When to hire your first internal IT person
Techromatic works with a lot of companies as they scale up from under 30 employees to over 100. As we accompany them on their journey, we often get to a point where they ask “When does it make sense to bring IT in house?”
It’s a good question, and there are several schools of thought. We’ve seen it done lots of different ways by lots of different companies. Here are a few of our thoughts:
In-House IT Person:
Let’s be real. IT is expensive to do right. As your company grows, it’s tempting to make the jump as soon as possible to an in-house IT team.
So you wait it out with your IT partner until you’re spending about the same amount as you might for a low-to-mid-level IT employee, and then pull the trigger. You plan to wind down your IT partner and spin up your new staff member. Yipee!
It sounds great – you’re about to get a full 100% of the new IT department’s time, focus, and energy. Instead of waiting a short while for issues to get addressed, your users can now get immediate assistance, since the IT department will be there all day, every day. Not only will it be less costly, but the level of service will increase too!
And because the new IT employee wants job security, she’s going to do the best job possible, all the time. Right?
This sounds like a dream come true, but it rarely works out the way we describe above.
Consider this: What happens if the single-person IT department gets hit by a bus? Or quits without notice? Who is providing objective advice on the merits of the solutions implemented? How does the business know it’s getting the most value out of every IT dollar spent?
In many companies with single-person IT departments, these employees can dig themselves in, close their ears to the idea of change, and make things overly complex because they believe it will increases their job security.
Outsourced IT Firm:
With an outsourced IT partner, there are different considerations to factor.
IT Managed Services companies (aka “IT Consultants”) have a thorough understanding of many modern technologies, and have the experience of implementing them in a variety of real-life combinations and environments. We know from experience what works and what doesn’t, which is extremely valuable when making IT decisions.
Then there’s scalability - the ability to bring forces to bear quickly during times of need (such as IT projects or emergencies), or scaling back when things are quiet. This is something easy to do for a competent and established IT firm, but not so easy for a company with a 1-person IT department. The ebbs and flows of IT in small businesses often require certain around-the-clock tasks and weekend work that can be impractical for a single person to own.
To do IT right, you need to have experience and processes in place to manage the “full stack” of IT responsibilities for your company, not just putting out the fires that pop up.
This includes a dedicated focus on IT Strategy and Governance, implementing a rock solid Core Network Infrastructure, and implementing a leak-proof Issue Management System to support the end-users. Plus, there needs to be processes in place to keep management and IT aligned. After all – the IT Department exists to help the business meet its goals, not vice versa.
In our opinion, the enormous risks of having a 1-person IT Team handily outweigh the potential benefits.
Some growth firms even choose to keep their IT function outsourced as they grow thru several hundred people. For many, this can be a smart decision, as it allows the business to focus on its core mission and leaves the technical tasks to the technical experts.
But for businesses who wish to have an internal IT department as soon as it’s financially possible, we believe the magic number is 2.
If you start your IT department off with (the right) 2 people, you will get the benefits of a senior level person - somebody who understands the more complex and longer term IT strategies and architectures as they relate to the business, and who can create the processes and systems required to handle all IT issues and delegate tasks efficiently.
The second person can be a lower level technician, able to manage the helpdesk tickets and user issues, help with IT projects, provide extra coverage, etc…
With 2 people, there will be knowledge sharing, greatly reducing the risks to the business if one person leaves.
Until you’re ready to hire at least a 2-person IT team, we recommend you continue to work with a great IT partner.
If you’re at the point in your business's lifecycle where you’re considering hiring your first in-house IT person, please give us a call.
We’d be happy to help you objectively evaluate your decision, and weigh in on the overall value of sticking with your trusted IT partner vs. brining IT in house.