Do It Right the First Time: The IT Infrastructure Mistake You Can’t Afford to Make

Posted by Steven Vigeant on 10/24/14 2:41 PM

So you’re opening your first office or lab--or planning an infrastructure upgrade or move to a new location due to a sudden spurt in growth. Congratulations! You’re probably hustling to communicate with new stakeholders, plan your transition, and increase your productivity capacity. The last thing you want to worry about is whether your IT infrastructure will support your growth, but you know an upgrade is in order.

Many biotech start-ups in this position make the understandable mistake of purchasing only the minimum IT infrastructure necessary to support their current operations, reserving a larger portion of new cash influx for increases in staff, equipment, and marketing. Unfortunately, failing to plan for future IT needs can cause work flow challenges and poor decisions under stressful situations. Additionally, this mistake leads to expensive technology pivots that can cause the company its edge.

The Truth About Growth

Whether it’s a handful of new hires over the next 6 months, triple growth in two years, or a plan to eventually go public, most start-ups expect to grow over time—and often they underestimate that growth. Many clients come to us and say, “We won’t be more than 6 employees,” but ultimately end up hiring more than that. It’s important to plan ahead, and not only for the technology you need right now.

Big fish, small tank

Plan ahead for growth, you won't be the same size forever

When Size Doesn’t Matter (as Much)

Additionally, a company’s workflows affect how growth will impact the IT infrastructure. The amount of data a company generates matters as much as the actual number of employees. A small company that generates relatively little data can consider cloud-based solutions to limit capital investment. On the other hand, the same sized company that generates large amounts of data via imaging, diagnostics, and the like may have to invest in their own servers and storage systems to host the data on-site (with additional cloud backups).

In both cases, it’s important to understand how your choices impact the type of service and equipment you need, and how those needs will change in the future. When purchasing capital equipment, it can be tempting to go with low-cost options, but the quality of equipment can impact your operations. When putting business functions in the cloud (such as email, storage, phones, etc.), on the other hand, the emphasis may be on the quality and speed of your internet connection.

Avoiding Unpleasant Surprises When Your Company Goes Public

Most companies don’t know when they start whether they will go public or strike a partnership with a big pharm company. Failing to plan for the possibility from an IT perspective can lead to unpleasant surprises, like having the ability to have established controls and centralized account management for systems or enough storage for new experiments. An IPO significantly raises the stakes in terms of protecting corporate data and financials, trade secrets, and employee information. Simultaneously, risk exposure increases dramatically, leaving your company open to a potentially game-changing disaster if you can’t get the right systems and security in place and quickly.

Why It Matters

Today, everything runs on IT—communications, business deals, lab equipment, presentations, collaborations with partners and funders. Everything. When building out your initial IT infrastructure, don’t underestimate the importance of planning for growth, and don’t skimp on the right solution.

At minimum, review the following considerations:

  • The amount and types of data your company generates
  • Each department’s workflows
  • Planned growth
  • Potential growth
  • Considerations in the event of an IPO or other compliance needs

You don’t have to put infrastructure in place to immediately cover all possible future needs—that would be wasteful. But if you don’t build the right type of structure that can be expanded to serve those future needs, you’re in for unpleasant surprises down the road.

How Do You Get It Right?

Getting it right means creating an IT infrastructure that meets your needs now in a cost-effective manner, while permitting scale as the company grows and, potentially, goes public. Most biotech start-ups can’t afford an extensive in-house IT team to study every implication of their IT decisions, and fortunately they don’t have to.

A quality IT partner can function as an integral part of your team, designing on-site or off-site IT solutions designed around your company’s needs and goals. The right partner will help you make decisions that adequately address email security, network management, disaster recovery, and the compliance concerns faced specifically by biotech companies—for now, and for the future.

Learn more about working with an IT partner to help plan for future growth (and set up your IT infrastructure right the first time, so you don’t need to gut it and replace it as you grow) in our free guide. When you’re ready, request a free consultation with one of our biotech IT experts and rest assured that your IT is in good hands.


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