Growing your internal IT department from none to one: dos, don’ts, and how to get started

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When it comes to advising small-to-medium-sized businesses considering their first-ever internal IT hire, there’s one thing SUCCESS’s Vice President of Business Development Brent Morris likes to clear up right away: it’s not either/or. Your managed service provider and your new IT employee aren’t meant to be competitors.

“The key thing to know is that there’s reason for both of us to be there,” Morris says. “We want to empower your internal IT people—we’re not here to protect our turf, we’re here to protect your business.” 

If you’ve never onboarded or managed an internal IT employee, however, starting from scratch can be a daunting task. It presents a whole host of new questions and challenges, true, but according to Jamie Wolbeck, vice president of operations at SUCCESS, it also represents a unique opportunity to work with the team at SUCCESS or your MSP to set your new employee up for, well, success.

“Most organizations, when they get a new IT resource, they simply don’t know what good looks like, and they don’t know what to look for,” Wolbeck explains; this is where SUCCESS can provide concrete guidance. “How we usually partner with them, then, especially up front, is we set that foundational layer of how to manage an IT person.”

Are you at the point where it makes sense to recruit an internal IT employee? Here are three things to consider when hiring, onboarding, and managing your first IT person, and how SUCCESS can help at every stage of the process.

Evaluate your technology needs against your business objectives, and clearly define what it is that you need out of this new hire 

One mistake Morris and Wolbeck often see in this arena is a lack of evaluation, strategy, and clearly defined roles. Often that new solo IT person will be expected to be a jack of all trades, technologically speaking, which just isn’t realistic. 

“Often we see the hire of an internal IT person, and they say ‘hey new IT person, do all this stuff’ and it’s simply not possible,” Wolbeck says. 

How SUCCESS can help:

This is where SUCCESS or your current MSP can help you evaluate your existing technology plan and unique needs, and clearly define the niche experience and top qualities your organization should be seeking in its new hire.

“We’ll usually get business objectives from the organization, and then pair that with technology needs or specific objectives within the technology realm to accomplish those business objectives,” Wolbeck explains. This is a great way to ensure your hire actually aligns with your business objectives, and will make it possible for you better able to define the role, write the job description, and recruit accordingly, all in the name of driving value to your business through IT.

Have a plan for how you will manage and evaluate your new IT employee—especially if you’re not an IT expert

Maybe you’re not in the tech field yourself, but now your business has grown to a point where having an internal IT person makes sense—but you have no idea how to direct or measure their work. Wolbeck says there are four key areas you can focus on to understand your new employee’s performance: how much reactive versus proactive work they do, where they are advancing their education, how users feel about their customer service, and how well they work with departments on IT objectives. 

How SUCCESS can help: 

This is where your MSP can really have an impact; SUCCESS has a whole host of models to describe what “good” in this realm looks like (project vs. process, above and below the line, etc.), and it can benefit both you and your employee as you set expectations and performance metrics.

“We bring all of this to the table to say here’s where you’re at right now, here are models to describe what things look like, and here’s what you can expect day one, and here’s how we’ll coach you and make those things better for you,” Wolbeck says. “You have the ability to know what they should be responsible for, and a way to capture it, and we have tools that we can incorporate as well.”

It’s also okay to admit what you don’t know, and lean on SUCCESS to fill in the gaps. “A lot of times good IT people are let go because non-technical people don’t know how to manage them,” Morris says. “It’s really important for us to articulate ‘how do I manage somebody that I don’t have any experience in managing? How do I know what they’re doing, how do I measure their progress, how do I hold them accountable, how do I support and develop them?’ All those kinds of things come into play.”

Know that they probably won’t stay with your organization forever, but create an environment that incentivizes them to stay

The average tenure of a low to mid-tier IT resource is less than two years in an internal IT position. You should plan for that inevitability. On the flip side, most IT professionals want a role that grows with their skills and moves them into a position where they are not answering the phone or responding to emails all day. If you can give them that, you have a better chance of extending their tenure with your organization. 

How SUCCESS can help:

“The key thing that often gets left out is development,” Morris says. “Be intentional about development. And that’s another thing that SUCCESS or another MSP can provide, is that mentorship and direction on how to gain additional training and resources.”

But even with the best job perks and continuing education, its likely you’ll eventually need to find your IT person’s replacement, and that’s okay—as long as you’ve maintained your relationship with your MSP. This is where having an internal IT role that interfaces directly, often, and closely with your MSP becomes obviously invaluable. 

“We provide a redundant faction, to be able to maintain the day to day and not miss a beat,” Wolbeck says. “So there’s a big value proposition from that perspective, because if you just had a sole IT person and they left, will you know what to do afterwards?”

In short, maintaining your relationship with your MSP and having them involved from the get-go can greatly increase your chances of a successful first-time IT hire. “We can help coach them, and from the onset of the relationship, it can go that much more successfully if SUCCESS is involved,” Wolbeck says.