Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Sep 4 2011   9:59AM GMT

How SMBs can use IT advisors to their advantage

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

Large enterprises, as we know, operate on huge budgets and can easily afford good and senior persons as their CIOs. These companies run several projects and therefore have a staff contingent who manage the work. They can also engage consultants, service providers, and the likes, to assist them in their efforts.

Small companies, on the other hand, work under several constraints. It is not easy for them to hire good and senior persons to head their IT departments — for one, they can’t pay salaries that the senior persons demand, and secondly, the good and deserving candidates always prefer large and known organizations to small companies to further their careers. These small companies, though may have great ambitions, operate with limited budgets and have to be extremely careful with their spends.

As a result, these companies run small projects which take care of bare necessities, what we call as vanilla implementations, and these do not deliver any significant benefits. With the available resources, they do not have the stomach to try big initiatives. But some of the entrepreneurs, many of whom are the new generation businessmen, are ambitious and want to grow at a fast pace and think big. For them, IT becomes a drag, one which does not facilitate their growth efforts and becomes a constraint.

The way out

The only solution they can think of in such cases is to hire consultants. Consultants from known organizations, may often be expensive and work for short periods for the duration of the assignment, leaving the rest for the organization to manage. CEOs sometimes trust the hardware/ software vendor to provide a solution as some vendors increasingly claim to have a bouquet of tools and services to take care of all the requirements. This, to my mind, is risky and avoidable.

Appointing an advisor

The best case, in my opinion, is for them get hold of an advisor who could devote some time regularly to draw the right IT road map, help them in selection of technology and of implementation partners. By advisors, I mean senior professionals who are retired or those who have chosen to do some work on their own. Advisors can help guide projects to their logical conclusion and supervise the internal teams to ensure that they carry out work as per the defined schedule.

I have been advising two such companies and I find the arrangement to be of great advantage to them. They are assured that their IT program would be taken care of and they just have to concentrate on their business. I also find it very satisfying as I am able to bring in the best practices and the knowledge and processes of large enterprises to these smaller companies.

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