For Small Businesses, Properly Staffing IT Is A Key Element to Growth

As your business flourishes, you are bound to experience “growing pains.” Changes happen quickly and unexpected issues can arise.

Despite the unknown, your growing business must plan-ahead to brace for change and increases in work production. This includes correctly anticipating your technology staffing needs.

 

How many people should be on your IT staff?

On average, for small businesses, IT staff head count is as follows:

  • Small: 1 IT staffer for every 14.7 employees
  • Medium: 1 IT staffer for every 24.9 employees
  • Large: 1 IT staffer for every 47 employees
  • Very large: 1 IT staffer for each 69.25 employees

 

Technology staffing should be determined by your people, your customers and your strategic plan.

That being said the actual count of your IT staff (as well as your technology budget) should not be determined by division, but by alignment to the company’s overall positioning and strategic plan.

Ask questions such as…

  • Where is your organization now, and where does it want to be in the future?
  • What does technology mean to your organization and what do you expect – and need – from that function in order to meet your growth goals?
  • Is technology part of your Intellectual Property, an enabler to your solutions (a tech-enabled company), or only office tools.
  • How many people does it take to accomplish this, broken down by each role, including tactical/support and, separately, strategic guidance and development?

 

Create a separation between “steady state” and strategic/project efforts. 

Many small and mid-sized businesses try to have the same person or team run the daily work, such as helpdesk, as well as implement special projects and deliver business insights to management. This causes both efforts to suffer. If you can handle both, you are probably over staffed and wasting money, or, even worse, not getting forward-looking value from your IT department.

>> IT should a collaborator – or, better still, a driver – not a bottleneck.

 

Getting started on right-sizing your IT staffing.

First, see if any current IT or technology employees feel overwhelmed or overburdened. Employees should feel challenged, not stressed. Make sure that tasks are being completed on time. Also make sure that the people who rely on technology are getting the support and insights they require to meet their goals.

Second, see if your people and leadership are receiving the proactive IT support and insights they need.  Are new technologies being rolled out before old ones start failing?  Are people getting trained on new systems and using them to increase productivity and delight your customers? Are your C- and V-level staff getting the insights they need to drive growth? And, last but not least, are you losing sleep over IT security and business continuity risk?

Third, keep in mind that, while overstaffing IT waste of resources, understaffing IT not only affects your company’s growth arc and operations, it can also cause significant damage to morale too. And not just for your team but, as mentioned above, for your customers and value chain as well.

>> Well functioning IT is an HR benefit.  Innovative IT creates a sense of pride and impresses your customers.

Getting your IT head count right, and ensuring you are meeting both the day-to-day and strategic IT needs, is one of the key ways to keep your growth plan on track.

 

 

A quick checklist for staffing your IT function:

When identifying a growing business’s IT staffing needs start with feedback from your people.

  • Talk to both current staff and customers.
  • Get an understanding of how your company’s technology is perceived.  (Perception can often be more important than reality.)
  • Look for what is working as well as areas for improvement, both from a day-to-day and strategic insights perspective.
  • Narrow down the tasks that need to be addressed right away and the projects that can be addressed down the road, as part of a 3-year plan.  Assign hours to these tasks.
  • Determine the number of staff needed to fulfill both the steady state and the strategic halves of your IT function.