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by Adam Barney

26 November 2022

When Should I Hire Full-Time IT?

As your organization grows, your technology and support needs to grow as well. At some point, you will start to wonder, should I hire a full-time IT person?

In Framework’s 12+ years consulting organizations about their IT management, we’ve observed a common set of reasons that drive leaders to think about hiring IT staff.

Our goal is to give you a baseline of how to think about your technology management needs and when to hire in-house IT staff.

What are the most common reasons you would hire a full-time IT person?

There are several very common reasons people start thinking about hiring full-time IT staff. In over a decade of experience, Framework IT has learned that no one reason alone is enough to determine if you need full-time IT staff (or an MSP) but rather that a combination of factors come into play.

  • Employee Count
  • Support Needs
  • Technology Product
  • Product Dependence
  • Custom Technology 
Employee Count: How many employees should you have before hiring full-time IT people?

Businesses can easily assume if they’re growing fast or already have a decent staff size, that they need an IT person too. Maybe you’ve filled many of the roles in a typical organization chart and think that you need to fill IT too. Maybe you’ve been paying by the hour for support, and it is adding up enough to look like hiring will save money.  Maybe you’re unaware of other ways to provide robust IT management and support, like hiring an MSP. No matter what your reasons, staff growth is perceived as driving force for in-house IT staff.

This often results in leaders hiring full-time IT people earlier than they should. If you have less than 25 employees, you rarely need an in-house IT person. There is not enough support and strategy needed at this size to keep a full-time IT person busy. Even in the 25-50 employee range, you're unlikely to need in-house IT staff. At 50-100 employees, it may start to make sense to consider a full-time IT person. If you haven't hired IT staff yet, at 100-250 employees, you'll reach a point where it makes sense to add an in-house IT person to the team.

 

Support Needs: What support needs affect when I should hire a full-time IT person? 

Another reason that companies hire a full-time IT person is that they believe it’ll improve support. Perhaps your organization has had a bad experience with outsourced IT in the past. Given a poor prior experience, it’s easy to assume that's just how all outsourced IT is, so you look to hire an IT person. Another reason you may hold this perception is because of proximity bias. It's natural to assume that if a person is physically present, support will be better.

Outsourced IT, especially managed services, does not mean worse support than in-house IT. Some outsourced IT vendors do offer a worse experience than a full-time IT person. That is the outcome of a bad outsourced IT partner, but it's not the typical outcome. Many outsourced IT vendors provide better support, which we dive into deeper with this article.  

So, some of these assumptions may or may not be true. Either way, there are also other indisputable support needs that do increase the need for full-time IT people. Adding a full-time IT person may improve support if some of the following points apply to you:

  • Onsite Support Needs: You find yourself needing a lot of onsite support. Outsourced IT vendors may not be able to come onsite in a timely fashion and certainly cannot beat in-house IT at that. If you’re in a remote location, that problem can be even further exasperated.   
  • Frequent Changes: This is especially true if they're often last minute. The in-house IT person may be able to address these in a timelier fashion. That does depend on the outsourced IT vendor alternative you’re comparing to. Some are fast to accommodate moves, adds, and changes. Others are not so fast or are downright slow. Either way, with a full-time IT person, you can better control the timeliness of these IT requests.
    Also, some, but not all, outsourced IT vendors charge separately for moves, adds, and changes. If you have frequent needs in these areas, it may make the outsourced IT support more expensive. Adding full-time IT, in this case, may help optimize your costs.
  • Hybrid Support: You're going to add a full-time IT person to complement your outsourced IT vendor. Combining the pros and cons of outsourced IT, like an MSP, and a full-time IT person can improve support. This type of hybrid support approach usually doesn’t make sense until a company is 75–200 employees. If you highly value support quality and have the budget, you could add full-time IT earlier as you grow.
  • Your Employees are Not Tech-Savvy: If you’d say that your team is the opposite of ‘tech savvy’ or something along those lines, they’re more likely to value face to face support from a team member. Many managed IT companies are experienced in supporting people that do not speak the language of technology. Working with a mostly remote support desk can feel intimidating and cumbersome for tech-illiterate people.  An in-house IT staffer can provide more comfort to your staff vs. an outsourced provider.

