It’s a tough gig running a business. Particularly in the early stages.
As the owner, you hold the weight of the world on your shoulders. You have to take charge of everything from business development to marketing — to strategy.
Then, as your team starts to grow, you must become an IT technician as well.
After all, someone’s got to manage your technical set-up, IT systems, and network security: assets that will soon become the bedrock of your entire operation.
Whether for onboarding new employees or securing sensitive information against online threats, IT is one area that must run without a hiccup (no manager wants to see a minor glitch snowball into a systems meltdown).
And we’re here to demonstrate how managing IT in a growing business can be straightforward — just follow these three simple strategies on:
- How to structure your IT for growth
- Why outsourcing makes sense early on
- When to bring your IT function back in-house
Ready? Let’s dive straight in.
How to structure IT for growth
Few small businesses ever consider how to structure their IT systems. That’s hardly surprising given that in the early days, all that matters is getting a business off the ground.
Your first employees probably worked on a personal device, off the local WiFi, and shared the same room (if not the same desk!). But once your business starts to grow, and you consider hiring new staff, the time will come to move to a larger office.
And when you make the switch, it will mean investing in IT.
As when an enterprise hits a certain size — a rule of thumb suggests ten employees or more — it becomes more efficient (not to mention more secure) to consolidate your structure. Internal phones, an office-wide network, even permission-based access to work laptops, desktops, phones, and tablets, could become the norm.
It sounds like a lot of trouble, so what are the benefits? Well…
The advantage of using a central network is that it enables you to control IT policies, manage system updates, and keep data secure.
Better still, if employees all work on standard equipment and services, it’s easier to ensure your team has access to the latest software and devices, and keep your business on its growth trajectory.
That said, setting up and maintaining these systems internally has its hiring costs and complications, which is why it can pay to outsource your IT function in the first instance.
When to hire an IT consultant
IT consultants take the strain out of setting up and managing a computer network. They can be a cheaper, more efficient option than hiring a full-time employee for smaller businesses.
And a consultant will allow your team to focus on running your business, leaving you to rest safe in the knowledge that your background infrastructure will run like clockwork (and should it ever break down, someone will fix it immediately).
Yet, for the above to hold true, you must find a technician with the right skill-set. A professional who can address your company’s current needs.
When looking to hire technical support — consider:
- The tasks they will manage
- Your company size
- And your projected growth
If we assume you’re a young company in an early-growth phase, that means hiring a consultant who can set up and manage a local network; administer permissions and network access; and troubleshoot laptop and office issues.
But the list shouldn’t end there. The best consultants will also offer advice on if it makes sense to use cloud services to handle certain aspects of your IT: be it security, antivirus software, or other domains for which you don’t yet need 3rd-party support.
…and this point is essential.
When evaluating consultants, look for those who take the time to articulate the services they offer, in terminology, even a layperson can understand. As while you may be technically literate, others in your team may not be, yet the best consultants should find it easy to communicate with any user — technical or non-technical.
Plus, when time is short and your mind elsewhere, you will cherish the technician who can summarize status updates in a concise, digestible way.
Recognizing when to bring IT in-house
When you’re just setting out, network maintenance probably won’t create enough work to justify a full-time resource. So, outsourcing saves budget, time, and space (while having one less function to manage, frees valuable energy to focus elsewhere).
As a guideline, a competent IT consultant should be capable of servicing an enterprise with up to 70 employees. When your company grows bigger than 70, it’s time to re-evaluate if a full-time resource makes sense given the existing workload. How can you know?
Check invoices, review billed time, and consider bringing IT in-house if your consultant is working 8 hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week for your company. That said, not every business will want to bring IT in-house.
While some may choose to do so, even when they’re small — say:
- A wealth management firm handling sensitive personal information with clients who request that all personnel are directly employed;
- An accountancy firm working on time-sensitive projects that prefers to have internal IT resource on-hand for support.
How to ensure IT success
There’s no need to fear IT management as your business grows. When the timing’s right, hiring an IT consultant can be a great choice.
They help you avoid the day-to-day nuisance of network monitoring, systems upgrades, and security checks — all of which a technician can handle in the background via a remote connection.
When you want to bring the function in-house, the best consultants make hand-over a cinch.
Just be sure to take IT management seriously from the start as investing upfront will save time and money down the line. And a great first IT hire, be they in-house or outsourced — can lay the foundations for supercharged growth.
Feel free to give us a call locally at 207-236-0021 if you’re considering outsourcing your IT management — or for some simple, friendly advice on your tech support options.