Depending on how dependent your company is on computers, IT (or information technology) can be your biggest ally or the biggest thorn in your side. While people tend to refer to IT for anything that involves computers, information technology can encompass a very large variety of business needs from servers to websites. There is no one-size-fits-all IT professional any more than there is a one size fits all employee of any type.
If you don’t know a lot about the type of computer services you need, do a little homework. Talk to people, read books, whatever it takes. You need to know enough to globally figure out what you company does and does not need. If you are not totally comfortable with IT, you might consider hiring a consultant to help you figure out what you need. Like most professional, IT professional are passionate about what they do and they can tell you all kinds of things that you could do (and it will look and sound really, really cool). That doesn’t mean that you should do it.
You will need to decide whether you to hire employees or whether you should just use a consultant. If you have a need that is highly complex at the beginning, but easy to maintain once it is in place, you may be better off with a consultant. If, on the other hand, you have fairly complex needs and anticipate that this will be the case for quite some time, you might want to consider hiring full-time employees. It may also be a combination of the two. (Just be sure they agree with each other!)
Be very specific about deliverables. What do you expect this person (or these people) to accomplish? How soon do you need it? Information technology is strong on the science side, but there is a certain art to it as well. The more specific about how you want to things to look, the types of storage you need (and how much), what you want your website to say, etc., the higher your chances of getting what you need in a timely manner.
Be prepared. Have some contingencies built into your budget and into your schedule. Good IT professionals are in high demand. It is entirely possible that someone will get hired away from you. IT is also often highly complex. The more complex your needs, the more contingencies you should allow for. A bad hard drive, unavailability of certain parts, a change in the technology, connection problems all these things can put a cramp in your budget and your time frame. Also allow for upgrades and maintenance.
Building the proper IT infrastructure can be one of the most important parts of your business, particularly if your business is heavily dependent on computer technology. Mistakes at the beginning can be very costly down the road and can cost you thousands. Be sure you do your homework, hire good people, and know what you want. Be active in the process and meet with your IT professionals on a frequent basis.
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