How to Set Up a Successful IT Team at Your Small Company
I recently published far too many words about what an IT team should look like for a large organization - but what if you can't afford an IT army? If you run a 50-person company, you are wondering how many IT people should you have. Again, I've seen tons of companies of this size and they all do things fairly differently, so this isn't a one-size-fits-all problem, but I hope to give you some ideas on what you can do to set up a successful IT team at your small company.
I am assuming that you are taking advantage of cloud computing as much as possible in this world. (If you aren't, you should be.) If you do have a number of servers you're maintaining, it makes it really difficult to get down to one or zero IT resources internally. Another key data point, according to a CIO magazine study, is that small companies spend 6.9% of their revenue on IT, and as a company grows the rate decreases down to where really large companies only spend 3.2% of their revenue on IT.
No IT team
Many small companies are deciding not to have an IT team. I think it's a viable choice as it will be extremely hard to solve a lot of your own technology problems with a one-person IT team. However, as I said in the previous article on IT teams for large businesses, every company is a technology company, so you're going to need people within the organization who can think strategically about technology. You'll also need at least one person in the company to manage your outsourced IT vendors. You can't live without IT just because you don't have an IT person.
In this world, I would recommend you outsource IT to a Managed Services Provider who would provide HelpDesk services, order machines and discuss technology direction with your team. There are many companies who provide this service now so this can be a viable solution if you find the right partner. You'll want to make sure to vet a few options before turning over your IT keys. When evaluating business applications, you'll want to have an internal team with some perspective from your Microsoft partner to make the right choice and you'll likely have to rely heavily on the vendor for a business application implementation.
You're asking a lot to expect one person to run all of IT for you. It's unlikely this person is an expert in hardware, productivity applications, business applications, can develop and has a great bedside manner when providing HelpDesk support. That person doesn't exist although I've met some very talented one-person IT resources in my career. With one person, you want them to focus on the core services like HelpDesk, hardware, productivity applications so you can save money and centralized your services there. You will require outside assistance frequently but your IT person can help coordinate those activities. You are going to be extremely limited in what you can do in-house, you'll have to have a sizeable budget for external providers.
More than One Resource
In this world you're chewing most of your IT budget with your resources, so you want to make sure they are very effective. With two resources, you'd have one position responsible for IT Operations (hardware, HelpDesk, networks) and one position responsible for your IT Applications (productivity, business apps, industry-specific software). You will still need outside expertise for business intelligence or business applications because your internal people won't be able to handle it all, but they should be able to cover the basics and keep external costs down that way.
If it were my decision, I would open an IT position and gauge the quality of resources you can get for that role. If you can get a well-rounded person who can learn to understand your business and provide good customer service, I think that would be your best option. If not, I'd suggest the zero-person IT team and suggest partnering up with a proven Managed Services Provider who has your best interest in mind and who charges a flat monthly fee for a comprehensive solution for your small business. No matter what you decide, make sure someone in the organization is thinking about technology and how you can use it to make your business more efficient, more productive and enable future growth.