AWS Smart Business Blog

How to Ensure Your Small or Medium Business is Ready for IT Turnover

In 2021, the “Great Resignation” became a buzzword in the U.S. news media, referring to several long-term trends that were accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many workers decided to change jobs for more pay, leave roles that required long commutes, put more emphasis on their life outside of work, or take a well-earned retirement. Additionally, US-based small and medium businesses (SMBs) are currently navigating an uncertain market dictated by macro trends such as rising interest rates, labor and supply chain shortages, and inflation which is near a 40-year high. Together, these trends strain company resources and are not easy for small operations to absorb.

According to IDC, over eight million workers over the age of 35 have removed themselves from the labor force, while five million younger workers have entered the job market. This trend has removed skilled workers from all fields, and especially hit those fields with an older average age, like IT operations. If you are fortunate enough to have in-house IT talent, you may have noticed this in areas such as:

  • Networking
  • End-user computing
  • Operations analysts

At Amazon Web Services, we know IT staff often have access to privileged information and systems—such as personally identifiable information (PII), trade secrets, and intellectual property—so it is critical to plan for these events in advance. SMBs that deploy reactive and tactical mitigations will see a 20 percent revenue loss in 2024 due to job attrition and underperforming teams. In this post, you will learn the best practices you can adopt in your organization to prepare for IT turnover.

What is IT turnover?

We define IT turnover as the combination of a rapidly shrinking skilled, technical workforce and increased demand for talent. These are people who leave your SMB either on their own or due to other circumstances. Finding new talent to replace them is often difficult. Common challenges include:

  • Only one or two employees having the knowledge to maintain and operate systems. They can be designated power users or administrators operating those systems.
  • In-house talent that relies on specific consultants and contractors who are often outside of the organization’s direct control

Employee standing with tablet device among heavy machinery

How to prepare for IT turnover

First, identify the people in your organization who either manage IT processes or work with third-parties to manage your technology needs. Then, create a document that lists a set of policies and contacts for each business requirement. This comes to life in the form of a runbook—or a document that has pre-defined processes and information needed to successfully perform an IT business procedure. It will enable consistent and prompt responses to well understood events. It also ensures consistency and reduces errors caused by manual processes. Elements to consider when writing a runbook include:

  • Standard operating procedures that include how to start or stop an application, how to troubleshoot errors, and other granular detail
  • Points of contact for each critical business process
  • Service Level Agreement (SLA) information for your IT apps (such as contracts)
  • Frequently executed IT procedures
  • Procedures with high error rates (and how to avoid negative impacts on the business)

New to digitization or looking to add more cloud capabilities to your SMB? Explore solutions by industry, benefit, use case, and more on AWS Smart Business

How to reduce the impact of IT turnover for SMBs

Now that you understand what IT turnover is and how to prepare for it, consider some best practices you can put into motion. Preparing for turnover goes beyond documentation and our customers find these following activities important to their success:

  • Investing in modern cloud IT training and collaborative tools can upskill all employees and stakeholders. This helps more teammates innovate your business at scale. If you do not have the ability to replace IT roles, this can help shift the responsibility to others in your company. Read why SMBs should invest in IT training to accelerate growth.
  • Setting the correct access levels for each business app, document, or process. Whether you’re working with internal stakeholders or a third-party partner, data and guidance should only be shared on a need-to-know basis. This keeps your operations more secure because access can be easily revoked when a project ends.
  • Determining your IT skills and resource gaps and “building a bench” of external expertise that can be accessed as needed. Lack of IT and digital skills are the top talent shortage across industry today. You can use the AWS Partner Network featuring over 100,000 partners from 150 countries to innovate your business and solve technical challenges. Additionally, AWS IQ enables you to find and engage experts on AWS quickly and easily when you need help getting started or completing an existing one. There is no cost to post a request. You pay for work as outlined in your proposal – either upfront, on a schedule, or in milestones.

Organizations should adopt technology to address these needs proactively. Key technologies and techniques to adopt in this space include:

  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP) or how your company prevents losing control of its data. A DLP strategy makes sure end-users aren’t able to intentionally destroy or steal data. AWS can help you invest in a tool and device a strategy to prevent data loss from happening.
  • Limiting access to systems and data on a need-to-know basis (even for IT personnel). Keeping access strictly to what’s required for each job role is essential to prevent a security event.

Create a robust data backup strategy to ensure that essential business data is saved and ready for restoration if there is any kind of data loss. Organizations, including SMBs, suffer loss of revenue due to data loss, so it is critical to minimize downtime as much as possible

What to do when IT employees leave your SMB

IT employees that leave your organization may have access to critical business data. This may include data assets such as system files, application output files, revenue reports, and other confidential material. If you do not consider yourself a technical expert, you may lack full visibility into what IT staff has access to. Departing staff may take data or devices with them or leave them in inaccessible or unknown locations. Exacerbating this challenge, many organizations do not have the capabilities of retrieving or removing data when these events occur, leading to a loss of regulated data or intellectual property. Create a checklist for each IT employee to complete before their last day. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Checking AWS and root user accounts are tied to your business and not an employee
  • Securing a root user account with multi-factor authentication and using a shared mailbox or distribution list for password recovery. This helps you better protect your business from negative employee actions
  • Store the root user password in a secure vault or location

Next steps

Macroeconomic headwinds make it even more essential for SMBs to lean into technology to automate processes, leverage the benefits and agility of the cloud, gain IT talent, and better track and measure success of IT projects. Reach out to an SMB account team today to understand how to use technologies and processes designed to facilitate capturing, creating, sharing, using, and accessing knowledge for the purpose of organizational insights and achieving business objectives.

Aishwarya Subramaniam

Aishwarya Subramaniam

Aishwarya Subramaniam is a Sr. Solutions Architect at AWS. She works with SMB customers and AWS Partner Network consultants to accelerate customers’ business outcomes by providing expertise in analytics and other AWS services. She holds a Master of Science in Internetworking from the University of Alberta and is based in Washington (US).

Malini Chatterjee

Malini Chatterjee

Malini Chatterjee is a Senior Solutions Architect at AWS, supporting SMBs. Before working for AWS, she was a Solutions Architect for NTT Data Services. She holds a Certificate in Data Science from the University of California, Berkeley. Malini is based in California (US).

Patrick Duffy

Patrick Duffy

Patrick Duffy is a Solutions Architect at AWS, supporting SMBs. He enjoys mentoring within the AWS Community and is always looking for ways to grow his skills, collaborate, and make a meaningful impact with his work. He is based in California (US).