In business, outsourcing is commonplace.
Most often it’s seen as a cost-saving mechanism. But while this is sometimes the case, it’s by no means the only justification for it, and indeed in some cases, outsourcing is not to do with cost saving at all.
It’s said that if you can pay someone else to do something better, more efficiently and (possibly) more cheaply than you can do it, you should go ahead and do so.
This holds true across most business disciplines, not just IT management and IT support, but also marketing, accounts, HR, even sales. And what is a non-executive director, if it’s not an outsourced role?
In this article, we’re going to take a close look at some of the questions you should ask before deciding to outsource some or all of your IT systems, processes, support and management operations.
In so doing, we’ll explore whether it makes good business sense to outsource your IT.
1. How important is IT to your business?
Before drawing a quick conclusion on whether outsourcing some aspect of your IT systems, support and management is for you, it’s important to consider the context of IT within your business.
Not all businesses depend to the same extent on IT, which for some may be no more sophisticated than a computer, an email address and a website.
For others, IT systems offer a degree of competitive advantage – i.e. IT is an efficiency enabler to the business that allows it to adapt, respond and transact quickly.
So how important is IT to your business? If the answer is ‘fairly’ or ‘very’, you may have a strong case to outsource its operation to experts.
2. Why do you want to outsource?
For many businesses, the outsourcing argument is one of simple cost: the possibility to save the overhead of hiring and managing an internal employee by getting an external supplier to do the job – and do it better than you can.
The combined services and skillsets available to you from an external IT provider will typically outshine those of any single individual you hire in house, so there’s a strong argument there.
But consider these other practical reasons and see if they apply to you:
- Maintaining focus: by outsourcing your IT support, you are paying someone else to own the problem, allowing you to focus on running your business. On the other hand, by bringing IT support and management in-house, you are internalising that responsibility – which may prove to be more a distraction than you’d like.
- Keeping things simple: on that same note, solving IT problems can often be complex, time-consuming and resource-sapping. By leaving difficult and complex jobs to paid experts, running your business may be simpler and more time efficient.
- Reducing risk: operational stability worth paying for, which means worrying that IT systems may go down or malfunction may be stressful and counter-productive. Putting IT support and management in the hands of expert providers reduces the risk that things will go wrong as well as lifting the burden of worry.
- Staying current: technology, and in particular cybersecurity and cloud computing are fast evolving areas. Maintaining the skills and knowledge to make the right decisions is best left to those who make it their business to stay up to date.
3. How good are you at selecting the right supplier?
Finding the right vendor, supplier or business partner isn’t always as straightforward as it seems. Sometimes the logic appears right, but the devil is always in the detail.
When looking to outsource your IT support, you’ll need to find evidence of technical ability, experience and certifications on the part of your intended supplier. You’ll also be wise to look at some of the customers they work for, the length of time they have been in business, and whether they specialise in a particular area of IT – such as cloud computing, network security or connectivity.
There’s nothing quite like a recommendation too, so if your potential IT partner can supply some references and case studies that attest to their skills, so much the better.
However you evaluate possible suppliers, you’ll need to be confident in your choice as there’s a lot riding on your IT. Part of this is about asking the right questions of your intended IT support provider. But that’s the topic for separate article.
4. How good are you at working with suppliers?
All suppliers need some idea of your expectations of the relationship, what the goals are and the parameters they must work to.
It’s not always about who has more power over whom. Most successful supplier-client relationships are balanced partnerships where expectations, vision, goals and objectives are clearly shared – and each feels they are getting a fair deal.
So before deciding to outsource, make sure you are not expecting to abrogate full responsibility, and be prepared to put the time into managing the relationship.
5. Can you easily monitor your IT supplier’s performance?
Because IT is a technical discipline, it’s often seen as a bit of a black art. The truth is that there is no wizardry in IT operations. Just skills and expertise which if managed properly will deliver business benefits.
As a business manager looking to outsource your IT support or operations, you’ll be well used to putting management frameworks in place to ensure best performance. Managing your outsourced IT service provider should be no different.
Your best bet is to agree a set of KPIs (key performance indicators) with your provider so that monthly service levels can be benchmarked and monitored over time.
Naturally your IT partner should be happy to agree to work together in this way, and ideally will suggest the KPI measures by which you can monitor their performance.
6. How good are you at ‘letting go’?
Some companies are risk averse to the extent that they feel they have to control every aspect of what is going on in the business.
While this is only natural, it’s also important that when you employ experts to do a job for you, they need to be allowed to get on with the job.
For this reason it’s critical that whilst entering the relationship with a healthy degree of concern for professional management rigour, you are also prepared to trust that the job you are paying experts to do will actually get done, and to the level required.
Issues such as confidentiality can be underpinned by a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), particularly where passwords and sensitive data are concerned. But such is the nature of IT support, and confidentiality is an issue regardless of whether your IT is managed internally or externally.
For more information about your cloud,security and enterprise content management requirements or any other aspect of your IT systems – please contact Alliance Solutions on 0800 292 2100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us for a for a free IT Systems Audit.