I've noticed a trend lately. I'm meeting more and more with business owners who are looking to improve their IT infrastructure but aren't getting the level of expertise or service from their existing (outsourced) IT company that they feel they should be getting, so they're looking to make a change. While many of these businesses are at a similar maturity level, the consistent thing I'm noticing with many of them is that they have networks band-aided together from years of neglect, cutting corners, and (from an outsider's perspective) not taking IT "seriously". I don't know how much of this is on them solely or if there's any shared blame with their existing "IT Guy". Often, it's just the natural progression of a network that's expanded and pieced together over time by different people through different phases of the growth of the business. But, it still begs the question - when do you start taking your IT seriously?
While they know they've outgrown their current IT company, they're still coming to grips with the thought that they need to outgrow their approach to IT. The bad news is that after all the years of neglect - both physical (ie: not spending the money as they should have) as well as spiritual (ie: viewing IT as a cost center rather than as a way to reap the benefits of improved productivity and efficiency) - have left them in a difficult situation. The difficult situation isn't the state of their technology, but rather the state of their mindset. Bottom line - because they haven't spent on IT for so long and have muddled through, most still think they shouldn't have to (spend on IT). There are some who think they've changed their view, but still think that once the network's "fixed", spending should go back down to a minimal level. The reality couldn't be further from the truth. The reality is - there is some minimum that needs to be spent to ensure the initial investment is maximized to achieve some basic benefits - extending the life of the assets, improving staff productivity, and ensuring stability. Significant business benefits can also be achieved by looking at specific IT spending as opportunities to increase business efficiencies by improving, enhancing, or even sometimes simply utilizing, systems, processes, and work flows better thereby significantly impacting the bottom line.
There are ways to spend to improve efficiency and effectiveness - but you have to have the mindset to do this. What would you be willing to spend to improve your staff's productivity by 10%? 20%? Or more? Or, would you at all? How much do you value your staff's time? When was the last time you looked at their productivity and thought of ways to improve them? Do you look for ways to increase staff productivity at all? How often do you send them to training? What are your performance schedules like? How do you look at an increase in productivity? In dollars? Dual monitors improve the productivity of staff by at least 5%. For a staff member costing $50k/year this would amount to an increase in productivity worth $2,500. If it costs $500 to do this, this is over a 500% ROI. And for just the first year! If you can improve the productivity of a staff member by 10% by replacing their 3 year old computer, would you? Are you looking at your business this way? If not, a mindset shift needs to happen. This ties in to the findings of a previous entry I wrote Businesses Who Value IT Outperform Those Who Don't. I believe if you want to operate your business at Best in Class levels, at the core you have to adopt their mindsets.
I liken this mindset needing to be changed to be like going from your first bike when you're a kid to getting your first car to getting the SUV you need to trust your family's life with - but thinking you should still be spending at the same level as for your first bike. Certainly you can, but I wouldn't trust my family to this level of care. Nor would I (nor do I) run my business this way.
So, what's really your approach to your IT?