14 Ways to Identify if Your Business Has Outgrown Your IT Department

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It’s Not Me, It’s You: Have You Outgrown Your IT Department?

In today’s technology-driven corporate world, Information Technology (IT) Infrastructures of SMEs, and large enterprises, make up a core section of such organizations, and ultimately increase both the top and bottom lines of the organization when they are effectively installed, utilized, managed, and maintained. Such IT systems are leveraged by company executives to increase company efficiency, productivity, automation, and overall business efficacy. Corporate IT systems can help to fine-tune daily workflows, and can be used to save time by automating certain tasks (that would otherwise require manual work/entry), and can even be used to analyze complex business data patterns to determine future outcomes. Additionally, novel approaches associated with utilizing IT systems in business allow corporate executives to analyze Big Data, produce Business Intelligence, and operate with the assistance of advanced Artificial Intelligence, all with the purpose of producing more effective business strategies to aid corporate growth.

Since the ultimate goal of utilizing IT systems is to increase business efficiency and benefit the company’s bottom and top lines, it is key for business executives to recognize when current business IT applications and systems are no longer sustaining growth or creating a positive ROI (return on investment). This goal means effective IT solutions should be feasible to maintain, and should scale with the company as it grows, while not requiring manual work due to the failing of IT systems. To mitigate issues associated with a company’s IT infrastructure, a strategic forecast of a company’s growth should always include estimates of how well the company’s IT infrastructure will support that growth in the future, so that operations and daily workflows continue to be carried out effectively at all times, without IT systems presenting any hindrances. Within the company’s growth path, there may come a time when the IT solutions in place hinder growth as opposed to helping it. It is always important for company executives to recognize when that time has come, and to know how to balance the continuation of current business operations – in the most optimal manner possible – with the reconstruction of the business’s IT infrastructure to support the daily goals of the business, along with supporting all future growth plans.

In order to ensure continued business efficiency, there are several signs that business executives should look out for to identify an IT infrastructure that can no longer keep up with a business’s growth. For example, one sign that a company has outgrown its IT department is when personnel need to redo data-entry work manually, either due to the lack of automation software, or because of the failure of such systems to scale with the company’s needs. Additionally, IT systems may need upgrading simply to support the new enterprise processes, business model, or business plans that may be formulated when a company grows or decides to take a different direction. There are several other signs to look out for, all of which can help business executives recognize that the time has come to upgrade or replace current IT systems in order to support all future business operations and goals.

Why Upgrading Your IT Department is Vital

A successful business will inevitably experience growth. New products, expanded client lists, and greater diversification are some of the ways that a company may see its operations increase. Real issues, both internally and externally, may arise, however, if the current IT infrastructure in place cannot meet those challenges. While a new IT system may demand an investment of time and resources, it could help to fuel operational growth and more importantly, the company’s bottom line.

In order to detail the significance of updating or upgrading an organization’s IT department, it is first important to first define what a corporate IT infrastructure typically entails. The entirety of the corporate Information Technology ecosystem typically encompasses anywhere from five to seven types of systems (depending on the type and size of the organization), and includes:

In order to detail the significance of updating or upgrading an organization’s IT department, it is first important to first define what a corporate IT infrastructure typically entails. The entirety of the corporate Information Technology ecosystem typically encompasses anywhere from five to seven types of systems (depending on the type and size of the organization), and includes:

  • Computer Hardware: Corporate computer hardware typically includes all physical client machines, servers, data storage facilities, mainframes, etc., from companies such as HP, Dell, Apple, IBM, and Microsoft.
  • Operating System Platforms: Corporate computer software often includes the Operating System (OS) associated with client machines and servers, of which Windows and Unix/Linux are examples.
  • Enterprise Software Applications: Enterprise software includes suites, modules and application packages used specifically for managing, strategizing, analyzing, and running enterprise operations. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Accounting software, Supply-Chain Management suites, etc. are some examples of enterprise software applications from vendors including SAP, Oracle, Infor, Salesforce, and Microsoft.
  • Data Management Systems: Data management systems include both traditional and newer storage devices and databases – such as tape libraries, disk arrays, storage area networks (SANs), and in-house data warehouses – and the software systems associated with database management. Examples include MySQL, Oracle Database and Microsoft SQL Server, among others.
  • Networking/Telecommunications Systems: Networking systems usually include TCP/IP-based, LAN/WAN networking devices (i.e. switches, routers, servers, etc.), and the associated operating systems for client and server platforms (i.e. Cisco, Juniper, Aruba, etc.).

