Protecting IT continuity as an SME can be a challenge.  As a small business, key person dependency risk can be common thing.  It’s not unusual for small businesses to have a single employee looking after a specific area.

Quite often, especially if the business grows quickly, business knowledge and expertise is not always shared with others, or processes well defined and documented. This can be a huge risk to your business if key people leave, both in terms of loss of knowledge but also business continuity.

IT can be a particular area of risk in this situation, with its many complexities and policies.  Practically, it may not be possible for a small business to employ further IT staff to reduce the risk of this happening, but there are a number of things as a small business you can do to minimise the risk:

Ensure processes & policies are well defined

It’s critical that IT processes and policies are well defined and understood across the business. This has wider implications than just IT continuity if staff leave.  Some policies, such as data and security have legal implications, so should be in place regardless.

Having processes and policies that are clear and understood also have benefits in terms of efficiency and profitability too.

Document everything

Ensure all processes, policies, equipment and software etc. are well documented so that if key IT staff do leave, this can more easily be picked up by any new staff coming in. It’s also important to document all software licenses, where they are in the business, what they include and when they are due for renewal.  This is best practice generally to ensure the correct licenses are in place and utilised in the most effective way, but it’s critical for when staff leave and new people join.

Follow best practice

Taking a best practice approach to your IT infrastructure and set-up from the start not only reduces risk but it also means as the business grows, you’ll be able to employ IT experts who are well versed in your ways of working and ensure continuity of your strategy.

Implement ‘fit for purpose’ industry recognised systems and equipment

There’s a temptation as a small business to look for the cheapest options, especially if cashflow is a challenge, but the cheapest option, especially in IT is not always the best and can often be a false economy if it’s not fit for purpose or hinders the business in the long-term.  Equipment or infrastructure that isn’t industry recognised, has been adapted or ‘bolted-on’ to, specifically for your business, could cause problems if the knowledge of this equipment lies with key staff who leave.

Adoption of software and training

It’s important when new software has been purchased by your business, that there is a clear implementation and adoption plan, along with training for all relevant staff.  This means that knowledge is shared across the business and understanding of this software doesn’t just sit with one or two members of staff.

Consider external consultancy or expertise

Quite often implementing these above steps to minimise the risk is overlooked if junior IT staff are employed, there isn’t the time, or senior staff are not experienced in IT to insist on these steps being put in place.

One solution to consider, is to enlist the help of external IT consultancy or expertise. This can serve a number of purposes: it can provide senior IT expertise and direction to your more junior IT staff to ensure the above steps are followed and implemented correctly, the external company can also take on the leg-work and responsibility of documenting everything.  Importantly, they can then provide IT continuity and existing knowledge of your IT approach and strategy, as and when changes occur in your internal IT staff.