One in Four Small Businesses Get Failing Grade in IT

One fourth of small businesses are getting a grade of “D” or “F” when it comes to their information technology.

This comes from the Midyear 2009 report of the IT Effectiveness Index, an online survey of small businesses with 100 employees or fewer.

The grade means that SMBs are not taking sufficient steps to develop and maintain their IT systems to prevent business disruption.  Small businesses are not observing best practices on measures such as:

  • having enough qualified tech staff;
  • good IT security to protect against hackers, and intrusions and other insecurities;
  • disaster recovery preparations;
  • downtime of your systems; and
  • incident reporting and management.

The survey is a year-long initiative. It is still going on through the end of 2009 — and you can take the survey now.  The survey takes only about 5 minutes.  The questions are short multiple choice questions, as you can see:

IT Effectiveness Index

After you take the survey, you get two things.

First, immediately upon finishing the online survey, you are presented with a grade of A through F.  I took the survey — twice actually — and each time got a grade of “C” for my business.  While that was not a great score, it helped me put into perspective my activities.

Second, within a few minutes, you get a more detailed benchmarking report emailed to you.  The report has a few charts and an explanation of the areas of weakness and some preliminary suggestions for how to deal the weaknesses in your organization.   Here are the two charts from the report I received when I took the survey most recently:

ITEI benchmarking graphs

The survey is run by a consortium of nine partners — we at Small Business Trends are one of the nine  organizations that have come together to run the survey, along with HostSearch; Kennesaw State University; Microsoft; The Planet; Small and Medium Business Technology Network;; SMB Nation; and the Yankee Group.

Ask yourself:  how deeply would your business be hurt if you didn’t have your IT systems working for a day, a week or longer?  If that question makes you want to find a paper bag so you can stop hyperventilating, take the ITEI survey yourself.

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Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

8 Reactions
  1. Martin Lindeskog


    I got a “C” too when I took the survey in February.

  2. Well, I had a very bad computer crash last year and know how “bad IT” can hurt your business. So I feel I need to brace myself before taking this test.

  3. Whoa, I wonder if those failing in IT know that they are in fact doing a poor job before they take the survey. Judging by that statistic, I think I better take the survey and see where I need to improve. I can imagine that my score won’t be very good either. 🙁

  4. I’m afraid to take the test because of what it might say, but I guess you have to face reality and take steps to move forward.

  5. Thanks for posting this. I have not seen another reference to this survey instrument and it will definitely be helpful in working with my clients — current (who do pass) and prospective (many of whom do not).

  6. It’s an interesting initiative. Kudos! I’ve RTed your post via @wrike. Still I’m sure many SMB owners realize they are bad in IT. But they have SmallBizTernds and lots of other sites to advice them, right? Another positive trend here is the development of web-based SaaS technologies, that are easy to use and do not require high IT grades. Do you agree, Anita?

  7. First one to report an “A” gets a free retweet to 10,000 people! Just kidding: I don’t have 10,000 followers, but someone in the community must and if Anita and Martin got a C… And if Robert is nervous…

    If my technology doesn’t operate, I don’t work. I don’t get paid. Everything at my little company screeches to a halt until it gets fixed. I’m guessing that will be true for most of the small biz community. I’m eager to take this survey so I can know where the holes are.

  8. Took the survey considering ourselves and our clients. Got an “A”. There aren’t too many businesses nowadays where things don’t come to a screeching halt, as TJ says, when their systems fail. Most just think that’s the way things have to be and do nothing about it.