Wide vs. Deep: A Small Business Quandary?

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Should IT pros go wide or deep when it comes to building their skill sets and earning certifications? For small businesses, determining the answer can be challenging — due to smaller budgets, lack of manpower, and limited resources.

Here are several considerations to keep in mind when deciding which approach your IT pros should take.

Start wide. Starting wide can help IT pros explore different areas and determine what they’re passionate about, which then allows them to specialize, and eventually become an expert. Passion typically makes employees more productive and involved. 

Recommended training: CompTIA A+ and Network+

Start with your network. For small IT teams, it may make more sense for IT pros to be familiar with a range of technologies, because often they are called upon to solve myriad issues. They need to be able to address problems quickly and efficiently, whether it’s setting up a network or creating internal IT policies.

Recommendation: What software and hardware do your IT pros use regularly? Provide them with training for those systems. The better they understand the system capabilities, the better your system will work.

Technology is always evolving. With that in mind, a case can be made for IT pros to train widely in as many technologies as possible, and dive deep into several of them. Many swimming pools nowadays are built shallow at the ends and deep in the middle; that should be the shape of your training. IT pros can choose a technology or two that they want to specialize in and concentrate a lot of their effort there – it takes more skill to swim in deeper waters, right? Meanwhile, they could obtain a working knowledge of 3-5 more technologies – like dipping your legs into the shallow end.

Training on the latest technological improvements. VoIP, data center, virtualization, and cloud-based services are useful and widely used technologies that every IT pro should add to their skill set, even if it’s not their expertise. Also, IT pros can never go wrong learning networking and security fundamentals. Having a baseline knowledge of these core areas can make IT pros extremely valuable to smaller organizations.

Recommended training: VMware, CCNA Data Center, CCNA Collaboration

IT is multidisciplinary. More and more these days, IT is blended. Even a specialist has to understand how technologies integrate with each other. For example, an IT pro might have considerable expertise with storage technology, but if they don’t have at least a basic understanding of cloud-based services, they won’t go very far. Being able to integrate technologies can save companies time and money.

Recommended training: Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, CCNA Cloud, Microsoft Azure

So what’s the final verdict deep or wide? A bit of both, actually.

Small businesses can’t go wrong having a team made up of IT pros who know a bit of this and that, and others who are experts with certain technologies. A team of IT pros who are diverse, passionate, and committed to keeping their skills up to date can help smaller businesses thrive.

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