Deciding whether or not you need an IT Manager is a challenge that a lot of small businesses face. An IT Manager can greatly benefit small business operations but there are other factors that must be taken into consideration during the decision making process.
Many small businesses are aware the advantages of having an IT staffer on the premises due to the number of responsibilities and tasks associated with maintaining business IT. In order to run a business efficiently, it is necessary to monitor and maintain a network to ensure your staff has access to mission critical resources. Additionally, security is an important part of maintaining data integrity plus, there are problems that arise on a daily basis that require troubleshooting and technical support that is readily available. On most cases, this leaves very little time for new IT initiatives that keep a business moving forward.
In addition to the above concerns, most small businesses have budget limitations which is the primary reason they opt not to use IT funds to hire an IT Manager. When you have budgetary restraints, this means that business decisions must be made very carefully where larger companies never think twice about hiring an IT manager.
There is also the concern over finding an IT professional that has expertise in multiple areas. This raises the question as to whether or not the decision to hire an IT manager will end up costing more money in the near future. Despite the increased availability of affordable IT solutions, it may mean the IT professional may have to learn how to use and maintain the architecture since it is very difficult to find an IT Manager with expertise in all areas.
So what’s the answer? Does your business really need an IT Manager or should you look for other solutions?
The answer to this depends upon your specific business needs, budget capability, and goals and objectives, now and in the future. However, you can begin by examining exactly what an IT Manager does, weighing your options for internal IT versus outsourcing, costs, and other factors. The following information will provide you with a basic foundation to help you get started with your decision making process.
What does an IT Manager do? What are their typical daily tasks?
An IT Manager typically will be trained in a specific set of areas which may vary according to whether they are aiming for a corporate job or a position in a small or medium-sized organization. The type of training they receive will have an impact on exactly what they can accomplish and what they will do within an organization on a daily basis. The following information will provide you with a general idea of what an IT Manager does and some of the common tasks they routinely perform.
- IT Planning: An IT Manager oversees and maintains business efficiency by creating and delivering strategic plans for customized IT implementation.
- Security and Disaster Recovery: An internal IT Manager works to protect critical business data and company assets by implementing, monitoring, and maintaining, security infrastructures, in addition to backup processes and solutions.
- Policies and Procedures: IT Managers consistently monitor business infrastructure and solutions to provide recommendations for appropriate policies and procedures. This includes identifying issues, anticipating future business requirements, and evaluating business outcomes.
- Budget Planning: Budget planning and forecasting is a common skill used by an IT Manager. In most organizations, the IT Manager will prepare the budget, assist with allocating expenditures, conduct budget analyses to determine any necessary corrections and adjustments, and determine the best and most cost effective way to implement IT resources.
- Auditing: (see wiki page here)IT Managers are typically responsible for conducting system audits of a company infrastructure to determine the effectiveness of IT deployment. This includes auditing software applications, hardware, security systems, disaster recovery solutions, and other IT technologies used within an organization.
- Coaching and Mentoring: If your business employs a small IT staff, an IT Manager will set performance expectations, policies, and procedures to facilitate an organized team effort in maintaining IT. They will also act as a coach and a mentor, in addition coordinating and overseeing job responsibilities for each staff member. The end result is quality service through the establishment of organizational standards.
- Resource Coordinator: Depending upon the size of your business, an IT Manager acts as a resource coordinator across departments to coordinate department resources with the data center. This ensures projects are completed in a timely fashion and within the specific requirements for each department.
- Research and Trends: An IT Manager constantly researches and studies business goals and practices, in addition to current projects and strategies. They also attend conferences, access a variety of professional resources, and network with other professionals to stay updated on current industry trends. As a result of research and networking, they can recommend the best and most cost-effective practices for individual business requirements.
- Data Center Management: Regardless if your business uses an in-house infrastructure, virtualized environment, or cloud solution, an IT Manager will monitor, maintain, and manage the customized infrastructure within an organization. If you use a cloud services provider, the IT manager will work with the provider to coordinate new initiatives and implementation of business applications and solutions.
There are other daily tasks that IT managers perform on a daily basis that are industry specific. Additionally, individual business requirements warrant different skillsets to maintain business efficiency and productivity.
Specific Skills and Qualifications
Knowledge of IT infrastructure and management is only one part of an IT Manager’s skills and qualifications. IT Managers are typically trained in problem solving, decision making, budget development, information analysis, strategic planning, staff development, data center management, and other skills that are outside of the realm of technical understanding and deployment. An IT Manager should also have strong communication skills and the ability to work with people and many different personality types.
