The cloud and the accidental IT manager

Could moving to software or infrastructure as a service help small businesses get teams focused more on their "real" jobs?
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Many of the small-business owners that read the particular blog or others about technology solutions for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) don't have any particular person dedicated to the task of selecting and maintaining the IT infrastructure and applications that go into making their companies work.

That's not really anything new, but the amount of money that is lost in productivity as a result is pretty mind-boggling -- an estimated $24 billion, according to recent research ("Involuntary IT Manager Study") by AMI-Partners commissioned by Microsoft.

This reality is also one of the primary motivators inspiring smaller companies -- by "small" I mean anyone with less than 100 employees -- to consider cloud-delivered applications, backup services and infrastructure options, according to the research. 

The survey suggests that involuntary IT managers lose an average of six hours per week on tasks related to handling IT issues, selection, service and so on. Approximately 30 percent of those surveyed consider these tasks to be a nuisance, and approximately one-quarter of them (26 percent) said they believed they didn't have the right skills to be handling these tasks.

The AMI-Partners study reflects the opinions of 538 involuntary IT managers from North America, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia. The average age of the people surveyed ranged from 38 years old in India up to 44 years old in Australia. All of the small businesses boasted a high mobile workforce penetration rate ranging from 40 percent to 60 percent, the research firm reported.

"Many small businesses don't have the budget for formal IT support, so they rely on the company's most tech-savvy individual to manage their technology," said Andy Bose, founder, chairman and CEO of AMI-Partners, in a statement about the survey results. "As our research shows, relying on an involuntary IT manager can have an adverse impact on small businesses' productivity, which can negatively affect revenue and translates into a very high opportunity cost."

One way to get around this, AMI-Partners suggests, is to transition to cloud services for some of these tasks. Indeed, at least one-third of these so-called accidental IT managers are likely to shift more IT spending to the cloud to help take the load off their own back, according to the data.

U.S. businesses were the most likely to be considering the cloud, compared with their counterparts from other countries. For example, only 14 percent of the Australian respondents indicated that their company would be "likely" to shift more IT spending towards hosted/cloud solutions.

Here are the most important considerations that will guide the decision about whether or not to use cloud solutions:

  • Always-on business (60 percent)
  • Easy to try and experiment with (60 percent)
  • Quickly upgrade/get latest features (59 percent)
  • End-user access from anywhere/any device (56 percent)
  • Flexibility (56 percent)
  • Predictable usage-based monthly costs (54 percent)
  • No upfront costs (53 percent)
  • Reduce internal IT management (51 percent)
  • Enterprise-level solution access (46 percent)

The whole management frustration definitely is a factor, although it's not the most important one.

As far as future interests, here are the six sorts of solutions generating the highest level of engagement with the AMI-Partners survey respondents (this does not reflect the cloud solutions that these businesses might already be using):

  1. Virus protection
  2. Hosted servers
  3. Accounting/financials
  4. IM/chat
  5. Analytics/business intelligence
  6. CRM

For more statistics from the AMI-Partners study, see the infographic below:






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