A BRW Magazine subscription will run you $235 for 12 months. Actually it is more like 18 months, because once your 12 months is up and you choose not to renew they will keep sending you the magazine in the hope you will see the valuing in subscribing again. They used to be a good magazine, but seem to have shifted their focus away from the things that I found interesting when I first signed up. Even though it arrives in my letterbox for free I find myself flicking through it briefly and then tossing it aside. Not a very compelling case for resubscription when I don’t even like reading it for free.
Every now and then though they put out an issue that catches my eye. This week I received their “Digital Generation” edition, with headlines promising interesting content about the online world and today’s businesses. In other words, they’re going to see how many different ways they can mention “Web 2.0” and “social networking” in every article.
One particular sidebar by Tony Blackie has grabbed my attention. He opens with the very accurate line “I know enough about technology to be dangerous – very dangerous”. Those are the truest words written in the entire piece. Here are some other choice pieces of the column.
For my money, the best scenario is having a technician on site. The technological attributes of a company are no longer just the bits and bytes. It is also the application of web-based tools such as building and maintaining blogs, the information and social networking pages which are going to be increasingly important to companies.
Giving him some credit, he made it about halfway through the column before mentioning “social networking”.
Many companies have been happy to let this spontaneous social networking go on unregulated by management…. but in some cases the dialogue was not quite what they intended.
If you are not watching, all sorts of material can be put on company blog sites. By having an in-house IT person, whose role is to watch, manage and deliver all technology communications, a company can provide with some confidence all forms of internet outreach including social networking capabilities.
I think the in-house IT person has just been drafted into the Communications department. Now that we’ve spent nearly two third of the column talking about blogs and social networking, lets discuss the network itself.
An in-house techie will help you better control the IT budget. If you have ever wandered around the offices of corporate Australia you will see that most workers use outdated software and PCs. The first thing a consultant would do is get you to upgrade your infrastructure at vast expense…
It is in the consultant’s interests to recommend new infrastructure, but your in-house techie will be more likely to manage a legacy system and keep it going until you have a return on your investment. The downside is keeping a good techie for more than a few years. But that’s life and it’s better than paying for a system you probably don’t need.
It seems you could summarise Tony Blackie’s column into two main points. You should hire an in-house IT person so that:
- you can have a blog
- you don’t have to upgrade your systems
Those are both flawed points. Firstly, you don’t need an in-house IT person to build, operate, or monitor a company blog. You need a bit of help from a web developer or hosting company, and then you need staff who are responsible for representing your company to the world and bridging the gap between your business and your customers. Probably the last person in your company who should be doing that is your IT person. IT people can be quite smart and capable, but they would be a poor replacement for a marketer or customer relations person.
Secondly, in-house IT people maintaining legacy systems is how a lot of businesses get into trouble. Until a system completely breaks down there are dozens of arguments for delaying an upgrade. But what are you missing out on in the meantime? Are you still printing invoices and walking them over to the fax machine while your competitors fax and email with the click of a button? Are you running software that the vendor long ago stopped providing support and security fixes for? Is your company database sitting on an out of warranty whitebox server on the warehouse floor while you wait for ROI to kick in? When it does break down and the in-house IT person lacks the depth or breadth of skill to fix it, where do you turn to for help for your legacy system? There is no point avoiding the investment in new infrastructure on the basis of cost, if a failure in your existing infrastructure will put you out of business.
Blackie has it quite wrong when he says it is in the consultants interest to recommend a costly upgrade. It is in the consultants interest to deliver you a solution that meets your business needs, is supportable and scalable, and that will provide a return on investment much sooner than the aforementioned whitebox server on the warehouse floor.
On the other hand Blackie is quite right – if you stick with in-house IT staff to manage legacy systems you will have trouble hanging on to them. It makes no business sense to position yourself to be unable to hire competent IT staff.
Good luck Tony! See you around on the Web 2.0 again soon.