CIOs at small-to-mid-sized businesses (SMBs) face a number of special challenges. With less money to spend, fewer IT staffers and a smaller platform, they are still expected to leverage the same benefits from IT as CIOs at larger competitors, often at a similar scale with similar results. And as a recent infographic from Paychex indicates, plans for growth in staffing and technology use at many SMBs in the coming year will tax the limited resources of their CIOs even further.
Staffing Needs Stay Steady amidst Uncertainty
According to results of the 2012 Paychex Payroll Study, 65% of SMBs expect to maintain the same number of employees next year and 20% plan to increase their staffing levels. Considering uncertainty about the general economy, small business tax rates, healthcare costs, etc. heading into 2013, these numbers show a tremendous amount of faith among SMBs that things are looking up. These numbers also indicate CIOs will need to focus on providing HR and accounting systems that can handle likely regulatory changes in how small businesses pay taxes and healthcare costs, and potentially handle an influx of new hires.
Joining the Mobile Revolution
Study results also demonstrate that SMBs are willingly participating in the mobile revolution. Two-thirds (65%) of SMBs surveyed use laptops and slightly more than half (51%) use smartphones. Tablet penetration is much lower (13%), although tablets have been generally available for less than three years, and one in five SMBs (20%) do not use mobile technology.
This means that eight in 10 CIOs of SMBs have to worry about things like managing mobile browser access to corporate systems and securing data on devices that may be employee-owned (the “BYOD” trend) and/or used and stored offsite. And mobile technology is often particularly attractive to owners of SMBs as they reduce overhead related to infrastructure and office space, while at the same time increasing CIO stress and workload.
SMBs Get Social
SMBs are also increasingly taking part in the social media revolution. Currently or within the next year, 42% of SMBs use Facebook and another 41% use LinkedIn, while 25% use Google+, 22% use Twitter and 14% use Pinterest. For CIOs at social media-friendly SMBs, each social platform has its own unique interface and set of user rules, as well as its own security issues. Also obtaining actual ROI figures on social media IT investments is notoriously difficult, not that CFOs or owners (who in smaller enterprises are often the same person) will necessarily understand.
ITO Shrinks SMB CIO Problems
ITO is not a magic cure-all, but can serve as a valuable asset for CIOs at SMBs dealing with some or all of these growth issues. Outsourced personnel can provide pure manpower as well as specific expertise on an “as-needed” basis to supplement limited IT staffs when necessary, and outsourced systems can affordably perform new tasks related to the introduction of technologies such as mobile and social.
ITO providers can even help crunch numbers to give some hard data explaining the performance of soft activities such as social media outreach. Growth should be welcomed by all employees and executives at SMBs, and ITO can help ensure that CIOs and their staff members share in the joy.