How do you handle growth? This is a question that’s really been troubling me over the past couple of weeks. For many of us, the day-to-day issues of running IT are pretty straight forward. We keep our existing “stuff” running, and occasionally we introduce some new “stuff”. For years, that’s what I did also. Occasionally, we’d get a little larger, adding an office every once in a while. That presented different challenges, but it was always manageable.
Our current growth feels different. Despite adding some locations over the past 10 years, we’ve hovered in the 150-200 employee range for much of that time. We’ve now jumped to about 260 employees, and we may be heading to 500 employees much fast than I ever envisioned. Furthermore, if that happens, it will probably mean a doubling of our existing locations – from 7 offices to somewhere between 12-15 offices.
What does all of this do in terms of IT and Telecomm support? The typical small IT Agency, which is large enough to require IT support, comes with an IT “Jack of all trades”, and there’s a limit to how many of those types an Agency needs.
At some point, you’ve got to start thinking about what a larger IT Department should look like. I think we’ve reached that point, so I’m thinking about it a lot. How many IT people would be required to support 500 people in 12-15 different locations, keeping in mind that we support 2 different platforms (Mac and PC), and that we also support telecomm. I’ve always felt like 35 was the point where an Agency needs in-house support, I think that number is a pretty good starting point for determining a support ratio in this business. I also think you can increase that number as you get larger, gaining some efficiency of scale. So let’s say that a 500 person company could get by with a 50-1 ratio – that means 10 IT people.
The next question is how to apportion those 10. Personally, I think an organization of this size should move to a formal help desk environment, which could be centralized in one location, or even split between several locations if geography dictates it. How many help desk personnel? What about the rest of the IT positions? An organization of 500 probably justifies a few specialists of some type – perhaps a telecomm manager, a network manager, a DB specialist, a graphics systems manager, etc., I guess those jacks-of-all trades might come in handy after all.