Are you looking at IT the way you look at accounting? Or are you looking for one full-time IT guy with five heads?

Here’s your overarching IT challenge: handling today’s productivity issues—those things that have “emergency” red-lettered all over them—while proactively preparing for tomorrow. But unless you run IT like you run your accounting department, chances are your IT person is looking in the mirror to see if he sees what he thinks you see—five heads on a lone body.

IT and accounting have more similarities than you may have considered. The rapid-fire evolution of technology requires specialized expertise to manage it successfully—just like accounting. You wouldn’t expect one person to be proficient in accounts receivable, accounts payable, and payroll activities as well as perform as a highly-skilled controller and CFO.  Can you hire one person for IT who knows everything you need to know? No way.

To understand what—and who—it will take to meet your challenge, consider the five basic IT areas that need to be managed.

    1. You’re probably all too familiar with service requests, the “chores” I wrote about in my blog that must be done to keep employees productive and your business operating. Resolution of these urgent, unplanned, and often untimely tasks frequently occurs at the expense of advancing other critical IT areas.
    2. Who thinks technology never changes? Yet change management may manage you if you’re not anticipating the future and planning for new and updated software, systems, and the hardware required to keep your company on a smooth and upward path. What’s more, your savvier competitors, in a quest for market leadership, lean on technology for organizational changes, generating more sales and greater profits—don’t get left behind.
    3. Incident management is good housekeeping—consistently monitoring and performing preventive maintenance on those business applications and corresponding critical machines that serve the entire office. Timely server updates—routine, urgent, and critical—, as well as software, desktop, and laptop updates, keep problems at bay.
    4. It’s one step to resolve a service request. But you also need someone with specialized expertise looking at the big picture—someone who handles problem management—whose analysis of isolated incidents identifies trends that may require a universal fix across the organization. Your problem manager will not only resolve problems but get to the root cause and drive change to prevent the same crises from happening again.
    5. Wherever your technology vendor dollars are spent, whether software, hardware, or phone systems, vendor management needs include not only contracts but identifying and communicating problems in a vendor’s unique language—until you clearly say something is wrong, chances are very good it won’t get fixed. Using the “wrong” word can cost you.

Here’s the takeaway: if you have one person covering your IT needs, you’re not covered. For the same reasons you need specialized expertise in accounting to cover all areas from checks and balances to risk management, you need several people to put their heads together to manage IT.

There’s a good chance your IT guy has several areas of expertise that will serve you well. And there’s an equally good chance that there’s only one head under that hat. Let him do what he does best and get some help for the rest. Look for a technology services firm with its own experts on staff who not only specialize in each of the five IT areas, but can work with you to create a team that gets you the highest value and best performance.

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