Since pretty much everyone spends the first couple weeks of each new year reflecting on how they can do things better both personally and professionally, I was inspired to share a conversation I recently had with the managing director of a small-business IT outsourcing company from Illinois, Intrinsic Technologies.
Kyle Haroldson, who is also the company's CTO, previously worked in-house at several large and small companies, so his opinion is shaped by plenty of firsthand experience.
Many of the things we discussed aren't all that revelatory, but a good dose of common sense never hurts - especially since technology is becoming increasingly critical to the success of businesses large and small. This is especially true for small companies that are breaking through the all-important 10-person staff threshhold. "The sophistication of your IT starts to ramp up quite a bit when you reach this point. But as soon as you hire your first employee, there's something you need to do in order to manage your IT," Haroldson said.
So next time your company is talking about an IT investment (this month perhaps?) here are five things to keep in mind:
1. Don't look at computers as a necessary evil, look at them as an extension of your business plan. Most companies, especially small ones, tend to overlook technology when crafting long-term strategy. By including these concepts in discussions from the beginning, your team can make sure things like an e-commerce site or social media presence don't come off looking like an afterthought. Many managers view computers as an expense, when they should look at them as a way to build revenue, Haroldson said.
2. Don't expect to do it all yourself. While it's tempting to try to scrimp and assign internal personnel to handle some of the "technology stuff," this can be a recipe for failure. "Because they don't do it all the time, most of the time they will miss a key aspect of how to manage something. Focus instead on what they do best, and consult professionals for ideas," Haroldson said. Mind you, his business is outsourcing, so it's in his interest to say this. But I've covered the IT services business for many years. While there are definitely things that small businesses can handle in-house (such as cloud provisioning), it doesn't hurt to consult a trusted technology advisor to avoid mistakes.
3. Don't underestimate the true cost of ownership. Many smaller companies look at the upfront deployment pricetag for hardware, software or networking equipment - forgetting about the cost of keeping this infrastructure running smoothly and securely over time. While it may be tempting to buy something from an office retailer that offers the cheapest price, getting it from a VAR or technology solution provider will likely provide your company with access to managed services that keep that infrastructure optimized.
4. Don't forget backup. This, in particular, is something you have doubtless heard many, many times. Haroldson has personally seen businesses go under because they failed to protect their data or back it up to a secondary site they could access during an outage at their primary site.
5. Think of security before a breach. Again, nothing new but something that many small businesses tend to ignore until they suffer a breach. The best protection comes from picking the right architecture in the first place, Haroldson said, rather than trying to build a hodgepodge set of defenses after the fact.