Your IT Wizkid: Knowledge is a dangerous thing
Working with small/medium-sized businesses we often come across three different situations:
1. There is no IT support in place
2. There is a one-man band IT supplier providing the support
3. There is an employee who is more tech-savvy than anyone else in the business, and whenever help is needed, they get tapped on the shoulder.
This article discusses how these situations can create a knowledge vacuum within the business and worse put your business at risk.
Having someone in the organisation who can diagnose your immediate issues is no doubt useful, they might even have a wider interest in IT. They can build your business applications, create your access database, or carry out whatever IT support you need at a given point in time. While this might seem perfect, below are a few examples of why it might not be.
Opportunity Cost – Have you employed this person to resolve your IT conundrums, do they have other responsibilities? Are they taking twice the time to do the job relative to an expert? It’s common to find businesses that have individual employees who are responsible for maintaining business-critical systems. Firstly, this is unfair to that employee. Secondly, there are risks inherent in this approach and it’s likely the blame would land squarely on this individual should anything go wrong. An example of this is a system dropping out of support due to a lack of updates, without the business being aware of any issues.
Lack of wider context – Quite commonly, people who are self-taught, don’t know what they don’t know. Yes, they can learn if given the opportunity, but we commonly see issues such as security issues, GDPR compliance, or a lack of supporting documentation. We have seen cases where employees have left organisations with all the IT admin passwords, this causes a lot of issues for those left to pick up the pieces. Additionally, we see strategic technology decisions made with a narrow field of view, decisions that can be hard to undo and costly or leave productivity lower than it might otherwise be.
Protectionist thinking – When asked to help smaller businesses, we commonly meet resistance from the individuals who have been given ownership of IT. Having been the go-to person for a period, any outside input is perceived as criticism and is often seen as interference. In the worst-case scenarios, we’ve seen complex business critical systems being coded by staff with no qualifications or experience other than an interest in the subject.
There is a lot to be said for staff who will put in the extra work to make sure your business operates smoothly. In this scenario though it’s important to consider the level of training and expectations you’re placing on them, as well as the risks to the business.
As your business grows, it’s important for your mindset to grow with it and this means ensuring you have or can access the right expertise. You wouldn’t want a pilot programming an airplane’s safety system in their spare time.