The Goldilocks Problem: What is “Just Right” for an I.T. Department?

The Goldilocks Problem: What is “Just Right” for an I.T. Department?

It’s been a question from the start:  how much I.T. does my company need?

As usual, it depends.  A dizzying number of factors come into play when a company is trying to decide how much of its resource base to devote to I.T. support.  Company size, personnel costs, and system complexity are just a few of the basic quantitative inputs into the calculation.

But there’s a strong qualitative aspect, too.  Some companies pile on with both in-house I.T. people and contractors, but their systems are still a mess.  Other companies scrimp on I.T. in an effort to protect the bottom line, but manage to squeak by or even thrive.  There’s no simple formula.

Here at ECHO, we’re constantly wrestling with the balance between I.T. needs and costs.  We’ve come up with a few key questions which companies can use to think about how to get to “just right”:

1. How complex are my needs?

It’s all about the tools your company uses.  If everyone in your office is just using e-mail and the basic Microsoft suite of products, then your I.T. department is probably small.  But every system a company adds comes with maintenance, support, and probably customization costs.  That can get expensive real quick, not just in terms of per-seat licenses, but also for the specialized I.T. personnel needed to keep the systems working well.

2. Is the I.T. department a function of the company’s past, present, or future?

In an ideal world, I.T. staffing reflects the future – it empowers and prepares a company to face the challenges of scale and growth head on.  In the real world, however, I.T. staffing is usually about the present – how can I meet the challenges and budgets of today?  Or it’s about the past – how can I correct the system configuration issues we’ve been plagued with for years now?  Any company’s I.T. needs should be defined by its strategic vision, but also by the reality of what it’s dealing with now.

3. How successful is successful enough?

Any I.T. department should be measured by its results, not by its headcount.  For some I.T. departments, success means merely keeping the lights on.  But the most successful I.T. departments are constantly pushing the limits of their productivity and value to the company.  The culture of an I.T. department can be just as important as how many people are in it.

4. Do I want to do it myself?

We live in the age of outsourcing, where someone can even find kittens for your office party.  If staffing and maintaining I.T. resources consumes more time and energy than it should, there are ever fewer reasons to do it yourself.  Companies tend to see I.T. as something that they should do in-house, but that approach isn’t always economical or an effective use of resources.  More often than not, using outside labor – for both core and specialized I.T. functions – is a way to stay nimble and sane.

What is “just right” for your company?  We can help you find out.