by Katherine Walsh

Big Company IT on a Mid-Market Budget

May 01, 20062 mins

IT departments in mid-market companies provide many of the same services as those in large enterprises, but without access to the same resources. In a recent series of reports about IT management in small and mid-market businesses, Gartner suggests that CIOs in these companies can overcome limitations such as smaller staffs and smaller budgets through methods such as recruiting versatile employees, outsourcing, providing staff with training and other “soft” benefits, and disciplined budgeting.

John Bace, VP and research director of public policy and IT at Gartner, suggests hiring “versatilists”: self-starters who are good at collaborating with others and who are willing to learn multiple technologies. “They’re more useful to the entire organization because they bring a portfolio of skills rather than just one finely honed expertise,” Bace says.

Outsourcing also increases flexibility and the range of skills available to a company, as well as increasing its ability to scale projects up or down as business conditions change. But while Gartner strongly recommends outsourcing, the report also notes that mid-market CIOs are reluctant to do it because they don’t understand how they will save money.

Meanwhile, cross-training internal employees in a variety of skills is a way to make the most of what you have. This can include rotating job assignments, as well as courses from vendors and professional organizations. “Making these opportunities available to employees gives them the chance to feel as though they are maintaining their professional edge,” says Bace. Soft benefits such as training also help attract and retain staff in the absence of higher salaries. Other perks, such as casual dress and flexible work hours, “keep employees from focusing solely on the bottom line of their paycheck,” he adds.

One area where mid-market CIOs excel is in budget management, because they have relatively small budgets to work with, Bace says. Careful budgeting ensures credibility with senior management and increases the probability of getting additional funding for key IT initiatives like improving the business skills of IT staff—the number-one IT initiative for mid-market CIOs, according to Gartner.