While the do-it-yourself approach may work well for home improvement projects, it doesn’t bode well for technology projects. Just like you wouldn’t hire a plumber to fix your car’s engine you wouldn’t employ a marketer to manage your businesses’ IT environment, right?

While it may seem obvious, many small businesses today are in fact employing non-tech personnel to maintain their IT environment, which has proven to be extremely costly. In fact, SMBs worldwide squander around $24 billon in productivity annually by doing so, according to an AMI-Partners small business study commissioned by Microsoft Corp.

The study’s results show that on average involuntary IT managers (IITMs) lose six hours per week, or 300 hours per year, of business productivity while managing IT. Moreover, 36 percent of IITMs surveyed feel that IT management is a nuisance; 26 percent indicated that they don’t feel qualified to manage IT; and six in 10 IITMs want to simplify their company’s technology solutions to eliminate some of the difficulty in managing IT.

“As our research shows, relying on an Involuntary IT Manager can have an adverse impact on small businesses’ productivity, which can negatively affect revenue and translates into a very high opportunity cost. These companies can potentially leverage cloud services to alleviate the need for day-to-day in-house IT support with positive impact on their business productivity”
– Andy Bose, founder, chairman and CEO at AMI-Partners

So on one hand, relying on IITM’s can negatively impact your overall IT costs, but on the other hand small and medium-sized businesses don’t have many options. Companies in this situation should therefore rethink their priorities and key selection criteria when it comes to choosing IT solutions and vendors to work with.

The table below shows what we most commonly see as the top five selection criteria from companies that have robust IT departments. The other column lists what we suggest companies with involuntary IT Managers to consider as their top priorities.

Key Considerations for IT Purchases

Traditional IT Departments IT Departments with IITM’s
Feature Set Usability
Pricing Feature Set
API’s and Integration Options Support
Support Training
Usability Pricing

Most IT-staffed companies likely think of vendor selection in terms of whether the feature set meets their requirements as the first step to continuing the process, followed by price and service levels, and then support and usability.

With smaller organizations that list should change to have the primary consideration be the product’s usability. The easier the solution the less time it will take for the IITM to configure and maintain it. Other key criteria that should be included in the “Top 5” list is the quality and responsiveness of the vendor’s support and training because it plays such a critical role in getting a non-IT person up to speed on using the solution.

For companies where IITM’s are inevitable, choosing the right technology solution with usability, training, and support in mind should take priority over technical aspects of the product.