). It aint just software and hardware anymore.
I know of someone who works in a 500 person company that runs Lotus Notes which is a very powerful KM tool. They use it for email and nothing else. This while their people struggle to find and share info. As you would guess, they have a network guy and not someone who understands KM (like they need).
Kezia Jordan, Los Angeles-based consultant to technology companies both large and small
I like your breakdown by business size – 1-20 employees can get away
with a person who does IT and something else that generates income for the company, while 50 employees needs a full-time, full charge person. Both will benefit greatly from working with a trusted VAR.
An area I have theorized much about lately: generally the owner of a small biz of course starts out as that IT guy/gal. He/she runs the company IT as well as the business. And there comes a time as the business grows where the owner is spending too much time on IT. Then the tasks get kicked over to the person already in his or her employ who simply knows the most about computers.
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