The Startup
Published in

The Startup

Why Building the Right IT Foundation is Crucial for Startups

As the software economy migrates to increasingly subscription-based, cloud-hosted, browser-delivered models, the way businesses approach their IT needs has also evolved.

Just three years ago, IT teams might have been viewed pervasive but necessary presences in all tech-enabled aspects of business life, today many startups are comfortable forgoing this investment.

The tides have turned, and many of us are now operating without dedicated in-house IT teams, or even a defined IT strategy that takes various contingencies into account.

The result is a reality where companies (and especially small startups) take a wait-and-see approach to their tech issues. New tools are adopted as ad-hoc patches to immediate problems, aided largely by the new normal of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

When viewed on a small scale, this trend tends towards the positive. Problems are fixed, and workers can continue operating as normal, experimenting with new digital products however they see fit. For companies with fewer employees, this seems like a good trade-off, and it means that they can largely snub IT.

On the surface, it all makes sense. We’re all after maximum agility, after all.

Constantly emerging new tech trends and platforms present possible upgrades that make companies excited to stay on the cutting edge. However, this can lead to some problematic thinking for startups — namely the belief that if they can do it themselves, why have an IT plan at all?

But the idea that a startup can simply skate by without an IT strategy, even in today’s plug-and-play ecosystem, is problematic at best. Here’s why.

IT Isn’t Just Useful for Startups, It’s Necessary

Without an IT strategy, startups expose themselves to the dangers of rampant cybersecurity issues, workstation OS bugs, server failure, compliance with GDPR, PCI DSS and other regulations, and the list goes on.

Developing an IT strategy may sound anathema to startups, where lean methodology is the name of the game, that adding more layers of management and strategy is important, but the opposite is much worse.

Enterprise companies have the luxury of hundreds of employees and full IT teams that can handle technology infrastructure and planning. Startups, on the other hand, must balance their budgets and pains against a position that may seem superfluous.

Nevertheless, while startups may not need an IT department, or even a team, they definitely need an IT strategy. To match the evolving landscape in the tech world, this doesn’t have to be a traditional strategy, but it must be defined, and built to solve current problems.

Understanding and preparing for cybersecurity issues that have become increasingly prevalent and prominent is mission-critical. In 2019, IT strategies need to include a clear guide for how to manage SaaS tools — which can easily become liabilities when it comes to online security — as well as how to respond to emergencies. Without a clear cybersecurity strategy, startups find themselves a step behind on hackers, malware, and a myriad of other issues.

Applications such as CyberSmart can help minimize threats and provide security tools that simplify tech infrastructure.

And solutions like Torii make it easier to see what applications are being used and how often, as well as to understand the real costs of SaaS. The company’s multifaceted approach to IT management gives companies a comprehensive awareness of who is using each app, how and even what data systems each app has access to.

Tech Is Evolving, But So Are Our Tech Problems

Today’s tech landscape is dominated by applications and tools that come ready to use “out of the box” and require little to no tech expertise. Applications like Google Analytics, Asana, Slack, Drift and Drip simply need self-service accounts to be opened for activation, and even getting the most out of them doesn’t take much integration — just confirm the access permissions on the OAuth consent screen, and you’re good to go.

The model seems custom-built for startups that have little time or resources to dedicate to planning out tailor-made software or researching and sourcing complex systems.

One of the most easily visible examples of this new plug-and-play ecosystem is cloud hosting, with both Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud standing out. Companies can “build” their own servers, digitally, and expand or shrink quotas of required resources as needed. Similarly, with SaaS tools, startups can simply add an application as situations emerge that require new solutions.

If one area isn’t working, simply stack a new SaaS tool on top of it to make it function.

However, while this new model is undoubtedly positive for startups that require fast, affordable solutions, it poses a whole new series of challenges. This mishmash of applications is useful for small companies, but faces issues of scalability, applicability, and management.

Instead of creating a streamlined infrastructure, the constant addition and slapdash approach to SaaS and other tools results in a complicated and expensive mess. Without a solid IT strategy, you won’t be able to maintain control.

IT Never Went Away

The reality is that IT is more than a passé buzzword. Especially for startups, which often work in fluid tech landscapes and changing conditions, having a strategy can minimize the impact of new additions and platforms. Instead of focusing on providing network services or administration, IT’s role today is to streamline an ever-changing ecosystem and prepare for the fact that startups need to adapt.

Rather than face these changes with improvisation, IT lets startups plan for them, and be better positioned to take advantage when the time comes.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Yoav Vilner

"Marketer To Watch" (Forbes). Mentor at Google/Microsoft accelerators. Writer for the top 5 tech magazines in the world.