The IT Crossroads for Medium-sized Enterprises

Growth is a wonderful thing.  Growth brings new markets, new opportunities, and rewards for stakeholders in the business.  But with all the excitement growth brings, there’s a reason that you often hear the term “growing pains” creeping into conversations, public or private, among leaders in vibrant medium-sized businesses. 

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One part of the business that often experiences these growing pains is the information technology (IT) organization.  Businesses that thrive find themselves waking up one morning at a crossroads of sorts.  An IT support model that served them well in the past suddenly becomes at a minimum a source of frustration, and worst case a strategic liability to ongoing operations.  Reaching that crossroad requires action, with typically two clear courses of action.  But before discussing options for navigating this crossroad, let’s take a moment and revisit how you probably got here.

Introducing our Hero

Many IT shops start with “the IT guy”.  In some cases, it’s an existing employee that wears multiple hats; in others, this person is the first IT hire an organization makes.  By necessity, he or she is an IT generalist, capable of tackling the variety of IT challenges facing his internal and external customers.  At some point the needs of the organization begin to stretch the team.  What happens next?  Approval is given to hire another IT employee, often a junior professional to assist our hero.  For some period, all is good.  Our hero gets a short breather, maybe even gets an uninterrupted vacation because there’s someone else to help pick up the slack.  Time marches on, the business continues to grow and two drivers of IT delivery feed on each other:  business demands on IT increase, and over time the IT adds personnel to handle the load.  Sound familiar?

The Coming Storm

For some period, this model works just fine, and the IT team does a laudable job of serving the business.  Eventually however, clouds often begin to form on the horizon.  Like clouds themselves, they can take on many forms.

New leaders join the company and compare the current IT support model to companies they’ve previously worked in of a similar size.  Often they find it lacking. 

Other leaders may begin to realize that you’ve increased your IT spend in a manner not tied to an enterprise IT strategy, instead to an evolving state of predominantly reactive behavior.  The return on that investment just doesn’t seem to be there.

End users in the company begin to experience frustration with IT as their support requests seem to languish or go into the proverbial black hole.

People start asking questions about how the business can make best use of newer technologies, and are left uneasy with the answers they receive.

You start to see more and more funding requests consultants and vendors to take on projects the IT staff can’t handle.

Sticking to our weather analogy, these types of clouds make for overcast days, nothing too concerning.  But there are more ominous clouds that invariably follow, clouds that turn an overcast day into an angry storm.  Storm clouds in IT typically form when the needs of the enterprise finally over-whelm the patch-work approach to staffing, strategy and investment that served the business acceptably in years past.  Cracks in a dam that finally break is another apt analogy.

A lack of maturity in IT security leads to a ransomware, malware or worse yet a breach of confidential information.

Application and network outages become more frequent.

The enterprise experiences a substantial hardware or data closet failure, only to find that mission-critical systems and data cannot be recovered in line with expected recovery objectives, if at all.

Pockets of “shadow IT” emerge as confidence in IT lags and business units pursue their own solutions.

As the pressure builds, a key IT team member resigns, and since many IT organizations of your size rarely have the time to invest in proper documentation, years of institutional knowledge walks out the door.

At this point the IT organization has either lost the confidence of the company’s business leaders, or are precariously close to doing so.  Some organizations are fortunate to learn this lesson without a visible public event; some sadly are not as fortunate.  The unexpected transformation from cloudy day to storm is a shame because these are typically great people, the business simply outgrew the IT delivery model that worked just fine a few years back.  Our hero “the IT guy” that served the organization admirably, now struggles to lead a team whose mission has grown in complexity.

Reaching the Crossroad - Brighter Days Ahead

Change is never easy, and few organizational changes come with as much angst and emotion as moving to a different IT support model.  But like it or not, change is required if you’re to avoid future storms.  While there are several ways to tackle this challenge, in its simplest form, that choice comes down to either making additional investment into the largely reactive and inefficient IT delivery model in place today, or considering a partner to deliver some or all those services.  Taking the former approach is an aspirin of sorts, the pain goes away for a while, but is likely to return.  The latter, if you choose wisely, gives you an opportunity to take what is not a core competency of your business, and entrust it to a carefully selected partner whose core competency is in fact IT Services.  A partner with the tools, expertise, methodologies, and leadership that the complexity of today’s technology landscape demands.  Couple that expertise with a passionate desire to serve and you can expect sunny days ahead.  Want the good news?  Because of the inefficiencies inherent in the model you may be operating under today, you might be pleasantly surprised at the affordability of engaging a partner compared to what you’re spending on IT today.  If you’ve got clouds on your horizon, or want to avoid them in the first place, we’d love to visit with you.  GuideIT.  IT Redefined.

Published by: Mark Johnson, Vice President/Business Unit Leader, Commercial, GuideIT