Keep Up or Catch Up

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If you are a part of a growing business, it makes sense to have a 1-, 3-, and 5-year plan. How are you going to grow your business? Organically or Externally? Beyond that, you must consider what factors are necessary to scale your entire company holistically.

As a member of the IT community, I have experienced multiple occasions of working for a company that has grown fast. Mainly this has been through organic growth, resulting in double-digit growth year-over-year. A couple of times, this has been through external growth, through either a series of small or, in one case, one large merger.

Throughout the planning for these growth, many considerations were made: increase X number of Sales headcount to continue growth, increase Y number of support headcount to provide service to our expanding customer base, increase Z number of finance headcount to incorporate new budgeting and balancing that must take place with our new found success.

One of the considerations that seem to not be met is how does an organization scale their IT staff and infrastructure for the future of the company? This stems from a long standing belief that IT is only a cost-center, and while important for the success of a company, can often be set aside for other expenditure initiatives. What is the ROI when investing in IT?

I’ll tell you that in today’s Agile focused world, how can we do more with less, IT has taken quite a hit. IT, itself, is required to transform and ensure its place in tomorrow’s business. However, there is only so much that can be done without investment from the company.

I’ve seen multiple instances where IT was long neglected and in order to “not fail”, the company would have to put forth a large capital expense in order to catch up. Or, a company would have to hire 3-5 more employees in order to catch up.

Well, how about keeping up? I refer back to my earlier statement of “Agile” focused companies. Well, one of the guiding principles for Agile is small, incremental changes. A good IT leader will show the value of what small, incremental changes in IT looks like and why keeping up is much better than catching up.

Since ROI is hard to calculate, one must look at opportunity cost and risk potential. With the normalization of technology that is happening in today’s business, IT is all about people and process management. Thus, rather than investing in hardware and software (though that still happens) we must invest in our people. Only with the right people can we keep up and no longer play catch up.

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