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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.
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