Surprising as it may sound, lockdown was an interesting – and fulfilling – time for me. Without the option to attend various networking events or be on the road visiting clients, I dedicated a huge chunk of time to focusing on making new – albeit virtual – connections, while also fitting in some professional development in a bid to expand my skill-set, alongside that of the Q2Q team.
Talking to other SME owners during this unsettling time has been an enlightening experience to say the least. I’ve had virtual meetings with lots of new people, shared frustrations and hurdles, and found some common themes among many of my peers.
One of those was the challenge of running a small team, which lacks expertise in areas such as finance, marketing, or HR, while being unable to afford a full-time member of staff to bridge the gap. As such, many business leaders are relying on part-time and/or third-party support for these types of functions, myself included.
However, how and where to find help can often be less obvious – such as when you’re facing a challenge with no apparent solution. In situations like these, it’s often an unplanned conversation with someone outside the ‘day-to-day’ that can bring a completely new perspective to the issue, and very rapidly offer suggestions that, in hindsight, seem glaringly obvious.
Of course, when you’re living and breathing ‘it’, there is a tendency to feel ‘too busy’ to stop for long enough to look at something with a new mindset. And that’s completely okay too.
So, it’s not just a case of simply outsourcing a function but passing it on to someone who has the time and inclination to help, allowing you to focus on what actually matters – running your business. And this is pertinent when it comes to all-things-IT too.
While you might have someone in the team who once said they love playing computer games or rebuilt an original Apple Mac, that shouldn’t make them the default ‘IT guy’. Nor should essential printer maintenance fall to the person who sits closest to the machine.
So, when it comes to IT support (or headaches), there are several scenarios where a bit of out outside help might be beneficial. Such instances could include:
- You may have a specific IT project that requires a senior level of experience on a short-term basis
- You may have an in-house, junior techie that can fix many of the day-to-day issues, but is constantly stuck in Google trying to solve problems – and would benefit from a regular, third-party training and mentoring session once a month to expand their skill-set
- You may be seeking a senior consultant to spend more time inside your business to really understand how IT could drive the company forward – perhaps attending monthly board or operational meetings
- You may be entering a period of rapid growth, and consequently need to ensure your technology not only keeps up with expansion, but becomes an enabler for further progress
- Perhaps you’ve already entered the next stage of SME life, and your infrastructure needs a serious overhaul as a result
- Or maybe your teams are already aligned, but outsider might help them to ask different questions and shake up the status quo?
One example that we come across often at Q2Q is that many businesses – which don’t have adequate tech-smarts in-house – can find themselves in a situation where they need to develop their infrastructure significantly, but employing someone on-site simply isn’t viable.
In such cases, IT support may be outsourced, but the firm isn’t always comfortable relying on their provider for the more strategic decisions or a second opinion. And, while it doesn’t make commercial sense to hire an IT director to make such calls, an external voice can bridge that gap.
For me personally, this has meant spending time with other SME owners, particularly those in similar fields. A single, flippant comment during a recent call with an IT peer, sparked a conversation that eventually brought me a significant light-bulb moment – and a solution to a problem that had been nagging me for six months!
In truth, I’d struggle to put a value on that discussion in terms of pounds and pence, but it’s invaluable in the sense that it’s enabled me to solve something I was otherwise totally stuck on – simply by being asked a question around how I did something!
From an IT perspective, this is where Q2Q’s consultancy service pays its dues. Unlike most firms that offer this support, we have the added extra of a non-techie MD – that’s me, by the way – who insists on challenging any project solution in order to ensure it combines our company ethos around economy, technology and psychology.
We don’t like to blow our own trumpet, but we have a diverse set of skills within the Q2Q tech gang, with each of the team recruited deliberately to ensure we cover not just a broad range of technical know-how, but to ensure their problem-solving and people skills can adapt to different clients’ working styles.
As many MDs will empathise with, we’re frequently asked to contribute to ‘off scope’ topics that aren’t strictly IT-related, because our team is more than just technically skilled. We cover all manner of disciplines from retail, wholesale, operational delivery, data analytics, education, continuous improvement and change management, to name a few.
The beauty of outsourcing technical consultancy, of course, is that you introduce a collective of mindsets to view a problem, which in turn allows you to obtain a fresh perspective on the task in hand. Therefore, it’s always good to get an external view when you have an internal team.
If you have tech challenges that need fresh eyes, or simply want to talk about the challenges within your business, get in touch with us – the (virtual) kettle is always on at Q2Q IT!