Where have all the IT managers gone?

Large companies dedicate CIOs and IT managers to the task but up to 75 percent of SMBs in the Asia-Pacific region have no dedicated IT executives, new research shows.

An alarming figure considering 90 percent of Australian business is made up of small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

According to industry analyst IDC, this lack of IT management across the SMB sector means senior business executives and non-technical managers are making technology decisions. IDC defines companies with one to 99 employees as small and 100 to 499 employees as medium, with revenue not being taken into account.

While there are many SMBs across the nation, IDC market analyst Brad Hill said the regional figure of 75 percent did not apply to Australia where he believes more SMBs employ qualified IT execs.

"Locally, I estimate it is closer to 60 to 65 percent," Hill said pointing out that the results of this year's SMB survey are yet to be compiled.

While the level of IT expertise makes selling into this sector interesting for vendors which have traditionally focused on products and services for the enterprise, it has left SMBs at a loss in the past when searching for simplified solutions that can be scaled down to their needs.

But with vendors rushing to take advantage of this growing market sector, this is no longer the case.

"However, when targetting this market, vendors need to remember there is a lack of IT management at most of these companies," he said, adding that it meant leaving out much of the technical information and focusing on results.

Figures from the Office of Small Business show there are about 1.1 million SMBs in Australia or about 96 percent of all businesses, which adds up to a lot of companies without specialized IT management.

The real concern, according to Gartner research director Pranav Kumar, is not that so many SMBs lack an IT manager, but the fact that they are operating with such limited technology resources irrespective of the title of the person in charge.

"Typically, medium-sized organizations have between one and five people responsible for IT; they do not have the luxury of specialization and hierarchical structure," Kumar said.

"What this generally means is that the IT staff are usually engaged in 'keeping the lights on' and not focusing on long-term IT strategy."

Kumar said the best options for such businesses are to look at outsourcing and spend more time on strategy.

"They should turn their lean style of operation into a strength through faster decision-making and senior management involvement," he said.