One of the biggest challenges I often hear from business executives about IT is in regards to hiring and managing their IT team, whether internal or outsourced. Usually this duty is bestowed on the CFO or Controller, regardless of their skillset or knowledge of technology. Why? Because IT is seen as an expense, not as a profit center (I’ll discuss how this needs to change in the near future), so logically the “money man” needs to manage it.
The reason CFOs or Controllers struggle to hire and manage their IT team is that they do not know the difference between a poor, an average, or a great IT professional.
- Hiring IT - Starting out the gate, most companies often hire the wrong IT person for the job. Why? Because when you’re filling that first spot, you either get an experienced person that doesn’t want to do the “grunt” work needed, or you get an entry level person that still needs help with the more complex issues and can’t have a “seat at the table”. (See Hiring My First IT Person.)
- Business Acumen - Most IT professionals do not understand the business aspect of your company, things like ROI. Often IT technicians will shy away from requesting $10,000.00 for a needed expense, even if it saves the company $100,000.00 per year. While this is a no brainer for most CFOs and Controllers, to an IT person that is a lot of money to spend and they’re more afraid of “pissing off the boss” by asking for too much. Even if IT knows the company needs the service/product, they struggle to make a business case justifying the expenditure.
- Evaluating the Wrong Metrics - How do you measure an IT person’s effectiveness if you’re not an IT person yourself? Isn’t that the same as asking the IT person to judge your effectiveness to be a Controller? Unless you’ve had years of IT experience, you probably won’t be able to do a great job of knowing how effective your IT guy is doing. Hours worked and tickets resolved are reactive metrics. Only looking at these metrics breeds a culture of “firefighting” where the sole remedy to an increase in tickets is to hire additional IT support staff. CFOs and controllers want a proactive solution that prevents problems, not one that merely corrects them. Many Financial Officers are willing to double or triple their IT budget to prevent costly delays in production, and to create more efficiency. Unfortunately, many of them don’t know how to create that preventative, proactive culture with their internal IT team.
What to Do About It
If you’re struggling to manage your current IT staff, we suggest partnering with a good IT firm that can provide the tools and knowledge for your internal IT team. This gives your IT team a group of peers they can talk with and learn from, along with affordable access to tools that normally are out of your company’s price range. Additionally, this provides your company extra hands that are knowledgable about your environment for necessary projects, and for when things get tough (because IT issues never happen sequentially and in a timely fashion).
If you’re in-between IT personnel and hesitant to hire another person to this “doomed position”, try out a good IT firm, even if just temporarily. This can help you stabilize the environment so you can take time and figure out what you need to do next. You may still need someone on staff long term (See How Many IT Pros Should I Have on Staff?), but this transition will give you some time to find the right IT team member. Also, a good IT firm can help you find that person and bring them up to speed.
In the end, most IT professionals will not be successful, often because the wrong person is hired for the job at hand and their metrics do not reflect the desired outcome because their management doesn’t understand IT. Or to put it simply, you’ve hired a round peg to fit in an oval hole. Yeah, it kind of fits, but all that keeps happening is both the round peg and the oval hole keep grinding one another. A good IT firm can partner with an IT department to help you discover how to fit everything together properly and cleanly, including how to measure success.