What exactly is an IT Director directing anyway?

Congratulations, you are a growing company and now it’s time to hire an IT Director.  Or is it?  This role has evolved significantly over the past ten years.  The advent of the cloud, software-as-a-service, and increasingly digital workflows means that your IT Director needs a set of skills that is likely different than you think.  Less tactics more strategy.

An IT Director should be adding competitive advantage to your business.

Competitive advantage is something that is DIFFERENT and UNIQUE from similar businesses in your industry.  Keeping the computers working and the email flowing is very important from an operational standpoint, but it is not going to generate additional profits or margin.

Many businesses start with a small outside IT “person” that comes by when needed and helps out.  This works well until one day it does not.  This occurs when the business grows past 20 users and/or the small IT “person” becomes overwhelmed with THEIR growing business.  The technology fires increase in frequency and the reaction is often, “we need to hire someone to handle this”.

Before going out and hiring that IT Director review these points:

  1. A single IT Director cannot be expected to have adequate time to be both strategic and tactical.  The reality for most is they are forced to be tactical 90% of the time, and thus the organization ends up with a lacking technology strategy and overpaying for tactics.  The ROI here is not acceptable versus utilizing an outside technology partner of suitable size and experience.
  2. Wanting an “employee” that is onsite to take care of technology issues.  This typically in response to bad technology experiences in the past or the need to handle constant reactive technology issues (fire fighting).  Stabilizing your technology is not difficult if you have a partner utilizing proven Standards.  Think about doing that first and then revisiting the hire.
  3. Who is going to oversee this person?  Crazy to think about, but there is no established oversight available for technology in a business.  We have external financial audits/CPAs, OSHA, Worker’s Comp boards and HIPPA compliance reviews.  The mentality becomes, if nothing is “broken” then IT must be doing great.  In today’s all digital world the risk of having in-house IT is becoming increasingly unacceptable.

For those of you going, wait a second, of course someone running a company that provides technology services would tell you to hire them, not an IT Director.  That couldn’t be further from the truth!  At Stringfellow, we work with a number of very skilled, experienced IT Directors that provide great value to their organizations.  The common trait we see is they understand their value is based on DIRECTING the technology strategy to provide competitive advantage to the business.

A final point about hiring an IT Director.  They are hard to keep!  The market for competent technology talent is fierce and you will either be in one of two positions:

  1. Paying more and more to “keep” your IT Director on staff.  Even then at some point they will leave for an another opportunity if there are not sufficient growth opportunities available
  2. Hiring an IT Director that really is a technology support person.  This increases the internal risk profile of your business and will generate less margin and profit for your business over time.