IT Management,Training

The Value of IT Certification28 Jan

IT employees require constant training and skill development opportunities.  It goes with the industry.  As a small business owner, if you have any hope of keeping IT employees around for any length of time, you need to understand this and come up with a strategy that fits the needs of both your business and your employees.

First and foremost, you may be struggling with the expense and value of training classes.  One of the big questions is always "Is certification worth it?"  This is a question at hiring ("This person has a ton of certifications, they must be good."), it’s a question when your employees want training ("Are they going to get this training and then leave?"), and it’s a question after the training when some employees may ask for a salary increase to recognize their new skills.

I’ve never put much stock in certifications myself.  But a couple weeks ago, I had an experience that may be altering my opinions on the subject.



How to Spend Money on IT Without Results23 Jan

I recently had a conversation with a small business owner here in Billings. Her business has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years, and it’s obvious (from both a consulting and a customer’s perspective) that they need some help managing it. Luckily, the owner has realized this and is looking for some help.

But she’s moving forward in a manner that I see all too often. She’s going to spend money, time and effort doing things that are not going to help her run her business very much better.

How do I know this? Let’s look and what she told me her problems are and what’s she’s doing to fix them…


Disaster Recovery

Disaster Recovery Hits Home19 Nov

On Friday night, I turned on my laptop and was unable to boot into Windows. Error messages got progressively worse with everything I tried and everything I found on Google led to a “you’re screwed…reload Windows” diagnosis. Considering that one of my early posts was about preparing for technology failure, I had a decent handle on getting everything restored. But now I have another thing to add to the plan:



Computer Disposal and Recycling15 Oct

As today is Blog Action Day, I thought I’d write about a simple environmental action that every SMB can take.  Here in Billings, the local government finds it perfectly acceptable to throw your old PCs, monitors and other electronic equipment in the dumpster.  Trash collection here will take just about anything.  But the fact is that old PCs, monitors, printers, cell phones, PDAs and other electronic equipment contain many materials that are harmful to the environment or to humans.  The EPA estimates 1-4% of all municipal waste is due to old electronic equipment.  So do us all a favor and recycle that old junk!

There are plenty of ways to dispose of your old equipment in a safe, inexpensive and responsible manner.  Here are just a few:

  • Donate old PCs to local non-profits.  Computer4Kids is a great cause in the Billings, MT.  They refurbish your old equipment and give them to at-risk youth in our area.  Any equipment that can’t be used is broken down for parts and recycled.
  • Pay someone to recycle electronic equipment for you.  Just check the Yellow Pages for lots of options.
  • Tap into a PC manufacturer’s recycling program.  Dell has a great program where they will recycle your old equipment for free when you purchase a system from them.

One final note, if you store sensitive information on your PC, make sure you at least format your hard drive before passing it on.  If you’ve got really sensitive information on there, you might actually want to remove the hard drive altogether.  A hammer or mallet will make quick work of making sure nobody can ever get that data!

IT Management

6 Reasons Businesses Fail at IT08 Oct

This is a blog about technology for the small and mid-sized business. So when I read a recent Harvard Business Review article about decisions IT executives should not be making, I had to comment. The article intends to say that well-meaning IT executives can’t possibly be responsible for the business impacts of their decisions. So they should stick to the technical details and let the rest of the executive suite worry about the success of the business.

I’m no Harvard MBA, but Ms. Ross and Mr. Weill have it all wrong. Companies that follow their advice are doomed to mediocre IT performance. Here are the six decisions they say are best left to non-IT execs, and why I think they’re off-base.

HBR: “How much should we spend on IT?”

Reality: Does the head of marketing decide how much to spend on accounting staff or tools? No. If your CIO or head of IT is not capable of understanding your business goals and planning a budget to meet those needs, then you’ve got the wrong person in that position.

HBR: “Which business processes should receive our IT dollars?”

Reality: It’s smart to selectively approve IT projects. But don’t forget that most IT funds are spent maintaining existing systems or on infrastructure requirements. Business executives forget about last year’s projects much less that project from 5 years ago.

HBR: “Which IT capabilities should be firmwide?”

Reality: This statement blatantly contradicts the author’s assertion that technical implementation details should be left to the IT execs. Again, if your CIO is not capable of understanding your business enough to develop an operational model that supports it, you need a new CIO.

HBR: “How good do our IT services need to be?”

Reality: The authors suggest to not let IT execs push for the “Cadillac” when a “Buick” is all that’s needed. Are you kidding me? Certainly all executives like to provide the best tools possible to their teams. But just try to imagine the CFO allowing the CIO or head of marketing to state how good the accounting services need to be!

HBR: “What security and privacy risks will we accept?”

Reality: Of the 6 points, this one is actually the most reasonable. The business needs to understand and accept the tradeoffs between convenience and security. But it’s the CIO’s responsibility to educate the business and help them find that balance. After all, the CIO is likely to be named in any HIPAA or Sarbanes-Oxley lawsuit!

HBR: “Whom do we blame if an IT initiative fails?”

Reality: If you’re thinking this way, it’s a bad sign for your business. Change your mindset now. You should be thinking, “How can I help ensure that IT initiatives helping me achieve my goals are a success.”

In the end, the HBR article fails to comprehend the true nature of IT’s role in the enterprise today. To be sure, there are companies who run their IT departments this way. But we know that companies that use IT strategically grow faster and are more profitable than those who don’t. Viewing the IT department as a cost center that needs to be tightly controlled by non-IT executives is certainly not a strategic way to do business.

Contact Me

Granite Peak Systems, LLC
PO Box 80892
Billings, MT 59108
Tel: 406-672-8292


Since 2007, I have funded a Kiva account in recognition of my clients. Whenever I get a new client, or find a microloan that relates to the industries my clients serve, I contribute to the account. You can see my lender profile here: