Every firm has an IT Department, even 1-man shops, though that department might be you. Regardless of the size of your firm, certain principals are universal. Virtually every firm manages some combination of internal and external IT resources. Even firms that have completely outsourced IT must still manage their technology if only at a high-level. Firms with internal IT departments generally work with strategic technology partners/vendors that must be managed as well. Properly managed technology leads to improved employee productivity and reduced costs. Whether you outsource only a part or all of your IT team, consider the following key objectives:
- Your firm’s privacy, reputation and risk management depend on appropriate and well maintained security.
- Training to keep up with ever-changing technology is essential.
- Business continuity plans are not optional.
- Firms that properly manage their technology investment gain a competitive advantage.
To help achieve these objectives, focus on the following areas:
Planning: Regular business-level technology planning and budgeting avoids financial and operational surprises. A rolling 3-year planning horizon is generally ideal. Every item on the list above should be a part of your plan. You should update and review your plan with a frequency that is commensurate with the size and complexity of the firm. Large firms should perform this review quarterly and very small firms at least once per year. Consider soliciting outside opinions from partners you trust to help validate your plans. The quality of your technology management starts with the quality of your technology planning and review process. Ensure you regularly take a hard look at recurring issues and root cause issue elimination.
Security: An important part of the technology review and plan should be dedicated to security. In addition to reviewing the status of key technical security items, reviews of system accounts and password security is essential. Your security solutions should be audited with both internal and external penetration tests to help ensure your defenses are up to snuff.
Business Continuity: You need a reasonable outcome when disaster strikes. Regardless of your firm’s size and data footprint, we strongly recommend that you have a comprehensive backup plan that includes complete hourly system backup to redundant hardware as well as securely encrypted off-site backups to be rapidly available in the case of a disaster. This should be a required of any systems you run in-house as well as hosted solutions. Ensuring your business continues to function no matter what happens is essential and should be a top priority. This can be done efficiently and cost-effectively, so do not cut corners thinking disaster won’t happen to you.
Staffing: Ensure your team delivers on the plan with appropriate project management and processes. For internal employees, evaluate your employee review, training and compensation plans. I am a huge believer in individual quarterly goals and bonuses based on results. You work hard to find the best people and they deserve to be challenged, rewarded, and encouraged to grow. Consider enlisting the assistance of a trusted partner who could act as a Virtual CIO to help mentor an in-house IT Director or other IT staff. Virtually all firms work with technology vendors with services ranging from hardware to software to services. Each technology vendor has their unique focus and strengths. Review this regularly to ensure that you are working with the right partners.
Training: The most valuable component of your infrastructure is your people. Your IT team’s collective knowledge, vision and skills make all the difference. Ongoing IT education and training is required to maintain regulatory compliance, remain efficient, and stay competitive. The best people will continually seek out training and you’ll need to provide this to keep them. Employees that do not want to grow their skills become less valuable and stale over time.
Are you getting the absolute best results from your technology team? Regardless of how you choose to staff your IT needs, these are some technology best practices that can help you achieve the best results.
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