by Blake Cormier
Content Manager, E-N Computers
Does your business need help to make better use of technology? For a modern organization, leveraging IT as a strategic asset can be the make-or-break difference between mere survival and thriving growth.
Having come to that realization, though, many businesses aren’t sure where to start when it comes to making IT decisions, especially around staffing. Once you start looking into the IT hiring process and all of the different roles that go into IT success, it can become overwhelming. Making sure that you understand the options available to you is key to making a good decision about your IT support.
Here at E-N Computers, we help small-to-midsize organizations to make these types of decisions every day. In our 23 years of IT experience, we’ve seen businesses that make use of the right IT resources grow and thrive.
One of the options that many businesses don’t know about is hiring a business analyst, also known as a data analyst or data manager. When you think of IT, you may only think about the nuts and bolts – the servers, desktops, network equipment, and software that goes into providing IT. But the data that flows through those systems is even more important when it comes to leveraging IT for business success.
In this article, we will focus on the “information” side of IT, and how focusing on that when making an IT hire may be the right choice for your business. Then we’ll talk about how you can get cost-effective support for the “nuts and bolts” by partnering with an IT service provider.
Information technology, or IT for short, really is made up of two things: Information and technology. Information refers to the data that your business generates – accounting transactions, documents, reports, customer profiles, marketing research, sales forecasts, and more. Technology refers to the systems that store that data and make it available for use in your business.
At first glance, information and technology may seem inseparable in the IT world. And depending on how you’ve built your systems, this may be true for your business. But in reality, information and the systems that support that information can and do exist independently of each other.
For example, it’s quite common for companies to replace their ERP systems with a different one. There are a few big players in this market – think NetSuite, Epicor, and Shoptech’s E2 System. A company may decide to switch from one ERP to another for various reasons. And while it will be a big project to do so – sometimes taking years in total – the end result for the business is the same: a system that allows the company to use data to their advantage.
To use a car analogy: Imagine you wanted to buy a luxury car. There are only so many car brands to choose from in the luxury space: Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, Audi, and so on. While they may have variations in features, quality, maintenance costs, and you may have preferences for one make over another, at the end of the day all of these vehicles have four wheels, an engine, seats, and so on. They will all achieve the goal of getting you to your destination with only minor variations between them.
It’s the same with information systems. There are only so many companies that make an office productivity suite, for example, and choosing the right one comes down mainly to features, cost and personal preferences. But what matters is what you do with that system to make it functional within your business.
Your data is unique to your business. Find a resource who can “drive” your systems to produce the data that you need to make good business decisions.
With that distinction clear, there are really two options when it comes to managing IT systems: information-first and technology-first. A technology-first approach tends to be the default for many companies – build the systems, and the data will come. But a data-first approach, where systems are built to give you the information you need, is a more effective way to develop IT solutions.
The IT approach you choose will influence your IT hiring decisions and your overall strategy. Depending on which approach you choose, you will likely want to hire either an IT support manager/CTO, or a business analyst/CIO.
For businesses that take a technology-first approach to IT, hiring an IT specialist, IT director, or CTO can seem like the logical option for better managing their IT systems. An in-house IT person can offer quick response times and expertise at hand for complex technical issues. They can help keep existing IT systems up and running and even help to build out new systems as technology changes.
That being said, hiring an IT person might not be the best use of resources for your company. It can be costly to hire and train an internal IT person, especially if you have multiple systems that need to be supported. And having just one IT person can create a single point of failure if that person is on vacation or leaves the company.
It’s similar to finding a mechanic. We all want to find a good, honest mechanic who has the tools and skills necessary to fix problems with your vehicle and keep it maintained. But unless you own a fleet of hundreds of vehicles, hiring a mechanic as a full-time employee wouldn’t make sense. It’s better to use a shop that has a wide variety of experience and knowledge to draw on. Similarly, when it comes to IT hiring, there are other ways to invest your resources rather than hiring a single IT engineer to maintain your systems.
Many businesses have realized that their IT needs would be better served by hiring an individual to focus on caring for the data in the system, rather than the system itself. Going back to our car analogy – let’s say you wanted to be chauffeured in your luxury car. While the car itself could be any of a number that meet your requirements for comfort, features, and so on, you’d want to take extra care in hiring a driver who knows the local roads and can make good decisions to get you where you’re going safely and quickly.
In the same way, the systems that store your data may be common to many businesses across many industries and verticals. But the data in that system is unique to your business. So, it makes sense to hire or develop an internal resource who can learn your data and use it to help you make the best decisions possible. An in-house CIO, information manager or business analyst can “drive” the systems, while you outsource the maintenance of those systems.
Hiring someone to manage your data rather doesn’t mean that you can neglect the maintenance and upkeep of your systems. You will still need expertise to maintain your systems, as well as to help you plan future growth and upgrades.
That’s where a managed IT services provider comes in. Just like taking your car to a trusted mechanic to keep it running, an IT provider can help you to keep your technology running in top shape so it can continue to help your business.
Just as with car mechanics, there is a wide variety of quality in outsourced IT service. Years ago, I would take my car to a mechanic who would issue a state inspection for just about anything that could roll in on four wheels. He never told me that my brakes were due in 6 months, or that I should plan on replacing my tires within the next year. Sure, it was cheap, but it meant I was in the dark about what was happening on my car.
A better arrangement is a mechanic who proactively warns you about repairs that are coming due so that you can plan and budget for them in advance. Likewise, a full-service managed IT provider will work with you on your IT strategy and budget, to make sure that your systems keep running and you know what’s coming before it happens.
A good IT provider should also be able to help you to select the IT tools that you need to get your work done. As we mentioned, many technical solutions are essentially the same. But the features and pricing of one solution may work better for your business. Your IT service provider should be able to help you understand the differences between various solutions and help you implement the one that is right for you.
If you are interested in hiring IT help for your company, check out our guide on how to hire an IT specialist. You’ll learn more details about IT roles and how you can select the one that’s right for your business. You may also be interested in our article How Much Does IT Support Cost? There you’ll find a detailed breakdown of the costs associated with hiring IT staff vs. outsourcing.
To find out how managed IT services from E-N Computers can supplement your existing IT staff, check out the New Horizons Healthcare case study and the video below. NHH was able to leverage a single IT person to support more than 300 users, backed by proactive monitoring and Tier 2 support from the E-N Computers team.
If you’d like to talk about how we can help you make use of your IT resources to build your business, contact us today for a free consultation.