Virtually everything we do at 123Print is technology related. From our website to the digital printers used to produce many of our online print products, we are a technology business. As you would expect, we have an IT team on staff providing the delivery of technology services that are critical to the success of our customers and our company.
How should a small business fill their technology support needs?
The question of how to provide IT support transcends business size. A number of years ago, Best Buy determined that while technology was important, they needed to focus on their core business. Setting this priority led Best Buy to almost completely outsource their IT services. A few years later, they decided to bring IT back inside the organization. Why the change of heart? Among other things, the market had changed, and eCommerce became a bigger part of the consumer electronics business, so when they asked the question again, they got a different answer.
While every business requires some level of technology to operate, most small businesses don’t need a full-time IT staff.
When I ask small business owners how they take care of IT issues, I often hear, “When we have a problem, we ask Susan.” My next question is: Who is Susan? Answers range from “Susan is an accountant from XYZ company who does our books and payroll,” or “she is our office manager” (and she’s really good with computers”), or I might hear, “Oh, that’s my daughter, but she’s away at college, so I just have to muddle through.”
These answers illustrate the wide range of solutions businesses put in place to deal with technology.
Outsource (the accountant)
Outsourcing can be a good way to address complex or business-critical issues. You can find a long-term partner who focuses on your challenges. Often smaller local IT providers or CPA firms fill this niche. When outsourcing, I recommend having an in-house person identified who can address basic issues faster and cheaper. Maybe Susan, the office manager!
Insource (the office manager)
For some, bringing IT support in-house means full-time dedicated staff like we have at 123Print. For most, this involves double duty for someone in the organization. If you have a tech-savvy person who can allocate some of their time, this is a good way to address day-to-day issues. Making technology a formal part of someone’s role ensures these services are kept a priority and allows the person to keep a balanced workload that enables success in both aspects of their job.
No-source (the daughter)
The phrase, “You get what you pay for,” comes to mind when businesses use friends or family to get free IT support. Also, the time an owner spends “muddling through” is almost always at the expense of not taking care of some other key business need. Looking deeper at these situations, the underlying reality is that there often is not a plan for IT. Issues are dealt with ad-hoc as they occur, and no one in the business is truly responsible. No-source could also be considered hope-source — you hope there won’t be a problem. This solution can end up being the most costly of all three options.
IT needs vary dramatically, and what works for 123Print may not be appropriate for you. However, not having a well thought through plan is also not appropriate.
Some high-level questions you should ask when determining how to fill the technology support need for your small business Include:
- How core is technology to your business?
- What do you need from IT to thrive?
- When IT problems occur, can you still operate your business?
Whether you need to support an eCommerce website or an office of five people, make sure you have a plan in place now — because sooner or later, you will have an IT problem.
Do you have a technology support system in place? What lessons have you learned along the way? We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below, tweet us @123Print or connect with us on Facebook or Google+.