If someone is the opposite of tech-savvy, they really are going to need more onsite support, so it increases that support need as well. You’ll need a lot of support capacity if you fall this bucket and may need a full-time IT person at a smaller employee size than most. As mentioned earlier, your employees may prefer a full-time internal IT person out of comfort as well.

 

Proprietary Technology or Custom Developed Applications

When should you hire a full-time IT person if you’re developing a technology product?

If your product uses advanced technologies, I would consider it a technology product no matter what form it takes. Technology products in this context may not be an actual product per se. It might be applications, platforms, or information-based services. It could be a physical product that's 'smart' or 'connected.' Maybe it leverages AI or is an IoT solution.

When technology is a core facet of your product, you need a technologist on your executive team. Specifically, you'll need a CTO (Chief Technology Officer) and maybe a CIO (Chief Information Officer). You'll need this leader to drive technology strategy, oversee product development, and support. If you're building a technology product, hire a CTO/CIO ASAP.

If you're just starting out and don't have enough funding to hire an executive like this, you're not alone. Companies building a technology product often use equity incentives to attract CTOs early. You can delay adding full-time IT people for support for a long time as you grow.  You cannot delay the tech leadership role when you have a technology product or solution you’re developing and taking to market.

When should you hire full-time IT if your product needs a tech for setup or support?

If your product needs an IT person to install or support, it's hard to excel without in-house IT. You can start off by outsourcing portions of your delivery or support to a partner. That will work when your budget is thin, and your volume is low. As you grow though, that will become chaotic, more expensive, and hard to manage with the 3rd party.  

If you fall into this category, hire a full-time IT person as soon as it's doable for your budget. This will improve your cost structure, flexibility, and control over your product delivery. In short, it’ll lead to better outcomes for your clients and allow you to scale with less friction.

Frankly, many organizations that are subject to this concern hire a full-time IT person, and as soon as possible, dedicate that person to serving their own clients. It’s common to see these organizations still employ the services of an outsourced IT provider to manage their own internal technology support so they can keep their IT person client-focused!  

When should you hire full-time IT if you use custom applications or proprietary technologies?

If you use custom applications, finding efficient outsourced support for them is challenging. The same is true for any custom or proprietary technology. Don't get me wrong, some outsourced IT vendors are willing to learn and support your custom stuff. Unless they devote an engineer to your account full-time, they'll have a longer learning curve though.

 A full-time in-house IT person should be able to get proficient quicker. Custom applications usually fulfill critical functions so it's imperative it's well-supported. Paying the original developers forever for support will add up too. These are just some of the challenges that come with developing a custom technology.

Therefore, we recommend avoiding custom applications altogether, if possible. Smaller organizations should avoid them unless it's part of their product. Mid/large organizations can look at custom applications if they vet implications thoroughly. Before they do, they should make sure there's no other software that could meet their needs. Building a custom application introduces support challenges and increases IT management costs.

If you do find the need to go the custom application route, hire a full-time person as soon as your budget allows. You should have an internal champion for a technology that was so critical it was worth the effort and money of a custom build. Your primary support for a custom technology should be an in-house IT person or team.

 

So, now you’re ready to take the next step – should you hire in-house staff or partner with an MSP for your support needs?

Hiring an internal IT resource is a smart choice if you are a company with a large headcount, proprietary technology, custom applications, or you require fast-paced and evolving IT support needs. However, it’s not your only option. While an internal IT resources is a great start, managed service providers, like Framework IT can help provide a more robust level of reactive support and help your leadership team develop a more strategic and thoughtful approach to technology strategy.

When hiring a new employee, it’s important to consider the total cost of hiring – recruiting, training, holidays, sick days, turnover costs, and information silos. Hiring the right person can be difficult. With an MSP your IT support continues even after one of your employees leaves their position. MSPs offer support resiliency, leaving your business secure 24/7.

In addition to round-the-clock support, your company will benefit from a wide array of expertise from a team of technology support professionals – ranging from end-user support to vCIO strategy development, allowing you to focus solely on your core business.

 

If you’re actively considering hiring a full-time IT person, that’s a great time to also learn what managed services provider can do for your business. Framework IT is an award-winning IT managed services provider. We’ve successfully managed all aspects of the technology of businesses of all sizes for over a decade