In addition to the above, company IT systems may include Internet Platforms, and Systems Integration Services. The former entails the hardware and software associated with corporate websites, which includes web hosting services (i.e. web servers) and in-house corporate intranet services, as well as external business internet platforms and services. Such systems also include cybersecurity services, such as Next Generation Firewalls, Intrusion Detection Systems, VPN services, and security suites (i.e. anti-malware enterprise solutions). Examples of Internet Platforms include Apache web servers, Microsoft IIS, CISCO, etc. The latter (systems integration services) entails corporate systems associated with integrating legacy systems with non-legacy business applications and services.

It is also vital to note the existence of corporate legacy systems and how they intimately relate to necessary corporate IT upgrades, which could be simple system patch updates or entire system replacements. Legacy systems can be old, obsolete, unsupported IT systems that may not scale or offer a positive ROI to a business, but are often kept simply because the cost, resources and retraining requirements of an upgrade, are regarded as too great [2]. However, legacy systems often create more problems than they solve, and thus require greater time and resources for maintenance, and/or the redoing of certain business tasks. Outdated systems are often not secure either, as vendors no longer support or patch such IT solutions. Lastly, legacy systems may not scale well or offer support for a company that wishes to go in a different, more technically-advanced direction (i.e. using Artificial Intelligence for Big Data analysis), and thus may be a hindrance to business growth.

There are 14 key signs that a company’s IT capabilities – including technology, processes, and personnel – need to be updated or replaced completely.

1. You Hit a Tech Bottleneck

Every company needs to routinely evaluate its strategic position to ensure that all company goals are being met. This often requires shedding outdated processes and increasing efficiency with technology wherever possible. However, if an IT infrastructure needs upgrading, it is likely that IT personnel will be unable to cover every potential risk/impact of cybersecurity, cloud migration, data mining – and all the other intricacies of an ever-changing IT environment – with the current technological infrastructure that is in place. Such is often the case when systems need to specifically be upgraded to newer systems that can support technological advancements in a business. This will allow a company to offer technical strategic differentiators, and to increase operational efficiency with the use of advanced technology.

2. You’re Not in the Cloud

The use of in-house data servers and systems has decreased, while 97 percent of businesses now use public, private and/or hybrid cloud systems, according to McAfee. Cloud systems offer streamlined business data storage, as well as efficient cloud computing, along with not requiring typical maintenance, upkeep, patching, and in-house security administration. Cloud systems also allow for seamless data syncing between inter-enterprise departments (and/or remote workers), and gives businesses the ability to collaborate on work – and share important documents – with ease. One sign that an enterprise’s IT infrastructure needs to be updated or upgraded, is the inability to operate in an integrative manner with cloud systems.

3. Out-of-Date Technology Platforms

When a company needs enterprise-level technology platforms (e.g., ERP, CRM), potentially for the first time, and the in-house IT team is more support-focused – as opposed to having the ability to install and strategically manage IT solutions to increase efficiency – this is usually a sign that IT systems are not core tools in the company for strategically increasing productivity and efficiency. This is often the case with out-of-date legacy systems that need to be modernized and/or upgraded. Additionally, when IT personnel lack experience with enterprise software or vendors, then older corporate IT systems are probably in place, and need to be upgraded.

4. They Can’t Speak Your Language

When IT personnel are unable to communicate the benefits of technology and corporate IT systems clearly in business terms – and only see the corporate world through a technology-lens – this often leads to organizational frustration and ineffective application of technology solutions. If IT personnel do not understand the business objectives and operational needs of the company, they will not be able to deliver effective IT solutions to the business. Also, IT leaders should be able to communicate the potential business benefit of a new system or the business risk associated with a needed platform upgrade without overusing technical jargon that business leaders may not understand.

5. Your IT Department Doesn’t Have a Business Continuity or Disaster Recovery Plan

Every enterprise that utilizes IT as a core part of its business operations should strategize the continued use of IT systems in the event of a disaster. Such crises can range from natural disasters to sudden economic problems that force a change in business operations. If Information Technology is strategically used in a practical way – which usually translates to IT systems being up-to-date, modern, and used pragmatically on a daily basis  – then IT executives will usually ensure that IT systems can continue to support critical business operations in the event of a disaster.

6. They Can’t Keep Up

IT departments should be able to keep up with business issues that arise in order to deliver and support pertinent solutions. Increasing IT workloads in growing companies can often overwhelm the IT processes and personnel that previously could meet the company’s technology needs. This may result in frustrating delays in resolving support tickets, unnecessary system outages caused by human/process errors, or failed deliveries of needed technology projects. Sometimes the company’s technology demands increase beyond the capabilities of existing IT leadership and staff, resulting in the need for either outside training/consulting or new leadership. Additionally, more internal IT process maturity will be needed in order to effectively and efficiently provide enterprise-level support for the expanding company.

