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IT Mistakes Small Businesses

make and how to avoid them.

DIY IT Pitfalls

The negative impact of DIY IT

Small businesses must concentrate their time and energy on knowing their own industry — and that often means that effective technology practices get overlooked.

You have built your business from inception and you have always managed your own IT. When there were two of you things were easy, little issues were Googled away and you continued to work effectively.

Now things are different.

There are no longer just a few of you – your business has grown and there are now many of you placing an increased strain on your IT infrastructure. Not only are you struggling to be reactive and stay on top of your increasing IT issues as they arise you are not able to be proactive in order for your business to benefit from up to date solutions and services.

Due to DIY IT these are the issues affecting your business:
• The person who used to keep the IT running cannot now handle the increased requests
• Your data handling is suspect and not documented, you have no idea where or how your business data is beling safeguarded
• This same person is now unable to do their own main job function and this has a negative impact on them
• The IT infrastructure is struggling due to increased load and it is now affecting business growth and profitability
• You’re concerned about charges for external help
• The cost to the business by failing IT standards is likely to be much more than the external help
• Your PAYG external help doesn’t always show up – no service level guarantee

You need a solution and quickly in order to halt the lost progress of your business.

IT is now intertwined in every aspect of the business and no more so than small businesses of 250 staff or less. Information Technology has been a huge boost for small businesses in that it has allowed them to compete in a much bigger global market. To do so the IT system must work seamlessly. Unless it all works together the system can fall apart.

Why not have someone part time?

Part-time IT staff can be a useful stop gap between your main staff being off for various reasons but can it really be a solution for daily IT support?

How can you guarantee to your staff that when they need help it will be available to them, when it isn’t how does this affect moral?

Without a service level agreement binding the supplier to be available by a certain time there is no guarantee that you will get the help that you need – when you need it.

If this support cannot be relied upon what are the likely costs when your staff cannot work due to failing IT hardware or software?
How many hours of IT downtime did your business experience last year?

The average business suffers about 14 hours of IT downtime per year. Regardless of whether you experienced more or less, I’m very sure that there was a negative financial impact associated with each downtime event.
According to surveys, small enterprises lost, on average, more than £30,000.00 in revenue due to IT failures each year, while midsize companies lost more than £55000.00 and large companies lost more than £500,000.00.

Those numbers may shock or seem unrealistic but let’s think this through. How much are you paying idle employees? Did you pay overtime to make up for the lost productivity? How much revenue did you lose that could have been generated? Did you incur late delivery charges? Did a loss of customer goodwill erode your ongoing revenue stream? Did you need to plan and execute campaigns to explain and apologise for the outage?

Here’s a simple calculation that you can do yourself to get some idea of what you lose when you have an outage that stops your business functioning.

Finally, to calculate the expected annual cost, multiply this number by the number of expected annual hours of outage.

With so many options where do you start?

So with the never ending IT options, systems, hardware and software in the market and your lack of internal expertise – how do you create an IT strategy for the next stage of your business growth?

You need to find an IT expert and this expert must understand your business and its goals. Only by understanding your business can the expert tune solutions that will dovetail easily and seamlessly into your business with little change management required.

Imagine performing your own plumbing, electrics and building maintenance – you most likely will end up with more of a mess than you started out with, IT is no different. Sure, there are many DIY point and click solutions out there and many of them are good but for a business that is no longer a start up the risks involved in choosing the wrong service or piece of hardware increase with the size of the business.

Putting my point in graphical terms above you will see that as the business grows exponentially in number of personnel – the DIY IT effect has a negative impact on the business. As seats increase the user friendly experience is less satisfying.

In the user friendly zone, (A) represents medium complexity and a lower number of users which lends itself to DIY support. Similarly, (B) represents more users but low system complexity and is therefore also in the DIY User Friendly Zone. In the Expert Friendly Zone, (C) indicates a small number of users but high system complexity and likewise (D) represents medium complexity and a large number of users. Both (C) and (D) represent sufficient challenges to the lay person or someone not sufficiently skilled in technology.

Ultimately those businesses in (A) and (B) may not be exploiting the full potential of the business nor the skillsets of the staff. Stagnating.

Making Sense of it all

When you find yourself with too many choices and not enough deep understanding of the toolsets, you somehow have to find your way to a solution. Which tools do you choose? How do you support all of this, and how do you make sure it all works, day in day out?
If you think you can do it yourself, consider that computing speed doubles every 18 months. With increases in computer processor power also comes a plethora of advances in related software and hardware systems. You can try to learn it yourself or use a part time person that you use ad hoc but doesn’t your business deserve better care? The wrong implementation can cost your business much more than you will ever have saved by using the DIY approach.

Every technology that is installed in a business ultimately needs to be managed and supported. If you neglect your health you’ll pay a price down the road.

Likewise, those that neglect their investment in technology will ultimately pay a high price in repairs, downtime, security breaches, and other failures – not to mention the impact it will have on staff morale.

The single most important part of any business is staff and the effectiveness of those staff members. If they feel that they are constantly being let down by the businesses failing IT they will not tolerate it and some may even leave because of the miserable time they are having. The issue becomes even more critical when the staff is incentivised to sell and rely even more on their IT in order to earn their wage.

Despite obvious obstacles, some small business owners feel they can handle the complexity if they just hire ‘my own guy’ to stay on-site and deal with the technology on a full-time basis. Often people say they feel more comfortable knowing their ‘IT guy is just down the walkway’. If one of those describes you, and you are not convinced that outsourcing is the right solution for your growing business, there are a couple of things you need to consider.

Finding qualified, affordable staff

Probably the biggest difficulty in creating an IT department – for any size business – is finding the right people. This is very challenging even for IT companies, and at AnyTech Solutions we are constantly searching for great talent. For most businesses, recruiting people with serious technical skill sets is too difficult. First, how do you know what to look for? Can you read an IT CV and understand all the little technical differences? Do you need a network architect, a systems engineer, an operating systems guru, a cloud consultant, or perhaps a security expert?

Don’t take it personally, but to a successful IT person, your business is probably, well, boring. An in-house IT professional’s primary job is to keep things running well and fix things when they are not functioning correctly. After that happens, and your technology is running smoothly and there are no apparent issues, where is the next challenge?

Let’s say however that everything I’ve mentioned doesn’t apply to you and you have managed to find that special guy that does a fantastic job and isn’t bored with routine.

What happens when they are ill? On holiday? What happens when they get into trouble and need help? Where can they go?

These are some of the reasons that most small businesses will not be able to attract, afford and keep really good IT staff. That really is the nail in the coffin for the fool’s errand of building, staffing, and managing an internal IT department at a small business.

In summary, most people who run their own business will be far better off concentrating on running and growing their business, not trying to run their IT networks.

So where do you go from here?

Quite simple, if some of what I have said makes sense to you and your business you can benefit by taking advantage of a free network assessment that we are able to offer you. We will take a look at your hardware and give you an idea of what it would cost to take away the pain of trying to do it yourself.

Call 01202 460279 and ask for Chris Palmer