When you double or triple the size of your company, you may feel that things aren’t working as smooth anymore, especially with your IT infrastructure. (Note: We’re talking about your network, computers, and processes, not your IT support team in this post. To learn about outgrowing your IT support, see How Much Is Your Contracted, Overwhelmed IT Guy Really Costing You?)
Keep in mind, you can expect to have more issues because you’re bigger; 50 employees will need more support than 20 employees. However, with your larger size, you should be able to afford better solutions to proactively prevent more issues as well. You can also afford to automate things, so instead of manually updating the operating system and anti-virus on all 50 computers, you should have a tool to allow you to automate that task, or at least update them remotely without having to sit at each workstation. If this is not the case, then most likely, you are seeing these signs.
4 Telltale Signs That You’ve Outgrown Your IT Infrastructure:
- Poor Communication Among Office Locations – Each office acts like an island, meaning they have their own way of doing things, own vendors, and unique culture. A simple telltale sign is a company that has a phone system that cannot transfer calls to other offices, instead they make customers hang up and call a different phone number. Also, look at a combined list of vendors from all the locations and you’ll see lots of duplication, which leads to conflicting strategies, inefficiencies, and less purchasing power.
- Duplication of Data – Each location being an island means duplication everywhere, especially with data. Companies with multiple servers and multiple backups all doing the same thing is inefficient. Even with all this duplication, the company still doesn’t have the redundancy it needs (such as onsite and offsite backups) because none of the solutions are complete due to a lack of budget because each office is spending money on different solutions.
- Unplanned Purchases & Rush Charges – Some companies plan well for growth, and others react to it and are always “chasing their tail”. You see companies reactively buying new equipment as they grow and having to switch out fairly new equipment, like swapping a 16-port switch for a 24-port one that had to be overnighted, because they didn’t plan for growth well.
- Most Users Report Poor Performance with Systems Daily – Another telltale sign is numerous complaints about technology even though the company invests heavily in new hardware. The challenge is replacing the older workstations in conjunction with purchasing new workstations for new employees. Other issues arise from slow bandwidth because of rapid growth.
Why Companies Outgrow Their IT Infrastructure
- High Growth – Rapid growth is usually the culprit when we see companies outgrow their IT infrastructure. (In contrast, atrophy is the primary problem with stagnant companies.) Problems when your company is smaller are multiplied and magnified when you are larger, and growth causes additional problems.
- Lack High-Level View – As I mentioned previously, some companies anticipate and get ahead of growth and others are always playing catch up. The latter method means you’re never looking up from what you’re doing to strategize for the future, so you make “near-sighted choices” that will cost you more in the long-term.
- Old Processes – A lack of forward thinking requires people to look in the rearview for answers, and you can’t run a 50-person company like a 20-person company. Processes and procedures must adapt, as well as the company’s vendors. A good IT firm will scale with you and help you grow instead of being the impediment to more growth.
- Poor Budgeting – Many companies use last year’s budget to determine this year’s budget. That isn’t enough when you’re growing. Also, you can’t just add 20% to every budget if you forecast a 20% growth. You need to look more long-term than one year, and a good IT firm will help you make the right choices at each benchmark of your growth.
Costs of a Lagging IT Infrastructure
- Hard Costs to Your Business – You’ve probably picked out a few obvious costs already. When you outgrow your IT infrastructure, your entire workforce is less efficient, so you have to over-hire to overcome this lack of productivity. Also, you have numerous, unforeseen and unbudgeted issues that arise like rush shipping that 24-port switch to replace a switch you just purchased and installed three months ago.
- Lose Good Employees – You also lose good employees because they get frustrated with the inefficiencies because it makes them work harder. Also, many employees see dated technology as a telltale sign that the executives of the company do not care about them. Quality of life at work requires more than just pay raises.
- Struggle to Attract Quality, Experienced Employees – If your company struggles to hire talent, especially after they tour your office, then that is another telltale sign that you’re outdated technology-wise. Unless they are desperate, then prospective employees are looking at the work environment and outdated technology can deter them from accepting a job offer from you.
- Future Growth Opportunities – Many executives feel they could have grown the company even more if technology hadn’t weighed them down. While it is easier to see that, in hindsight, they’ve lost years of potential growth because they did not prioritize their technology.
How to Prevent Outdated Technology from Costing You Money
- Scale Properly – Get the right tools for the job. You can use the same tools to build a hotel as you would a shed, but it will take longer, cost more, and be much more painful. This philosophy includes your IT management because many solo IT guys want to still view your company as the 10 to 20-person company you were a few years ago when he started working with you. (See Cost of Overwhelmed IT guy.)
- Leverage Your New Found Size – As I mentioned in the introduction, as you grow you can afford new tools that save time and money. When your company was smaller, you possibly couldn’t afford the tools or the pain wasn’t so bad with just 10 employees. Now that your company is five times larger, you can use your size to improve cost points and to create more efficiencies.
- Change Philosophy from Reactive to Proactive – Most small companies do not budget for IT support or IT infrastructure, so they are forced to be reactive. It may be okay to have 10 employees out of work for a few hours when the server goes down. When you have 50 employees that outage can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue, so you need to get ahead of it and prevent issues. With IT, that means having a good security protection plan in place, using a life cycle management philosophy, and budget improvements instead of waiting until they desperately need to happen.
While the cost of an outdated IT infrastructure may be steep, changing to a proactive IT philosophy with an efficient IT infrastructure usually costs about the same amount. The big difference comes from your mindset, and changing your mind costs nothing.