A lot of growing companies wonder how many IT professionals they need for their company and when should they hire additional support for their IT department as they grow. Many CEOs and CFOs think they need to add more IT staff as the ticket count grows above certain numbers, but that can be a poor metric to measure because it is purely reactive.
The answer to when to hire IT is more complex than stating that for every 50 users you have, you need one IT professional because every company is unique, including their reliance on technology, cost of downtime, number of offices, and the complexity of their network.
Determining if You Need IT on Staff
Most companies have technology issues that can be prevented through proactive monitoring and management, with around 85% of help desk related issues resolved remotely (without someone having to travel back and forth to different offices or locations). However, some companies may still need a dedicated IT professional on-site if they have:
- Complex Systems – Some companies have complex IT systems (usually dated legacy systems) that take years to learn and need the undivided attention of a full-time team of employees to maintain.
- Costly Downtime – Companies like manufacturers can have costly downtime if the network causes the manufacturing process to cease working, so when minutes equal thousands of dollars, it may make sense to have someone on-site instead of waiting for an IT firm to travel to the site.
- High-Maintenance Executives – Some executives need lots of personal attention and want the presence of someone in the office. While many good IT firms offer on-site support, it may be more economical to hire an IT team for high-touch needs.
- Complicated Niche Compliances – A company may be in an industry that has certain requirements that an outsourced firm can’t know without going through your company’s training, such as mining.
Unless your environment really needs someone on-site, we suggest utilizing a good IT firm that can scale with your company.
Benefits of Outsourcing IT
Many times, the answer to how many IT staff members does a company need is moot because the company can get more than 15 IT professionals by hiring a good IT firm.
- Easy Cost Scalability – A challenge when you have IT on your payroll is the IT department is either slammed or bored part of the day [or making themselves look busy]. With a good IT firm, your IT support cost should scale incrementally as you grow your company, versus leaping up with each additional in-house IT hire.
- Multiple Hands – Regardless if you have one or three IT members on staff, some days that isn’t enough help because IT issues never happen sequentially and can’t be scheduled. Even if well-staffed, your internal IT teams may handle most of the day-to-day operations, however, you’ll often find they struggle to make progress (or even get started) on their projects. It can often seem like they can never get ahead.
- Range of Expertise – One of the biggest assets a good IT firm offers is the range of experience from entry-level IT to CTO (Chief Technology Officer), and everything in between. Often many companies who hired internally find their IT team either has inexperience, or you paid heavily for an experienced IT professional that doesn’t want to handle the “grunt” work. This hiring can feel like putting a round peg into an oval hole… sure it kind of fits, but in reality, the almost fit just keeps grinding down the round peg and the oval hole.
- Prevention, Not Just Reaction – A good IT firm should proactively prevent problems from arising, which keeps your production flowing and employees working optimally, which is ideal for high-dollar professional service firms. IT firms especially excel at this because they can afford the best tools needed to manage thousands of users, not one hundred (or less) employees you may have employed.
- Remote Support – If you have numerous locations, an IT firm can provide much better support than a robust IT department working out of the corporate office. An example of this is when your internal team has to travel on-site to fix an issue. This usually means leaving no one at the office to handle other users’ issues. A good IT firm will have a dedicated remote support team as well as a field team, allowing them to provide consistent support to your company.
Blending the Two Options - IT Staff & an IT Firm
With companies that need internal IT teams, we’ve found the best solution is a hybrid blend of internal and outsourced resources. The internal team knows the complex system, is already on-site for immediate hands-on support, and can assist executives as needed. The outsourced IT firm can supplement the internal team's skills, provide the tools needed to be proactive instead of reactively putting out fires, and allows support to scale as needed. Pairing the internal IT team with a good IT firm provides you the maximum level of support and cost-efficiency.
With IT, you have some skills you need every day and others that you need every 3-5 years like network mapping and strategies to combat cyber-attacks. Companies do not need these skill sets on staff if used less than annually, so an IT firm can augment the internal team with their deep expertise in specific skill sets.
In the end, the CEO and CFO needs to understand their ROI for IT and make a judgement on which approach is best. You may be surprised that good IT firms will help you assess your current IT needs and make recommendations, including how to hire the right internal IT team.