In my role I regularly speak to small and medium sized businesses (SMBs), who tell me it’s regular practice for one person to fulfil multiple business roles. It could be as simple as a restaurant owner who also needs to take on the role as in-house accountant, to a shop manager who ensures their IT system is regularly maintained. Running a small business requires owners and employees to be ‘Jack of all trades’ in what is often opposing job roles. 

In Australia, there are 1.2 million SMBs who represent over 96 percent of all Australian businesses and 33 percent of Australia’s GDP (OECD.org, 2012). Within these often lean teams, small businesses don’t always have the luxury of IT, HR and finance departments, so many employees will be given multiple responsibilities within the company.

The pressures of running a small business can mean that an employee in the company is forced into the uncomfortable position of diverting their attention from meeting critical business needs to managing an immediate problem with the company’s IT systems. This person, often the most tech-savvy employee in the company, is then saddled with the unofficial role of the “Involuntary IT Manager.”

A recent study that we commissioned found one in three small businesses rely on an Involuntary IT Manager (IITM) to meet all of its IT management needs . The study revealed that Australian IITMs lose more than 3.1 hours of time every week managing IT solutions instead of tending to their day-to-day job responsibilities which equates to 161 hrs. of lost productivity annually.

While of the five countries surveyed, Australian IITMs recorded the lowest level of lost productivity hours wasted, the loss still represents a significant economic impact to Australian small businesses’ bottom lines. 

Additional findings included:

  • Australian small businesses are more content with the status quo: Fifty-five percent of small businesses in Australia are unlikely to change the way IT is managed, compared to a global average of 37 percent
  • Australian IITMs are the least inclined to shift more IT budget to the cloud, at only 14 percent, and are the least likely to purchase integrated online productivity suites, at only 15 percent

Alice Hagen, the Founder and Principal of Calibre Real Estate owns a fast growing company that required up-to-date technology but her continuous investments in IT, on top of the cost of maintaining the IT was fast becoming an unprofitable business model. Each new server the company needed cost around $30,000 which would then need another upgrade within a few years. Alice researched other alternatives and her move to the cloud brought immediate savings and benefits to her business. In her own words Alice stated: “Office 365 has saved us $30,000 on a server upgrade and $1,000 on monthly overheads. It’s also much easier to manage – even for someone without an IT background, like me”. 

Office 365, Windows Intune, Windows Azure and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online are Microsoft’s most complete cloud services to date. Above and beyond these services, SMBs have also the opportunity to engage with an IT Trusted Partner Advisor many who offer cloud solution as part of their own core offerings.

Embracing the cloud with Microsoft or a Microsoft Partner is an excellent way for Involuntary IT Managers to offload many of their IT responsibilities, freeing up time to focus on more strategic business activities. As Alice testifies, it can not only save on resources, it also gives the Involuntary IT Manager time to focus on work that truly matches their abilities.

 

"AMI-Partners, “2013 Small Business Involuntary IT Manager Study,” 3/21/13