Small business owners sometimes find it hard to know when they’ve hit a point to justify an additional expense. This can be particularly true for a utility they don’t deeply understand such as IT or computer support. When should a small business move from relying on their people to fix their computers to paying the experts?
If you’re asking that question, it probably indicates you should be paying experts because you're already feeling the pain of supporting your own technology. It means your people are spending time every week fixing IT problems when they could be doing more productive work. Your small business doesn’t pay a Human Resources manager to find out why a computer is slow. You pay them to make sure the business is meeting compliance requirements and staff needs.
At NextPoint IT, we’ve found that once a company hits about 5 employees, there tends to be a need for some sort of expert computer support whether that’s an hourly or retainer model. You probably have 10-20 devices and 2-3 unique software tools to support a staff of 5 employees (individual computers, networking equipment, printers, wifi devices, etc.).
With 10-20 devices, your small business is probably going to have an IT issue about every other week. And this creates a layer of complexity where identifying root causes becomes difficult for non-experts. This means your people may be spending a couple hours every week fixing the consequences of the same problem over and over when an expert could fix the problem itself, so this weekly disruption stops forever.
But how do you really figure out the cost-benefit of paying experts. What’s the weekly or daily opportunity cost to your small business to have your people fix their computers? We suggest trying the following activity with your people for a month. (Or a couple weeks if a month feels too long. A week is probably too short though.)
Provide every employee a piece of paper to write down all the computer or technology problems they experience during a week and estimate the time lost due to each problem. Then compile all the problems and time in a spreadsheet and probably add an extra 10 minutes to each problem to account for time lost due to disruption of work.
This is the state of the impact of your small business’s IT on employee productivity.
No, this isn’t the most insightful or creative activity. But it’ll provide a rough way for you, as a small business owner, to figure out the opportunity cost of continuing to rely on your people to fix your computers instead of experts. And a physical sheet of paper acts as a visible reminder to your people to track these problems.
And if you own a small business in the area of Fishers, Carmel, Westfield, or Indianapolis, Indiana, NextPoint IT will do a free computer support and IT assessment.
Credit: Tim Ludden