Small businesses are losing more than $24 billion in productivity each year when nontechnical employees, referred to as involuntary IT managers (IITMs), are tasked with managing their companies’ IT solutions. This loss is a direct result of IITMs taking time away from primary business activities, according to an AMI-Partners small-business study commissioned by Microsoft.

The Involuntary IT Manager study takes a look at the prevalence of the IITM role in nine countries in North America, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, focusing specifically on the adverse business productivity impact of IITMs in small business in five countries: Australia, Brazil, Chile, India and the United States.

Surveying 538 IITMs across nationally representative samples of small businesses with 100 employees or less in the five countries, the AMI-Partners research study determined that approximately 3.8 million small businesses managed internal IT by IITMs. Although such small businesses spent $83 billion on IT and communications, paradoxically they lost $24 billion in productivity trying to manage their internal IT. The survey also found that small businesses’ IITMs think cloud-based solutions can help alleviate some of the burden of managing IT.

The Drawbacks of Having an IITM

On average, IITMs lose six hours per week (around 300 hours per year) of business productivity while managing IT, according to AMI-Partners. While some IITMs are confident in their technical skills, most find their general work productivity suffers when their work time is diverted to managing IT issues.

  • Thirty percent of all surveyed IITMs feel that IT management is a nuisance. 
  • Twenty-six percent indicated they do not feel qualified to manage IT. 
  • Six in 10 IITMs want to simplify their company’s technology solutions to alleviate the difficulty of managing IT day-to-day.

The Involuntary IT Manager study also found that when IITMs work at small businesses with 15 or more employees, their firms lose even more productivity time than IITMs working at companies with fewer employees.

“Many small businesses don’t have the budget for formal IT support, so they rely on the company’s most tech-savvy individual to manage their technology,” said Andy Bose, founder, chairman and CEO at AMI-Partners. “As our research shows, relying on an Involuntary IT Manager can have an adverse impact on small businesses’ productivity, which can negatively affect revenue and translates into a very high opportunity cost.”

Small-Business Cloud Adoption

AMI-Partners found that IITMs are showing an interest in leveraging the cloud during the next 12 months to manage their IT needs. Among the IITMs surveyed in the five countries:

  • Thirty-three percent (approximately one-third) are likely to shift more IT spending toward hosted or cloud solutions.
  • Thirty-six percent are interested in a productivity and collaboration suite.

Although IITMs older than 50 spent the most time managing IT, the study found they are also the most likely to devote their limited IT budgets to acquiring cloud solutions and purchasing online productivity suites. Among the top concerns for IITMs in deploying cloud solutions were these:

  • Security and privacy (66 percent)
  • Reliability (61 percent)
  • The ability to integrate with existing IT investments (53 percent)
  • Limited features (46 percent)