May 31, 2018 Stewart Marshall

1 – The Most Dangerous Number in IT

Many SMEs start their IT life as a laptop on a sole trader’s dining table or desk, and in the modern SaaS (Something as a service) world, this individual has remarkable power at their fingertips. Just about every application they can dream of is available to them somewhere in the world and for a few dollars a month, with plenty of online support to ensure that they can run a profitable business, selling their wares to anyone in the world.

Growing Up and Getting Married

And so this idyll could continue. A single individual, living out its life in relative comfort, happily supported by a simple IT infrastructure.

But this one has aspirations, and flushed with the success of its venture, it starts paying other people to help sell more stuff to other individuals and businesses and very soon, 1 person is 5, then 10, then 20, then 40, then 60 and then I’ll stop, because something seems to happen around there.

As it grows, its IT needs get more and more, and as knowledge of IT within the organisation is somewhat lacking, another business is hired to provide the necessary services. This company has lots of people working for it too, so when a client has a problem, there are plenty of experts and experienced people available to work on the issue, ensuring they’re short lived.

A veritable match made in heaven!

Happily Ever After?

And so this idyll could continue. A business, living out its life in relative comfort, happily supported by an IT infrastructure that is managed by a group of professionals and specialists who support each other and their customers.

But something happens to a business when it gets to around 60 people, with many of then using IT, and behind the shiny veneer a few cracks start to appear.

The need for PC and network support begins to grow, and the cost of hiring another company to provide the service begins to look very expensive compared to the cost of having an onsite employee. And so often, a child is born.

The business creates an IT department and fills it with one guy whose sole purpose is to tackle front line support. This works well in the short term. The IT guy does his bit and the service company fills in the rest, and they all carry on as one big happy family.

Divorce

And so this idyll could continue. A business, living out its life in relative comfort, happily supported by its own on site technician and an IT infrastructure that is managed by a group of professionals and specialists who support each other and their customers.

But sadly, this is where the tale begins to turn dark.

Rather than paying the services company, more responsibility is piled on the shoulders of the IT guy. He happily accepts the pay rise for the additional burden, and the business saves money by paying the professionals less and less.

It seems like a win win.

Pay Less, Get Less

But this idyll can’t continue.

The universal truth is of course that you get what you pay for. The business used to pay more money for lots of experts to service its needs. Now it’s paying less for one guy, and one guy is, well, just that; one guy. Still, he’s a good guy and he understands his limitations, so he still refers issues to third parties when he’s out of his depth, and Google helps him a lot with other issues, so he’s doing OK.

But sadly, and despite his best intentions, he’s going to make mistakes, and he’s going to make them because he’s human and it’s what we all do. And over time, these mistakes are going to start adding up to far more than the cost of hiring a services company because they’re going to impact the performance of the business.

They’re going to make other team members less productive and they’re going to affect the customer experience. They’re going to make other processes within the organisation less effective and the business will suffer.

Lessons

None of this though is really the IT guy’s fault: He was doing his best.

No, the fault lies squarely with a business that thought it could rely on a single person with no practical oversight to provide the necessary technical know how and resources to manage the needs of a modern digital organisation.

This is of course not to say that you shouldn’t have an IT department, but if you’re going to have one, you need more than one person and it needs proper oversight, and access to entirely objective experts and professionals who can help you and your team make the right decisions.

That way, when our humanity leads us to error, we have a much better chance of correction before it causes a real problem.

As the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child.


Today’s Top Takeaway

IT is a team sport


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