7. Inability to Scale and Grow

IT solutions should be able to scale with a company’s growth. IT systems that started out with a new company – an enterprise of a few personnel and a few customers – will likely not work well when that company grows to  many hundreds of personnel and thousands of customers or clients. Everything from accounting software, to ERP suites, to communications systems, to CRM applications can be overwhelmed when they are forced to deal with larger pools of data or higher transaction volumes than they were designed for. In such situations, such IT solutions will be unable to deliver peak performance, which is a sign that they need to be replaced.

8. You’re Experiencing Incomplete or Inaccurate Data

Enterprise software and IT systems may fail to deliver the appropriate data, and/or may completely malfunction if they are unable to scale to the growing needs of a company. When that happens, incomplete or inaccurate financial and non-financial data alike may be produced, which can create serious issues within a company, especially if such issues are discovered too late. As noted by Promys Enterprise, when the “executive team keeps getting blindsided by shortfalls in expected revenue, large unexpected margin fluctuations across projects and roller coaster billable utilization,” such a situation is usually a sign of ineffective data production and/or ineffective data communication, resulting in disadvantageous business situations arising.

9. More and More End User Complaints

The best systems will not only provide solutions for an organization, but also for the individuals within that organization. When a system fails to provide these benefits, company executives will experience a greater number of complaints. Such complaints are usually the result of IT systems that are causing more issues than they are solving, and, specifically, are not increasing business productivity or efficiency. Essentially, such IT systems aren’t helping personnel to complete their required work.

10. Lack The Technical Skills

Older, less-than optimal corporate systems are often used by personnel with a certain skill set. However, as technology has evolved, older IT systems – that initially were used tactically to solve issues as they arose – and the personnel that utilized such systems, have been replaced by newer IT solutions, and with skilled personnel that use such IT solutions as strategic optimizers for daily workflows. Thus, when a company has grown significantly and needs new business systems, the IT team – that is skilled with the strategic use of newer IT solutions – will not typically resemble a help desk. Ideally, IT teams (and IT systems) are often revenue generators, and not simply cost centers or support personnel.

11. They’re Reactive Not Proactive

IT systems should be leveraged by personnel to proactively and strategically optimize daily workflows and business operations. However, if IT solutions are in need of upgrading, they will often be used for a single, simple purpose, solving issues as they arise. Additionally, with regard to older IT systems, companies often hire IT experts with the expectation that they will bring knowledge of best practices and provide the enterprise with forward-thinking recommendations. IT personnel that are equipped to work with older IT systems will typically only focus on fixing problems, and not recommending best practices. Thus, IT systems that need to be upgraded are typically used only to fix problems, instead of directly increasing corporate efficiency.

12. The ROI Isn’t There Anymore

Every corporate IT infrastructure component should have a positive ROI. If any system, within an Enterprise’s IT infrastructure, fails to deliver a return on the investment by producing the desired results (e.g. increasing efficiency by a certain margin, and/or producing more sales via a new CRM platform), then that is a sign that the IT system needs to be updated or replaced entirely.

13. Your Systems are Affecting Employee Productivity

Appropriate, practical IT solutions should ultimately enhance employee productivity, all of which should increase the company’s bottom line. If IT systems are not increasing the productivity of personnel via increased workflow efficiency and optimization – or even worse, are decreasing employee productivity – then the IT systems in place are not appropriate and need to be updated or upgraded.

14. They Don’t Offer Support Outside Office Hours

IT systems that are only supported by their vendors at certain times – or are not supported in an efficient manner – need to be replaced. IT solutions should always be supported by their vendors so that if an issue arises, the problem can be fixed so as to ensure continual business operational efficiency. IT systems that are only supported during certain hours can result in critical issues remaining in a business for long periods of time, such that there may be a significant decrease in operational efficacy, which can greatly decrease the bottom line of an enterprise. For example, if an ERP solution, Supply-chain management software application, or CRM suite produced a significant error and/or crashed, business operations could come to a halt, thus affecting both the top line and bottom line of an enterprise, and potentially causing a significant loss in reputation among customers/clients. Thus, it is critical that all business IT systems – including hardware, software, enterprise, networking and database systems – are supported by their vendors at all times.

It’s Not Me, It’s You

Information Technology enterprise systems are key systems that offer businesses unique solutions to corporate issues. As IT systems advance at a rapid pace, business models, business strategies, and corporate processes also change and evolve over time. It is important for IT systems to scale and grow with a company in order to support its needs, including current and future needs. This often means that IT solutions may need to be modernized and updated, or completely replaced with new systems. Since enterprise IT systems exist to increase corporate productivity and efficiency – and thus to increase a company’s bottom and top lines – systems that are no longer pertinent may only cause more problems than they solve by reducing overall business efficacy. There are several signs to look out for that reveal that a company has outgrown its IT systems, which may mean they are no longer supporting company growth, and are thus a hindrance, and not an advantageous business system.