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- Gretchen Waide, COO Campbell Resources
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Is your IT department necessary? You may be surprised by the answer.
by H. Alex Famili
Business owners and CFOs of mid-sized companies quite often don't have a clear
understanding of what their IT department1 is doing for their
business. Indeed, most just treat IT as a necessary line item on the P&L
statement simply because they believe they have no choice if they are to stay
competitive. Critical questions such as "Are we spending enough on our IT
infrastructure?", "Are we spending too much on our IT infrastructure", or "Are
we getting the productivity gains that we anticipated when we purchased that
new software?" often go unanswered. Questions such as these are at the heart of
your business' efficiency - and can be the most baffling. Educating yourself
is, as is often the case, the best weapon to tackle these seemingly innocuous
The first thing to realize is that running an IT department is hard work. Your
IT staff is spending more time (and money) supporting your employees than ever.
Many of the technologies are complex and take a long time to learn and master.
The IT staff is under increasingly tighter budget constraints and their
capabilities are limited. Despite all these pressures, you would be surprised
to learn how often owners decide to go it alone. They usually hire a single
person to handle their IT needs or contract on a time and materials basis with
one of hundreds of IT service companies available in the local yellow pages.
Unfortunately, this line of thinking focuses on initial cost control, rather
than on controlling the total cost of ownership (TCO). And , as you are
probably aware, TCO has a nasty way of affecting your business' bottom line.
So why does the TCO balloon way beyond the initial cost projections you ask?
Simply because a single resource or consultant is not adequately skilled to
handle the myriad of day-to-day issues that typically arise in an average IT
department supporting 50+ users. Help desk, procurement, software
deployment/roll out, and budget management/planning are just a few areas that
come to mind. Few individuals are equipped to handle them all with the rapid
evolution of today's technology environment. The response to this onslaught is
usually two fold: 1) add new hardware/software with the hopes that it will
solve the problem 2) hire consultants that will ultimately sell you more
hardware/software. Since a holistically encompassing view of IT is
non-existent, the business is basically at the mercy of this cycle of
capricious infrastructure upgrades.
The good news, however, is that other people have already figured out the
answer to most of these challenges. Business process outsourcing (BPO) is the
recent trend more and more business owners are turning to and IT is no
exception. This is not restricted to technology, as many other business
functions such as accounting and legal are more than likely outsourced in a
mid-sized organization. The next time you decide to go it alone and build or
maintain your own IT infrastructure, ask yourself whether your business would
be better served if you were to focus instead on running the business while
allowing BPO to manage your TCO, providing you full knowledge of your IT
infrastructure benefits and needs. The icing on the cake is that you will find
a BPO company will almost always do the job cheaper and faster without
In summary, it should be clear that the day-to-day management of an IT
department is not a trivial task. Furthermore, although the IT landscape is
littered with tantalizing offers that seem like cheap alternatives, be aware of
the big, bad TCO. Instead, take the time to do your homework. Do some research
and find good, reputable BPO companies in your area. Be certain they can
deliver what they promise. When you see quantifiable results, you can feel
confident that in the long run, you have made the right decision.
1 I use the term "department" loosely, since for our purposes,
department does not necessarily mean IT organizations with many employees. If
you employ even a single resource part-time or on a contract basis, the
functions that s/he must serve share commonality with the traditional concept
of an IT department.
H. Alex Famili is the co-founder and principal of Twist Solutions, LP. Twist is
a Dallas, Texas based company specializing in computer system and network
management services. Alex can be reached via contact us.