For a small business, an IT manager with a broad range of skills and qualifications can be beneficial and cost effective. Although a specific area of specialization can be valuable, you may need an IT manager with a wide variety of technical skills and abilities. Specialization within a particular type of technology can present a problem if the IT Manager is required to work with a specific platform or technology with which they may be unfamiliar with.
How far can an IT Manager take your network? When will they need IT Manager Support?
There are dozens of technical professionals available, but their skills may not necessarily apply to your business. To effectively decide how far an IT Manager can take your network, pay careful attention to what they have done in the past and how it impacted the business.
For example, if they expanded an inventory system, find out why they felt it was needed and how it improved business processes. This will serve as an indicator of their ability to build a bridge between their technical expertise and your organizational needs. This will also determine their ability to meet organizational needs whenever they call for external IT Manager support.
The bottom line is, if it is determined your business needs an IT manager, it may make sense to start small and then grow from there. This can be accomplished by how much of your budget can be initially invested in an IT Manager. If the answer to this is a few hours per week, then start there.
If you find an IT Manager that helps you to increase productivity and revenues, then you can gradually expand into a full-time IT Manager position. The concept is similar to starting small with your business and then growing it from there. If the IT Manager succeeds in helping your business to prosper, then an IT Manager is an invaluable resource for your small business.
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of employing an internal IT resource as opposed to outsourcing?
An internal IT Manager can bring many benefits to the growth of a small business, as well as a few drawbacks. There is a lot to be said for outsourcing in the current marketplace, but that also has advantages and disadvantages depending upon the situation. That said, here are a few of the common advantages and disadvantages:
- Immediate Access: An in-house IT Manager can provide an immediate response whenever there is a problem with the infrastructure. You also have immediate access to a professional that can help you with strategic initiatives and some of the other tasks we discussed earlier. If you use an external or outsourced IT management service, there may be other companies competing for their time depending upon the provider you choose.
- Personalized Service: An IT Manager that works on the premises gets to know your business needs and challenges on a more personal level than an outsourced service. This can be beneficial when it comes to implementing the appropriate IT resources and engaging in strategic planning for future initiatives.
- Reduced Costs: An IT Manager may actually help you to keep costs in check since their salary remains consistent regardless of their daily tasks. Regardless if it is setting up and configuring a new server or staying late to troubleshoot a network issue, the cost is relatively constant. With an outsourced provider, the costs may increase as you add needed services.
- Hidden Costs: Hiring an internal IT Manager may have multiple added costs, especially if you are employing an IT professional full-time. Some of the hidden costs may include ongoing training to stay up to date with the latest technologies, health benefits, payroll costs, office equipment, and more. With an outsourced service, the provider pays staff salaries and training costs and they have the resources to employ a team of IT Managers in specialized areas.
- Specialization: It is very difficult to find an IT Manager that is skilled in multiple areas. Where your IT Manager may be great with number crunching and budgetary issues, they may have trouble with specific server or network issues. Additionally, employing a small team of IT specialists is generally cost-prohibitive for most small businesses.
- Overload: If an internal IT Manager is the only person on your IT staff, this could lead to overload which in turn results in lost productivity. When IT professionals are spread too thin, this can have a devastating impact on business efficiency and productivity and can do your business more harm than good. Additionally, if employees require training the IT Manager may not have skills in this area which results in additional training costs.
Can your business justify the cost of hiring an IT Manager?
Cost is a primary concern for small businesses with limited IT budgets. This can make justifying the cost of hiring an IT Manager a tough challenge. In order to determine whether or not you can justify the cost, it requires taking specific business needs into consideration.
For example, if you have areas of IT where your staff is overloaded, it may be worth the cost of hiring an IT manager if it means improved business productivity and moving your business forward. For example, this problem often occurs in the area technical support and help desk assistance when IT staff is limited. Instead of participating in new initiative that contribute to business growth and profitability, the IT staff is spending time constantly putting out fires, so to speak.
In this case, it may be easy to demonstrate on an hourly basis how the investment of an IT Manager can allow the staff to take over help desk support and other technical support issues while the IT Manager spends productive time on important business initiatives.
You may also be able to justify the cost of hiring an internal IT Manager if your strategic initiatives are high. For example, you may view an additional hire as a baseline cost when perhaps it should be perceived as an additional revenue generator instead. It should be looked at more as tending to your company’s long range strategic goals. The cost of a failure that is mission critical may be significantly larger than the simple dollar cost of hiring an IT Manager. Associating the new position with avoiding this kind of hazard may justify the need for an IT Manager.
These are two examples of how you can justify hiring an IT Manager. It must also work for the business core as a whole where it may not make sense for others, depending upon your evaluation, review, and conclusion of many different facets of your business.
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David has worked in the IT Services sector for over ten years. During this time, he has worked with many IT Managers and internal IT experts, helping them to enhance their expertise.