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When it comes to technology, most small businesses outsource to firms that handle duties such as new software implementation, systems integration, and server maintenance. But once a company reaches midsize status, with 300 or more employees and at least $30 million in annual revenues, the notion of developing an internal information technology department begins to make sense.
An internal IT team can be useful for companies that are operating in low-tech industries but require in-house technology expertise to run their day-to-day operations. Without a computer guru standing nearby and ready to drop his or her regular workload to solve an annoying computer glitch, those companies are forced to outsource even the most minor IT projects to outside firms.
“When a company gets to a certain growth level and is looking to continue on that path, it really needs to assess whether it needs an IT department, and what it would look like,” says Andy Steinem, CEO at Reston, Virginia-based Dahl-Morrow International, an executive IT and communications search firm.
Other good indicators include the cost of outsourcing IT projects. If, for example, your firm shelled out $250,000 last year for such services, consider the fact that a full-time IT professional could have handled that and more for a salary of $100,000 or less.
Also consider the time it takes to get the job done, Steinem says. Where an outside vendor would typically schedule the work for a future date, an in-house professional may be able to tackle it the same day. That may mean less downtime for the IT systems in question.
Companies that are considering the move from outsourcing to establishing an in-house IT team should start with one person who can serve as chief technology officer (CTO) or director of IT. Identify someone inside the company who is already helping to “put out fires” for other workers who need help using new software programs, troubleshooting printer issues, or connecting to the company’s intranet.
“Look at your current staff and find someone who has a sound technology base, and who can multi-task effectively,” suggests Mark Jackson, director of sales at Sindel, an IT consultancy in Tempe, Arizona. Other skill sets for building an IT team include the ability to learn quickly, solve problems (from the mundane to the very complex,) and deal well with others.
“It’s no longer about finding a tech guru to stick in the back room to play with the computers,” Jackson says. “These folks will have to deal with employees, managers and clients in an effective manner.” For companies who lack such individuals on staff, Jackson says the best approach is to find someone (via an online search, the local newspaper, or by networking with other firms in your area) who has the technology expertise, and then train him or her on the fine points of your business operations and customer service strategies.
Business complexity also plays a role in what