Evaluating Your IT Needs: A Guide for Decision Makers

Recognizing the need for better IT resources for your small to midsize business (SMB) is a necessity in a modern market where digital-based solutions emerge fast and rapidly evolve.

For many SMBs, however, the challenge isn’t merely just recognizing the need for better IT solutions, but understanding and evaluating the full scope of their unique IT requirements.

Without existing expert insight, though, it can be easy to overlook critical vulnerabilities or misallocate technology resources, which can exacerbate existing issues rather than solve them.

If your SMB is lacking the right expertise to guide your IT requirements, the best option is to partner with a managed services provider (MSP). MSPs provide expert-led IT support and customized solutions, and an often overlooked aspect of their services is the capability to not only evaluate your IT needs and tailor their services around them, but help your whole business understand the ‘why’ behind your technology adoption.

As a decision-maker in a SMB, there are also several other options you can explore prior to seeking the help of a MSP to prepare your business for a more thorough evaluation of specific IT requirements. This article acts as your starting guide to begin evaluating your IT needs.

Perform a thorough self-assessment of IT

Before considering external help or outsourcing your IT operations, it’s important to conduct a general review of your SMB’s existing IT infrastructure and systems. This involves reviewing your current hardware, software, network configurations, and cybersecurity measures – several areas of which can be evaluated internally with basic tools and a proactive approach.

Even if you do not currently have an IT department or in-house expert at-hand to conduct the review, taking count of the number of servers, computers, software subscriptions and licenses you have can be of great help for any future IT resource (be that in-house, or MSP) so they can better identify any operational inefficiencies or vulnerabilities in your IT environment, and the adequacy of current resources in meeting your small organization’s needs for future objectives. For instance, if a goal is to enhance your customer experience through personalized service, this assessment can reveal whether current CRM software supports such functionality, or if an upgrade or cost optimization exercise is needed.

Some examples of what you can assess of your current IT environment include:

Hardware evaluation

Your SMB should begin by cataloging all physical hardware resources, such as servers, workstations, mobile devices, printers, routers, computers and networking equipment. Documenting model numbers, purchase dates, warranty statuses, and current condition can help identify which devices are outdated, nearing the end of their useful life, or require upgrades or replacements to support modern software and business processes.

Software licensing review

Keeping track of all your SMB’s software licenses is another area where you don’t initially need an IT expert. By reviewing installed software applications, their versions, and compliance with licensing agreements, you can ensure your business is not under-licensed (which poses legal risks) or over-licensed (which is financially inefficient).

Basic network monitoring

Using simple network monitoring tools available online, your SMB can start tracking the performance of your networks. These tools can help identify slow or unreliable connections and pinpoint areas that might require upgrades or reconfiguration.

Cybersecurity check

Basic security checks can be performed internally through routine updates and patch management. Ensuring your systems and applications are up-to-date with the latest security patches is crucial. Additionally, simple security practices such as implementing strong passwords, enabling two-factor authentication (2FA), and educating your employees about phishing and social engineering threats can greatly enhance cybersecurity.

Data backup and recovery

Assessing your current data backup practices is vital. Check that data is being regularly backed up, the backups are stored securely, possibly off-site or on cloud services, and that there is a clear recovery process in place in the event of data loss or corruption. If not, this is an area a future IT partner or MSP can better help you get control over.

User access control

Reviewing who has access to what levels of data and IT infrastructure in your SMB can help prevent unauthorized access and potential data breaches. This includes ensuring that former employees no longer have access to systems and that access permissions are updated according to current roles and responsibilities – a task that you should be doing.

Knowing what IT already in place and what gaps exist is ultimately crucial for determining the type of services and level of support needed from a potential MSP. From here, a better understanding can be formed about the scope and scale of your current and future IT goals.

Evaluating your IT needs lets you optimize your IT so it better meets your business needs

Revisit business objectives for IT alignment

Every SMB needs to clearly define business objectives and determine how IT can support these goals. This includes identifying both immediate IT needs and long-term technological goals. 

By taking the time to detail how exactly IT aligns with and empowers your business objectives, you can better articulate your needs to potential MSPs and outsourced IT partners, ensuring you seek out services that are directly relevant to long-term strategic goals. 

