You want to give last month’s figures another quick check, but your accounting software doesn’t seem to be working. Then you notice there’s no Internet connection, meaning no access to the cloud yet again. It’s later on in the evening now, and you can’t get hold of IT support. Many companies have had similarly irritating experiences to these ones, and most of them blame it on IT.
Setting up an IT department: a 7-step guide
Your company will have one main goal: to sell your goods or services. That is your trade, after all, and IT should make your life that bit easier. You just need the right infrastructure. You’re probably not an expert on IT infrastructure, except for the fact you have an IT company. So what should you do to set up your IT department? Find out everything you need to know in this article.
What exactly is IT?
IT is a very broad term, and stands for information technology. In other words, it’s about using technology to process information and data. We can actually divide IT into roughly three tiers. First, there is your IT infrastructure, so technical systems such as servers or computers. This is where you have applications or operating systems, e.g. Microsoft Office, which make up the second tier. The third tier comprises all organization processes that are run using the two tiers we have already mentioned, so e-mails, electronic data storage and so on, right through to complex production processes.
IT is really important to your organization, which is why you should make setting up your IT infrastructure a top priority. But where should you start? Begin by planning things out using the following seven steps.
1. Analysis of the current situation
First of all, get an overview of all processes in your company and all your IT requirements. What hardware and software do you need? Document your staff’s IT infrastructure requirements. This is the company perspective, or the inside perspective. At the same time, be sure to interact with your customers. How? To what extent do you need IT to do this? How could you improve the overall customer experience and customer relations? This is the market (outside) perspective that you also need to keep in mind. Ask your customers explicitly for feedback so you can get your hands on exceptionally valuable information.
2. Digital or analogue?
Once you have analysed the current situation, you should consider what processes you want to be digital. How will that benefit you? What resources and infrastructure do you require to go digital? Involve your employees in this process. After all, these are the people who use the IT systems on a daily basis. Does the technology help your employees or hinder them? Your decision should also take into account customer feedback.
3. Now you should consider what software and hardware you need to get this done.
Describe your needs – your own IT employees or perhaps an outside service provider could use these to figure out how to set up your infrastructure, and what systems and applications you need. These should be exactly in line with your needs, it shouldn’t just be a one-size-fits-all solution, so to speak.
4. Going down the external or internal route for your own IT department?
People often wonder about IT outsourcing, but it isn’t always given enough attention. Think about it from several different perspectives:
- It all depends on the size of your company and your project, and so the bigger they are, the more likely you are to have your own employees.
- Costs: even small companies should have at least two people working in IT so there is sufficient availability. What’s more, IT is such a broad subject that one person alone will really struggle to cover everything it entails.
- So, it is a bit simplistic to think of this in terms of going down the internal or external route. It is more about weighting: even if you try to do as much as you possibly can yourself, you are still going to rely on external service providers for things like hardware and software. Your computer will be HP or Apple, your Windows operating system Microsoft, and you will have Adobe Photoshop.
Find out more about the opportunities and risks associated with an in-house IT department and an external partner in the two follow-up articles in this series.
5. Launching your project/project management
When you initiate an IT project, it is important to do it cleanly, just as you would with any other project. We recommend appointing a project manager who can take control and keep track of everything. Ideally, this person should already have experience with IT projects and should be an asset to your company.
6. Don’t underestimate the costs of setting up your IT department
As a general rule, you should expect your initial costs for IT projects to generally be lower than subsequent costs, be it for operations, changes or upgrades. This is why you ought to be prepared for (nasty) surprises. Be sure to factor in budget overruns.
7. Train your staff in dealing with IT
Data is a vital commodity, and is key to the success of the vast majority of companies. This is why it is so important that you and your staff are really careful with the information you handle, and that you protect your information from unauthorized access above all else. Find out what you can do about cybersecurity and how you can protect yourself in the article “For the sake of your company: IT security”.
IT management is a constant challenge
An infrastructure is by no means the only thing your project will need. A good IT infrastructure also needs to be fine-tuned. Why? Because every day, you will need to perform maintenance and updates. Outdated programs will get replaced by new ones, and some things will almost certainly not work the way you would like every now and again, but you should still prioritize the security of your systems. Find out how in the article “IT security and data protection: small companies should avoid these mistakes”.