Regardless of the size of a company or its operations, it’s not uncommon to see some disconnect between information technology and management. Your IT department, whether it’s a single person, a small team or an IT company, works to support your organization, keep it safe from digital disruption and ensure technology systems are running smoothly. Unfortunately, I’ve found that IT solutions are often seen as nothing more than a source of shrinking profits.
In reality, IT support is a valuable investment in the success of your business. With the right tools and services, your IT department can help save time and headaches. The question becomes: How do you get your IT person to show you the value?
As the president of an IT firm, I’ve found there are some things leaders should be on the lookout for that IT professionals often have trouble communicating:
1. How To Choose Solutions Based On Business Strategy
One of the biggest things I’ve observed IT professionals struggle to communicate is related to choosing additional IT solutions or products. It’s difficult to justify solutions to managers because it’s impossible to visualize an end goal. From a business standpoint, IT doesn’t focus on the end result.
IT professionals often rely on discussing technical specifications and statistics that are changing all the time. Because it’s difficult to make promises on how those changes will positively affect the company, communicating the value they bring is tough. This can be resolved by letting the business drive strategy. I believe business initiatives need to drive IT solutions — never the other way around.
2. The Differences Between Business- And Consumer-Grade IT Hardware
When managers are presented with hardware options, it’s tempting to go with consumer-grade options. It makes sense if you’re looking at the problem as pure dollars and cents. However, there are significant differences between hardware that’s made for businesses and those made for personal use that you should keep in mind.
Business-grade equipment, be it a computer or an access point, is all geared toward the same thing: increasing productivity by saving the time and energy needed to fix them when they have a problem. This includes hidden costs like replacement time and longer warranties. We continuously find these issues with consumer-grade hardware and the amount of downtime it causes, which equates to a long, painful experience for your company. When looking for new equipment, remember that the cheaper price tag can be attractive, but the adage is truer than true: “You get what you pay for.”
For example, a firewall system filters traffic and protects data. A consumer-grade firewall is only meant to serve a single-family network and is more focused on speed. Business-grade solutions are developed to protect against large-scale attacks. Plus, they use proactive solutions to take care of threats before they do harm. This is just one example of the differences between business and personal hardware.
3. Best Practices When Investing In Vendor Support
When your company purchases a piece of hardware or software, you’re presented with the option of paying for vendor support. That additional line of assistance can prove to be useful for your organization, as asking your IT support team to tackle issues on something they’re not familiar with can pose several issues. Vendor support, on the other hand, offers a dedicated line of support from a third party that knows the ins and outs of the product in question. Chances are, the vendor support team specializes in that product. They can usually provide the right solution in only a fraction of the time it would take your IT department.
The best practice when looking at vendor support is to use this equation: the cost of hardware or software support divided by the downtime dollars at risk. To determine the dollars at risk, multiply the people affected by their hourly rate, and multiply that number by the potential hours of downtime without support. This is how you know when it makes sense to have vendor support.
4. The Importance Of Cybersecurity
Despite all of the major security breaches that have plagued businesses in recent years, cybersecurity is not always prioritized as it should be. The world of modern cybersecurity is very complex, with new threats discovered daily. Don’t make the mistake of thinking answers to cybersecurity problems are only a few clicks away for your IT person. Securing, monitoring and managing your system is a full-time job, so it’s important you take the time to educate yourself on how to protect your organization.
5. The Dreaded IT Fallacy
Finally, let’s talk about the fallacy that IT professionals know everything about technology. Any IT person will likely tell you that they’re usually the go-to person for anyone in their life who has a question about their tech. While they are certainly skilled, they’re not knowledgeable in every computer or network detail.
As we mentioned earlier, developments in technology and cybersecurity happen frequently. There’s simply no way that an IT person can keep up with everything.
A good IT professional has a framework that helps them manage your digital infrastructure. They understand the essential elements and data structure of your company. This information is then used to identify solutions, make informed decisions and take the appropriate actions. It’s an effective way of thinking that’s crucial for this line of work.
With that said, IT technicians don’t know everything. I’ve observed some who attempt to supplement their knowledge by finding the cheapest (or free) solutions for what they don’t understand; conversely, they might steer you to choose the most expensive option because they assume it’s the best. Don’t be fooled. Always do your research.
IT plays a pivotal role in any modern company. While they might not deal with the core functions of the business, they keep things running smoothly and contribute to your bottom line. The key to success for everyone is to open up those lines of communication and provide support for your IT people when they need it.