Tech Thursday: How To Staff Your IT Department Strategically

Tech Thursday: How To Staff Your IT Department Strategically

In our last two articles, we covered the various roles that make up an IT department. However, a small or even mid-sized company cannot fill all of these roles immediately. So, the question comes up: As my company grows, how can I strategically fill these IT roles to best utilize the resources I have?

To answer that question, we’ll first examine how IT departments tend to grow organically, and how that can bog down your company with ineffective technical solutions. Then we’ll look at some ways that having a strategy to building your IT team can pay off in the long run.

Traditional IT Growth - Why A Problem

If your company started with a small team -- or just you -- of course there was no point in dedicating resources to IT. But eventually came the point when you had a few computers, a small network, and perhaps a server. But who was responsible for maintaining, upgrading, and managing that equipment? In many small companies, those responsibilities fall to an office manager, bookkeeper, or CFO -- someone whose main job description does not include IT responsibilities.

While this may work for a while, the limitations become apparent as your company continues to grow. So it’s time to hire someone to take on the day-to-day management of your IT resources. This usually begins with a client-support person, who can help your employees through their day-to-day tech problems. Then, it’s time to add an infrastructure person who has some experience with servers and networking. Then another few client support people, and a manager or IT director to oversee the growing team.

But, the problem with this model is that it tends to be reactionary, rather than proactive. The IT team is expanded only when there’s a pressing need, rather than by analyzing trends and future goals. Also, such a team will tend to operate in the same way -- reacting to existing problems, rather than anticipating needs and creating solutions to match. And when your team is trying to put out fires, they won’t be able to focus on new projects and initiatives that will help your company thrive.

The Strategic IT Department

Rather than hiring IT staff only when there’s a pressing need, you can take a more strategic approach to hiring. For example, you’ll want to answer questions like “What role will technology play in the future of my company?” and “How can IT resources be used to drive growth?”

If you’re not sure how to answer those questions in a meaningful way, it may be a good idea to partner with a consultant or IT service provider who can provide you with some guidance.

Of course, you’ll need to start building your IT department somewhere, and that will still involve a desktop/user support role, an infrastructure and server engineer, etc. But with an eye to strategy, you’ll likely want to plan on filling a Director of IT, CTO, or CIO role sooner rather than later. These professionals can give your company a clear vision of how technology can be harnessed for growth, and will help you to make further strategic hiring decisions as your needs evolve.

But what exactly is a CTO, CIO, or IT Director? Our next article will cover these IT leadership roles, and why they’re so vital to making IT a strategic asset.