IT is an asset and a resource that needs managing and looking after in just the same way as your building, your staff and your funding. It often makes most sense to give one person the main responsibility for ensuring that your computer systems work effectively, and to make them your IT manager or IT support worker.
Support falls into two broad areas. Users need support, in order to ensure that they are using IT effectively and to help them recover from the inevitable problems. The system itself needs support to cope with breakdowns and routine maintenance.
As a rule of thumb, you could expect to need one full-time IT support person for 50 staff members. If you have 10 staff, therefore, it would be reasonable to expect someone to allocate one day a week to this task.
The job description for an IT co-ordinator or IT support worker could include:
- acting as systems manager for your network (if you have one)
- providing IT support to computer users within the office (including inducting new staff)
- initial troubleshooting of IT problems, and resolving them wherever possible
- ensuring that data is routinely backed up
- ensuring that all staff are able to organise their computer files in an effective way whether they are shared or for individual use
- managing the distribution of documents in electronic format and of standard layouts and templates for documents
- ensuring that software licences are adhered to
- overseeing computer security and Antivirus precautions
- acting as Data Protection Officer (although under the 1998 Act this is no longer exclusively an IT issue)
- liaising with external support (the link person)
- keeping a log of all IT problems with their resolution
- keeping an inventory of all computer equipment, keeping maintenance records, and ensuring adequate maintenance provision
- identifying bottlenecks and problems, making recommendations to solve them, keeping standard software and hardware recommendations under review, and providing input into future IT strategy.
Few organisations have the resources to cover all their IT support needs in-house. Some issues, like network troubleshooting, require a high level of specialist skill and are only required periodically; it isn’t cost effective to develop the necessary expertise in-house. You cannot, however, contract out everything. Some problems or routine operations are too simple, too frequent, or too urgent for that.
You need to find a balance, where in-house staff deal with basic day-to-day issues and call on external specialists for more complex problems.
In striking the balance, much will depend on the size of your agency and the complexity of its computer systems. Larger organisations are more likely to have enough work to justify employing a full- or part-time member of staff, but even these will contract out elements of their IT support.
Whatever your detailed decision, your in-house IT support worker must have adequate training to carry out their role and to enable them to communicate effectively with external services.