I recently had the opportunity to meet with a local business owner experiencing network difficulties that was affecting their ability to fulfill customer orders.  As we broached the subject of budget, she made the following statement: 

“If we can get this fixed, we’ll be making money and will be able to easily recoup the investment.” 

This is a perfectly logical statement of fact; and it actually points to part of our qualification process for accepting new clients.  How do they view technology?  Is it simply an overhead expense or is it a contributing asset to revenue and/or cost savings? 

It’s quite shocking how few responses are like the one quoted above.  More than half of potential clients view technology not as an enabler of business growth and fundamental to operations, but simply as an overhead expense to be reduced as much as possible. This ironically ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy:  Poor technology generally results in reduced efficiency, higher costs and lower revenue (such as the case above). This result then reinforces the short-sighted view that investing in technology is a waste of resources. 

Another example: If I told you I had spoken to someone else who had been willing to spend a quarter of a million dollars on a piece of production equipment but refused to invest in their IT and Cyber Security, would you lean towards agreeing with their decision or would it make you pause? 

Usually going hand-in-hand with this outdated view is a misconception of how IT impacts the business.  When asked how big of an impact a cyber attack or significant failure would have, executives almost always underestimate the severity. 

This belief is understandable in many industries such as construction, trades, and commercial services.  An IT outage will not have an immediate impact on whether holes can be dug, roads paved, trenches bored, wires run, pipes installed, etc.  One owner of a service company even commented that an IT outage would not affect them at all – their plumbers and HVAC techs would continue business as usual.  Their industry pre-dates IT by many decades; so why is IT even necessary? 

Here’s The Challenge: If you’re in one of these types of industries and wonder if IT is a business-enhancing investment or a cash-draining expense, I invite you to consider the following hypothetical exercise: 

What if you intentionally broke your IT systems to test your organization’s ability to function without it? For example: 

  • Intentionally break email & messaging. 

  • Turn off all tablets and mobile phones. 

  • Turn off all computers and servers. 

  • Turn off all network equipment and firewalls. 

  • Do not allow your staff to use any IT-related devices, applications, cloud services, etc. 

  • Disconnect the Internet 

Now start the clock.  How long can your business function effectively in this state? 

If your business operates perfectly fine in this state for any length of time, then you should probably get rid of all of your IT. 

On the other hand, if your organization is unable to function productively, ask yourself at what point does it become critical?  The shorter the time, the more valuable of an asset IT is to your business, not an overhead expense.