Sometimes business leaders and managers may be confused or lack the proper understanding of information technology (IT) and the job an IT specialist is supposed to perform within their business. This leads to the important question of, ‘What does an IT specialist do?’. IT specialists are now, more than ever, becoming an imperative part of the success of large and small businesses. However, there still seems to be a knowledge gap whereby not many business owners or managers really understand what an IT specialist does or should be doing within the operations of a business.
If you are a business owner, leader or manager and don’t understand what exactly it is that IT systems should be doing within your business, it is crucial that you educate yourself. Times are changing and as businesses become more automated and technology-driven, you do not want to be left behind.
What does an IT specialist need to do within your business?
An IT specialist is a professional who is trained and skilled at solving technical problems within your organisation and navigating the following areas of IT (information technology):
- Computersoftware and the proper functioning of computers (MacOS and Microsoft Office)
- Hardware(best computers needed for the job)
- Networks(how computers communicate internally, an intranet within your organisation)
- Cloudplatforms (like Google Drive)
- WiFiset up (does it supply sufficient bandwidth)
- Cyber security(to avoid being hacked)
- Sufficient internet connection
Below are some examples of what an IT specialist should be doing within your business and some of the skills they need to be successful in the role they play to assist in growing your business:
- Accurately diagnose problems and deliver solutions, either through knowledge or research.
The IT field is very broad and rapidly evolving on an annual basis (if not daily). An IT specialist needs to keep abreast of these changes and make sure they have a grasp on the latest technologies, like operating systems, to be able to explore multiple scenarios and pinpoint the cause of any given problem.
Allow them the time to continually research best global practice and industry standards, as well as rapidly changing updates. We recommend setting aside some time one day a week where you as a business manager and your IT specialist, have a briefing session on your organisation’s IT set-up. Allow him to present his latest research and then troubleshoot the best scenarios together through a quick brainstorm. An IT specialist doesn’t only fix problems experienced within the business, but he/she also provides solutions and systems to help make business processes more efficient.
2. Be good at maths and understand the telecommunications sector
It is one thing to research and acquire information but what does an IT specialist do to be able to analyse that information, make sense of it and implement that information in a solution-specific way?
Make sure your IT specialist is able to see the big picture and doesn’t get caught up in the reeds of only fixing full mailboxes.
An IT specialist should be good at maths; should understand the inner workings of telecommunications systems and should have a firm grasp on geometry and statistics. These are important skills to look out for before hiring an IT specialist. When you draft interview questions to ask before hiring an IT specialist start with the heading ‘What does an IT specialist do’ or, ‘what do I need to achieve with the skills of an IT specialist?’. Then draft some relevant questions and researched answers that you can take him through during the interview.
Set up a scenario for him, for e.g., “Cybercrime has been on the increase what would your approach be to curtail an event like this”? You would have already done the research around some potential answers to these questions and have the answers in front you to see if his are in some sort of alignment. This will allow you to pinpoint the right candidate for the job. Do not be fooled by the impressive terms some specialists use in order to wow the employer. Do your research so you are able to know when someone is taking advantage of you. Obviously, you won’t know everything there is to know, but a good understanding is more than what most know.
Your IT specialist will need be able to communicate with people who don’t understand IT as well as themselves
IT specialists need to be able to effectively communicate with colleagues to extract information from them about a technical issue and to be able to take someone through the necessary steps from problem-to-resolution, in layman’s terms.
They will need to be able to communicate with and understand fellow employees, as well as the technical issues they experience, no matter how small or easy to fix. This can be better achieved if an IT specialist has a plan in place. For example, they should draw up a professional looking blueprint of your organisation’s network and be able to explain this blueprint within a presentation. This is particularly important when onboarding new employees.
They should know how to draw up an IT troubleshooting guide
Another crucial task of an IT specialist is to develop a troubleshooting guide. A troubleshooting guide will save the time of ‘fixing’ those computers that simply were not turned on, needed to be restarted or were not plugged in. This type of list may take time in the beginning, but it has the following positive effects:
- Others are empowered to solve IT problems themselves at a basic level and so it saves time on the ‘softer’ issues.
- Your IT specialist won’t waste time looking for a solution previously discovered.
- If your IT specialist ever left your organisation, he or she can hand this guide over to the new IT specialist who doesn’t need to start from scratch. As a leader or manager of the organisation you need to understand this guide too.
Finally, your IT specialist should possess skills beyond a qualification
Despite the obvious things an IT specialist should have, like the right qualifications, their skills need to go beyond that. They need to become a thought leader in this space, within your organisation, and they need to be able to communicate those thoughts to all stakeholders in a way that makes sense.
They also need to have a bigger picture of the business as a whole and add value as a key driver of sustainability and growth.
You, as a business owner or leader, need to take the time to acquire more knowledge for yourself about IT (which you can do in partnership with your specialist) and to build a relationship with them where you are solving IT-related problems together.
- Simon Swanepoel is the founder and CEO of RocketNet, a South African ISP passionate about delivering great internet experiences to their customers and believe that includes internet education.