Tom Shanley, SVP of Technology Services for SmartSource  

This week, I met with several business owners concerned about the state of technology in their business. The anatomy of most technology-related issues in small businesses stems from incremental changes, recommended and implemented by IT managers, past and present. 

As technology advances and our business needs change, executives turn to their IT department to develop solutions. However, without properly aligning those solutions with the company’s long-term goals, many businesses find themselves with disparate, outdated systems that are difficult for IT staff to maintain. 

Often, technology woes can boil over, and management may deem a change in leadership is necessary to realign technology in the business. New IT managers and directors may begin their tenure with a plan to overhaul or replace the email, storage, and software systems that are causing workflow issues for employees. Over time, as these new IT managers come and go, the systems are not continually updated, and considerations of their dependencies fall by the wayside. 

It is not uncommon for a company to select a technology platform, while not considering whether the chosen platform is compatible with other applications or workflows in the business. As an example, your business may elect to utilize an email solution that does not include plug-ins for the version of Microsoft Outlook you use, resulting in employees being unable to attach certain file types to their emails, which creates churn and work stoppage. 

People simply do not know what they do not know, and as a result, new technology hires are prone to recommending the products they know best. As people come and go, it can be difficult to find new candidates versed in the stack of solutions your prior IT resources implemented and supported. The end result is a team of technicians struggling to keep up with unaligned solutions and perpetually Band-Aiding recurring issues because the root cause resolution is outside their wheelhouse. The perception may be that your IT support people are not capable of doing their jobs, when in reality it is business leadership that has missed the boat in properly forecasting the company’s long-term goals with technology. 

Asking your IT department to develop a solution is only a fraction of an equation that should account for the ongoing maintenance, associated recurring costs, and supportability of any number of interconnected solution’s usable lifecycles. Failure to do so will create ongoing support issues and contention among IT and the various other departments in your business. 

It’s not enough to find a solution that meets an immediate need, as that one-off answer to a recent problem may exacerbate other lingering IT issues down the road.   

Challenge your IT resources to present a roadmap identifying a proper cadence for maintenance, replacement, and training. Your roadmap should be the centerpiece of your IT strategy.