Even if you are a “low-tech” company, you can’t avoid the hyper-dynamic impact technology is having on our businesses, markets and customers. Whether you are a billion dollar global company or a small non-profit, executive leadership’s understanding of “IT” is limited to the cost they pay and the complaints they receive from employees. So how do you know if you are getting the most of IT? Executive leadership typically only experiences the results/side-effects of technology. Some of the top four common issues are:
Executive Experience – Contributing Cause
- Reports & Data/Information is conflicting – Many applications and sources of data
- We cannot hire or retain good IT talent – tight labor market with wrong incentives
- Our IT costs are out of control, what is the right investment – Lack of technology strategy leads to multiple solutions driving up costs
- We are hacked every day, but want our people to not be locked down – Data security is not matched to the risk of the business
This article addresses common experiences and describes best practices in addressing these issues.
Reports & Data/Information is conflicting
Many organizations technology has evolved based on need and over time implemented multiple software applications to address specific needs. Often these applications either don’t “talk” to each other and create pockets of redundant data in various parts of the business. Well too often executives find themselves in meetings discussing reports and findings that conflict or don’t reconcile with actual outcomes. This is the result of decentralized decision making and lack of a data governance strategy. Addressing these issues should begin with the end in mind. Determine the information needed to support the business and decision making. Then create a data governance model where relevant information can be collected and stored in a controlled method using the least amount of software applications. This minimizes the risk of errors, redundant and conflicting data/information.
Retaining & Hiring Good IT Talent
Unemployment is at a record low and depending on your market, like Chicago, New York, Austin, San Francisco, and yes even Detroit, hiring IT talent is even tougher. Hiring IT talent is challenging because hiring the person with the most experience is counterintuitive as in non-IT roles. The person with the most experience is not necessarily going to take you where you want to go, because technology is constantly changing. If you apply the approach of hiring the most experienced in your industry, you may be left with someone else’s old baggage and problems.
Hiring newer talent also does not come easy. A good salary is not the only factor to attract talent, let alone retain them. New, progressive and intellectually curious IT talent need challenges, a faster career path and a variety of value driven benefits related to a quality of life. Many organizations have a difficult time offering this, because they are either big and viewed as bureaucratic or they are small and feel they cannot afford these benefits.
This is why many organizations either outsource their IT talent in its entirety or in partial blocks of expertise such as help desk and/or infrastructure or development. Outsourcing is not right for every organization, but if IT is not your core competency you will always have a difficult time managing it and the staff. Outsourcing is also not a simple solution either, the provider should complement your organization’s culture and “fit-in”, be a balance of on-site and virtual so they are part of the team, and needs to be service driven and viewed as a partner not a vendor. Outsourcing this function shifts the human aspect of managing IT staff to the provider which can do a better job of attracting and retaining talent than your own people. This is especially a benefit for small organizations that only require 1/3 help desk, 1/3 infrastructure and 1/3 applications and security skills. Try recruiting a 1/3 of a person or one person who has all of those skills. It is nearly impossible.
IT costs are out of control
In an independent annual survey performed by Gartner, most companies should spend 1.8% – 4.2% of revenue on IT, depending on your industry. The greatest shift in cost over the years has moved from capital to operational. As more companies move to cloud based applications their demands for hardware and facilities has declined while their subscription and service fees have increased. This often presents itself as the classic decision to lease or buy. Hosting applications and supporting them internally will drive up acquisition costs and internal staffing as well. Cloud based applications are easier to maintain and can flex with the organization. However, when a company grows it should be expected that your fees will grow as well so don’t let it be a shock. This is similar to the executive whose company revenue grew at 50% and then is shocked to see his Salesforce.com bill double after he doubled his sales team. Measuring IT costs should be performed annually as a percentage of revenue and benchmarked. Using this method allows you to better determine what is a reasonable expense relative to your business. Technology should not be viewed as a commodity like a utility but as an enabler and investment. It is the blood of your organization and without it you cannot function.
We are hacked everyday but want our people to not be locked down
Hacking and phishing scams are on a dramatic increase. At the end of the day your employees are your weakest link. Unknowingly giving away passwords, clicking on links, etc. are opening the doors to your data and information. Ultimately even the best and most secure environments can be broken into, or in the case of “El Chapo” broken out of! Executives also often hear the complaints of “why do I have to keep changing my password” or “I can’t connect” and “my USB doesn’t work to save a file to a thumb drive”. As a leader or manager of your business you need to accept the fact that you are never totally secure. You are only as vulnerable as your weakest link. Security is best performed on a business by business basis.
You need to consider where you operate, the skill level of employees, the information you hold and how you conduct business. Best practices in security balances being secure while not significantly encumbering employees to serve the customer. It is a balance of risk. Companies should perform a security risk assessment on an annual basis. Then determine which security control methods should be deployed based upon their specific needs of operation and risk tolerance. Once security control methods (e.g. mult-factor authentication, encryption, etc.) and business continuity strategies are deployed, they should be tested to confirm you are secure at an acceptable level and both employees and technology are in compliance with the intended controls. Remember you are not protected if employees don’t follow or use the tools and controls you have deployed.
SAGIN, LLC is a full service IT Managed Services provider and Consulting firm. We are a Microsoft Certified Gold Partner and certified in Google, Cisco and many other popular products. Our experience is drawn upon the hands-on work we do with our clients every day. To learn more on how to better manage your information technology, visit us at: www.saginllc.com