In addition, this exercise can help your entire organization better understand the value and role of the technology solutions that you deploy and provide for their use – whether it’s Single-Sign On (SSO) for their basic authentication needs, modern workplace collaboration software such as Microsoft 365, or cloud-based, powerful data analytics & AI solutions –  ensuring that all the IT tools you invest time, money and effort into are appropriately leveraged and respected. 

Here are some specific examples of how your SMB can align business goals with IT internally:

Strategic business goals identification

Begin by clearly documenting the long-term and short-term goals of the business. This might include expanding into new markets, increasing operational efficiency, or enhancing customer service. It’s crucial that IT leaders and business executives collaborate to ensure that these goals are well understood across both domains.

Gap analysis

Conduct a gap analysis between current IT capabilities you have previously identified in your self-assessment review, and the needs identified in the strategic goals. This will highlight areas where your current IT is falling short in supporting business objectives. For instance, if the business aims to adopt a data-driven decision-making process, but lacks the necessary data analytics tools or expertise, this gap needs to be addressed and documented.

Prioritization of IT projects

Based on the gap analysis, it’s important to prioritize IT projects that align closely with critical business goals. Projects that directly enhance revenue generation or reduce significant risks should be prioritized. For example, if the goal is to increase market share through an online e-commerce platform, prioritizing the development and security of e-commerce capabilities (particularly if those two areas are currently lacking following your IT environment self-assessment) would be essential.

Developing an IT roadmap

Create an IT roadmap that outlines the general timeline and resources your SMB believes is required to achieve the IT projects aligned with your business objectives. This should include milestones for technology acquisition, system upgrades, and skill enhancement for the IT team. Naturally, strategic technology integration is an area that managed IT solutions specialize in, but if your team can get started on the foundations, a future MSP and IT partner can use it as a starting point for aligning your goals and IT expectations.

Review existing IT staff skills and technology literacy

If you have not already, now is the best time to do a general overview of the capabilities of your current IT staff or knowledge. Are you able to manage existing day-to-day operations, but struggle with more complex IT issues or strategic planning? This helps determine if there is a need to outsource certain IT functions over others to fill gaps in expertise, especially for specialized tasks like cybersecurity or cloud.

This proactive approach in assessing and aligning IT with business goals can significantly enhance the overall efficiency and competitiveness of your SMB, and synergy with a MSP partner who won’t have to start from scratch when you first engage with their services.

Research recommended IT partners and MSP specialists

When the time comes to begin selecting an IT partner to further your infrastructure evaluation, it’s important to not rush into things and spend time considering the various specializations, certifications, solutions and licenses that a MSP holds to get the best value out of your partnership.

SparkNav provides several free guides to help SMBs get started on their MSP/IT partner selection journey, which we highly recommend leveraging. Choosing the Right IT Partner: A Checklist lists the most important criteria every SMB needs to consider before engaging the services of a MSP, including what type of technology expertise they hold and the certifications they have to prove competency and compliance with specific technologies and platforms.

Meanwhile, if you’re still on the fence about investing in an IT partner, our Managed services vs In-house IT blog provides a comprehensive comparative analysis of the two types of approaches to IT, and how having a dedicated technology partner to fully manage the maintenance, implementation and security of your IT systems differs from handling it internally.

Finally, budget and cost is always a big factor when making any investment in the business. Our Cost of Managed IT Services: A Guide (2024 Edition) breaks down the pricing models, cost savings and service/support tiers you can expect when engaging with a MSP, as well as the different types of managed services available (Co-Managed, Fully Managed, etc), and why you should ultimately invest in an IT partner if you’re not able to meet your tech needs in-house.

Evaluating Your IT Needs: Next steps

Ready to start investigating your options for meeting your IT needs? SparkNav is a specialist managed IT services provider with expertise across cloud computing, cybersecurity, compliance, data analytics and AI software solutions, in addition to cost-effective, proactive 24/7 IT support for your infrastructure and systems. Speak to a member of SparkNav’s team today to learn how we can provide the best customized solutions and IT partnership for your needs.

Robert Griffin
Robert Griffin
As COO, Robert Griffin plays an instrumental role in aligning operational excellence with strategic goals by leveraging his decades of experience in enterprise leadership. With deep knowledge and expertise in security, governance, risk, and compliance (GRC), and AI, his insights are often shared through thought leadership channels, including LinkedIn and blogs. → Follow Robert on LinkedIn.