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Working in a large organisation vs. a small company – advantages and disadvantages for IT admins

Being from a majority small-company background I can empathise more towards the small company advantages and disadvantages. I do, however have a number of close friends who are in larger companies holding IT positions and have had numerous conversations on this subject.

Advantages for IT administrators in small companies:

  • Most of the time, the diversion from the IT administrators standard tasks will be to do other IT tasks, in this scenario I am referring to a position as “network administrator/ database administrator/ user consultant and others”. Doing these different IT tasks will enhance their ability and knowledge of other areas of the business which will increase their skill set as well as potentially increasing their skill at their assigned IT administrator position (better understanding of other elements of the business related to the IT administrator position).
  • There is less chance that the employee will become bored of doing the same thing on a daily basis. The IT administrator generally is quite a static job (physically) and performing tasks like user consulting, network administrator allow for more physical interaction which is appealing to some.
  • Working in a small business, performing many tasks helps develop the entrepreneurial abilities of the IT administrator. If the IT administrator is set to run his/her own business the experience here is valuable. Vitez (n.d.) states “Business owners can attempt to pass basic entrepreneurship principals to their workers by requiring them to complete functions outside their normal work capacity. This concept is often known as cross training”.

Disadvantages for IT administrators in small companies:

  • While the IT administrator’s skill set may be growing, the figure of speech “jack of all trades, master of none” springs to mind. If they are constantly working on multitudes of different IT “specialties” they will not have as much time to master their abilities. Comparing to an employee who spends all of their time doing any one of the tasks the small business IT administrator is doing, the IT administrator will more than likely be the less competent of the two when it comes to that singular skill.
  • On the contrary to the advantage of not becoming bored, there is the possibility that the small business IT administrator will become bored with their job. If the passion lies with being an IT administrator and they have a dislike for dealing with users, SQL or any of the other tasks they may become bored or more likely annoyed with their job. Perhaps the tasks they are required to perform are demeaning and “beneath them”.
  • The extra roles may end up being very demanding, the IT administrator could be overworked and burned out from the stress of performing too many different tasks. Small businesses usually do not have the funding for a multitude of employees for each function so the pressure may not be relieved due to financial restraints. Perhaps the business owner could afford a salary increase, but not a new employee.
  • Small companies often are new and do not offer great job stability.

Advantages for IT administrators in large companies:

  • Larger companies have employees for specific tasks. The IT administrator will not be required, or seldom be required, to perform tasks outside of the specific role. Almost all of the IT administrator’s time is devoted to performing and mastering their skills for their role allowing for them to become very specialised in the specific tasks.
  • Larger companies often have budget for furthering employee education. As shown by Buchanan & Huczynski (2010, p.156) the example of Barclays Bank setting up its own corporate university. This will allow the IT administrator to acquire more qualifications which bring more value to his/her expertise.
  • Larger companies often have larger budgets. Along with increased specialisation aided by my above two points, the IT administrator potentially has better earning potential within the organisation. The IT administrator also has potential for a subordinate to be employed to carry out the “menial” tasks required of their position.
  • Stability of working for a large company provides the feeling of job security.

Disadvantages for IT administrators in large companies:

  • The requirement for skills outside of their specific role is replaced by other employees. The IT administrator may become stagnant and may begin to feel redundant. The repetition of the same function may become boring. Vitez (n.d.) mentions an example of the Ford motor company which brought about the assembly line / mass production method of business. While the IT administrator is certainly not an assembly line worker, the same feeling of “disappointment or unrest” may occur as with the assembly line worker, doing the same task over and over again.
  • The IT administrator may not feel important or involved in the company. Lack of involvement in the everyday running of the business may lead to a feeling of detachment with the core value and identity of the business.
  • Larger organisations are often stuck in their ways, using legacy systems or processes decided by a predecessor and this may be a system/process the IT administrator is unhappy with or does not like. Changing systems and processes in a large company is an expensive task and often is “not an option”, creative thinking is therefore limited if it does not fit within the current bounds of the organisation.

The small vs large company employer does generally boil down to personal preference. From my experiences and discussions, a large company offers a more recognisable feeling of importance (eg: if working for a well-known brand), while small companies tend to be more casual and easy going. As Buchanan and Huczynski (2010) point out, different types of people prefer different types of working environments.

References

Buchanan, A. & Huczynski, A. (2010) Organizational Behavior. 7th Edition. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.

Vitez, O (n.d.) Specialization of Labor [Online] chron Small Business. Available from: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/specialization-labor-3890.html (Accessed: 13 February 2011).

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