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IT Solutions/Staffing Question for Small-Mid Size Firm

  • 1.  IT Solutions/Staffing Question for Small-Mid Size Firm

    Posted 06-03-2020 22:49
    Edited by Robert Conard 06-04-2020 09:21
    I work for a multi-office firm with approximately 50 total staff.  We have an employee who manages IT, but also wears other crucial hats (IT is about 1/3 of her full-time position).  We contract with an IT firm that handles issues that extend beyond our in-house abilities.

    How do other firms in our size range (20-100) handle IT through staffing and/or service agreements?  Is IT a full-time position or part-time at your firm?  How much is out-sourced?

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    R. Matthew Conard AIA
    HEALTH FACILITIES GROUP LLC
    Wichita KS
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    Open: Call for applications deadline November 6. Learn more and apply to join the PMKC leadership!


  • 2.  RE: IT Solutions/Staffing Question for Small-Mid Size Firm

    Posted 06-04-2020 17:55
    I resemble that part-time IT manager role! We are a 25-person consulting firm with 4 different offices. About 2 years ago, we went to a Managed-IT services contract because of the increase in technology complexity and difficulty in remotely managing, troubleshooting and keeping up-to-date with devices and software. We also moved to a cloud-based storage solution for project documents, which proved to be a godsend this spring as everyone needed to work remotely. We had the infrastructure and procedures already 90% in place.
    For someone who is very DIY oriented, the service seems costly, but it has definitely freed up my time to focus on other things. I am still a resource for the simple fixes and questions, but it is nice to be able to say, "that's over my head, just put in a request for service ticket".

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    Randy Marquardt Assoc. AIA
    Design Manager
    STR/SEG
    Menomonee Falls WI
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    Open: Call for applications deadline November 6. Learn more and apply to join the PMKC leadership!


  • 3.  RE: IT Solutions/Staffing Question for Small-Mid Size Firm

    Posted 06-04-2020 18:20

    Robert,

    I have come across this question on many occasions in my career. To give you some background, I have played the role of Director of IT in the early part of my career for a single office large firm. I have a Master of Computer Science and also I have a Bachelor of Architecture. I have moved on to high-level departmental management and large firm project management but my exposure to IT management remains difficult to hide.

    In a nutshell, we should do what we are good at and that is an architectural project management and outsource what we are = IT help desk. We would still need a homegrown IT champion to keep the big picture IT decisions focused on our industry and practice needs. With that said, yours being 50 people firm, it may require a full-time person responsible for the IT master plan and the usual CAD management (standards and templates). It will be in the best of your firm's interest that this person remains with you for the long term and a minimum of 3 to 5 years. In addition, you may want to have a succession planning as well as be prepared for what if the IT champion is hit by the bus. When you get to 75 or more heads, multi-location, and other complexity then you may want to consider bringing some IT support in-house and rely on a stable consulting firm to take care of your infrastructure side.

    I highly recommend forming an IT committee that includes one principal, your IT champion, and an administrative/controller person. Since you ask this question to this group, I assume you would be leading that committee. 

    I hope this helps.
     



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    Fenil Patel

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  • 4.  RE: IT Solutions/Staffing Question for Small-Mid Size Firm

    Posted 06-04-2020 18:42
    Matthew,
    Sounds like you have a good plan currently.  I would ask your IT employee how she feels about continuing her 1/3 work dealing with computer issues.  If she is an architect, you should look at the value of her time doing AR work vs. IT problem solving.  Several years ago, we had an architect doing this, and found out that it's less expensive to hire an IT firm to handle everything, and allow the architect to charge time as opposed to chasing down IT issues.  We are 24 person firm, spending an average of $13k-$16k per year on IT issues (not including equipment purchases).  That includes nightly backups, and service on all our workstations as well as our servers.  It also includes full time service for email spam management.  It's a lot of $$, but worth not giving headaches to an architect who can be making you more money by not doing IT.
    Mike

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    Michael Chapman AIA
    Principal
    Chapman Sisson Architects
    Huntsville AL
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    Open: Call for applications deadline November 6. Learn more and apply to join the PMKC leadership!


  • 5.  RE: IT Solutions/Staffing Question for Small-Mid Size Firm

    Posted 06-09-2020 22:49

    75-person firm, we have 2 full-time IT staff that manage essentially everything in-house, along with several professionals that share management and leadership of our BIM environment. 


    I believe many of the industry surveys from PSMJ, Zweig, etc would peg a firm of our size (billings or staff number) as averaging more than 1 and less than 2 IT staff positions. I suspect that at 50 people, if you're "only" devoting 1/3 of one person's time toward this area, you're getting a bargain in terms of the dollars. Probably depends how much you handle directly vs. is handled by services (i.e. email, backups, file storage, VPN, etc). 


    I'd be happy to discuss more with you directly, if it seems helpful. Thanks - Matt 



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    Matthew Bartner AIA
    Principal & Director of Operations
    Kitchen & Associates
    Collingswood NJ
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    Open: Call for applications deadline November 6. Learn more and apply to join the PMKC leadership!


  • 6.  RE: IT Solutions/Staffing Question for Small-Mid Size Firm

    Posted 06-10-2020 10:36
    Edited by Robert Conard 06-10-2020 10:48
    Thank you for your responses - I appreciate each of you taking time to lend your experience and expertise to this discussion.

    Some additional information: I am part of an Operations Committee that is helping to evaluate the future of IT Management at our firm, due to a pending retirement and a shifting of roles.  We have a long-time BIM Manager (full time employee, part-time BIM Mgr) whose responsibilities are separate from the IT Management role.  Our BIM Manager is assisted by a few others at the firm who are capable of helping or substituting during busy times or vacations.

    In addition to contracting with an outside group for the difficult problems, our IT Management has had an un-official arrangement similar to our BIM Management, where we have a handful of people scattered through our offices and studios helping coworkers work through some standard technical/IT problems.  There are pros and cons to this arrangement and those who have commented so far have identified some of the issues with architectural staff becoming overly involved in non-architectural tasks.  We have seen relatively steep growth over the last 5-10 years, have a core group of long-time principals and employees, and maintain some of the culture forged from the days of being a 10 person firm.

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    Robert Conard AIA
    HEALTH FACILITIES GROUP LLC
    Wichita KS
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    Open: Call for applications deadline November 6. Learn more and apply to join the PMKC leadership!