3 Reasons to Hire an IT Specialist (and 3 Reasons You Shouldn’t)
by Blake Cormier Content Manager, E-N Computers
IT hiring is a big decision. It takes lots of time and resources to build an IT department to the point it can effectively support your business amid a changing technical landscape. So, whether you’re thinking of hiring your first dedicated IT person or adding additional personnel to your team, it’s a good idea to consider the reasons for making that decision, and what alternatives to hiring are out there.
In this article, we’ll look into three common reasons that push companies toward hiring IT staff – whether that’s the first IT hire or additional help for the team. For each of those reasons, we’ll examine ways that you can solve the problem through outsourcing, automation, or a combination – and situations where hiring IT staff is the right decision.
IT Hiring Reason #1: You Have Lots of IT Projects
The first major reason that pushes companies toward hiring IT staff is an abundance of IT projects. Building, upgrading and expanding IT infrastructure takes a lot of time and skill to get right, and so having that skill in-house can make sense in certain cases.
But many IT projects are one-off upgrades that happen only once every few years, if at all. For example, upgrading your infrastructure from one major Windows version to another is a massive project. But it’s one that only needs to be done every few years. Or you may be moving to Azure cloud services. But again, this is a one-and-done project that takes expertise to get right – and shouldn’t have to be done again.
In cases like these, it can be helpful to bring in outside experts to help you with the project, rather than trying to hire specifically for this work. Rather than having to learn the best practices for a project from scratch, an IT provider can bring their experience and tried-and-tested procedures to the table, making the project much more likely to end in success.
It’s like working on a car. There are lots of projects that you may be able to complete on your own by reading a book or watching a YouTube how-to video. But at a certain point, it will be more cost-effective to trust it to the experts rather than DIYing it. You have probably never rebuilt an engine before, but your mechanic may have done three of them last week. IT projects can be similar – a once-in-a-lifetime upgrade or migration is likely routine business for a skilled IT provider.
Do Hire for Planned, Repeated Projects
On the other hand, there are IT projects that it makes sense to hire staff to support. For example, if your company is growth-oriented and has consistent plans for expansion, then it makes sense to hire staff to take that load. Those staff will be able to specialize in handling those projects more quickly and efficiently.
Or perhaps your company has plans for a number of mergers and acquisitions over the next few years. Having specialists on staff who can help to integrate and migrate systems from acquired companies is a wise use of resources – but keep in mind, you still may need outside expertise if you run into situations that your in-house staff is unfamiliar with.
IT Hiring Reason #2: You Need More Operational IT Support
IT operations can be a labor-intensive process. The more servers, workstations, and network devices that need to be managed, the more time it will take – meaning less time for strategic projects like upgrades and migrations. This can drive many companies to look to hiring additional IT help to care for these things.
However, hiring more staff isn’t always the solution to overworked IT people. You can realize significant time savings and efficiency gains by leveraging automation in your IT systems. Automation can be combined with remote monitoring and management (RMM) to enable a small IT team to manage a large number of endpoints with just a few staff.
While it does require an investment of time and money to set up RMM and IT automation, the payoff in savings and efficiency is well worth the investment. Leveraging automation, remote management, and outsourcing enabled a 200-employee community health provider to improve their IT systems with just a single in-house IT person. Read more about their story in the New Horizons Healthcare case study (PDF link).
Do Hire to Support Regular, Labor-Intensive Tasks
That being said, even with extensive automation, some IT tasks are still going to require hands-on labor. For example, your business may hire a lot of seasonal employees. Even with the process fully automated, there is still some overhead required for each new account setup. If your IT processes are fully automated, but there is still the need for skilled, hands-on work, then it does make sense to hire additional IT staff to handle that work.
IT Hiring Reason #3: Your Users Need a Lot of Support
Like most businesses today, even minor IT issues can cause frustration for your employees, hurting efficiency and in turn taking a toll on your revenue. So you may feel that having an in-house user support specialist is an essential IT role to staff. Having someone who is there and ready to respond to your users’ problems can provide a level of peace-of-mind to you and your employees.
But we’ve found that in many businesses, the front-line IT staff are used more for hand-holding than for user enablement. They may be called on to fix every minor IT issue that a user encounters, even those that should be able to be fixed by the user, their manager, or other support staff. In other cases, IT staff are called on to “do the user’s job for them” – perhaps being asked to run reports from a database, compile spreadsheets, or other data-entry tasks.
These kinds of routine tasks can suck time away from your IT team – time that could be better spent on strategic projects and other highly skilled work. If this is the case in your company, you may want to invest in additional user training, documentation, or other ways to shield IT from these “mundane” requests.
Do Hire for User Empowerment
This isn’t to say that users should never interact with the IT team. But the IT team should be there to empower users to be more efficient at their jobs, not to hold their hands through routine problems.
For example, your IT support person may be tasked with creating training videos that help employees to learn new features of a line-of-business application or critical workflow software. Or they may be able to create customizations or reports in your ERP system that help your management team to make better business decisions. Those tasks are examples of user enablement or empowerment – a role that may be better described as a business analyst or data specialist than IT support.
The Bottom Line on Improving Your IT Support
Whether you decide to hire additional IT staff, or decide to focus on automation and outsourcing, it’s important to make sure that your IT strategy aligns with your business goals. A business shouldn’t make IT decisions “just for the sake of doing IT” – the decisions you make should have a concrete impact on your bottom line.
By evaluating your IT hiring decisions in terms of business goals, it will quickly become clear whether hiring IT, outsourcing, automation, or a combination of the three will be best for your business.
This article was based on a recent webinar entitled Do I need an MSP or an IT Director? In it, E-N Computers CEO Ian MacRae explains some of the common issues that come with IT hiring and staffing, and what you need to do to overcome them. Click here to watch or check out the video below.
If you’d like to learn more about the pros and cons of IT hiring vs. outsourcing, read our article Should I Build or Buy an IT Department?In it, we explain the costs and challenges associated with staffing, training and equipping an IT team, and how you can achieve the same goals for less by using managed IT services.
To learn more about what makes a great IT hire, read How to Hire an IT Specialist. This article explains the ins and outs of creating IT job descriptions, screening applicants and conducting interviews.