Is IT outsourcing the right choice for SMEs?
20 February 2017
SMEs need to plan strategically to ensure they are getting the most from their resources, from budget to staff. For some having an in-house IT helpdesk won’t make sense, but as the business continues to grow then it may become clear that additional resources need to be allocated to IT management. Keeping your IT resources operating efficiently and managing infrastructure can be stressful, especially with a small – or no – internal team dedicated to doing so. This often leads to many SMEs considering outsourcing their IT function to a dedicated provider.
IT outsourcing takes the work of an in-house IT department and hands it over to a third party, who has the time, skills and experience to manage it. There are many reasons why an SME may look at IT outsourcing, but before doing so they should consider these six things to make sure it’s the right solution.
1. What are your reasons for considering IT outsourcing?
First and foremost you need to look at the reasons for outsourcing your IT support. For many businesses financial gain is the main motivator, as the majority of IT support providers will offer contracts with a fixed monthly fee. You may also feel that you don’t currently have the right expertise in-house to support your growing business, and no time to recruit the right professional, or concerned that staff are becoming overwhelmed with technical issues which are preventing them from focusing on core activities. Whatever your reasons, you should take an in-depth look at them and consider whether outsourcing is the best option for helping you achieve your goal and progress efficiently.
2. Who is currently responsible for IT support?
Making the move to IT outsourcing can result in one or more employees changing roles or leaving the company. This will largely depend on whether you have a dedicated resource for IT support or whether certain employees take partial responsibility for different areas alongside their core role. In either case is can benefit your business in terms of cost-savings and employee productivity. If you only have a few IT needs throughout the week then it probably doesn’t make sense to have dedicated in-house resource, as you are effectively keeping them on retainer in case anything goes wrong. Alternatively if you have many complex IT requirements then your in-house resource may feel overwhelmed balancing day-to-day management and troubleshooting alongside long term projects. Bringing in a managed IT support provider offers additional support and expertise for your in-house team, either taking responsibility for the daily running of your IT environment or providing additional resources for specific projects.
3. What technical expertise do you require?
The size of your business, and it’s projected growth, may also influence what type of IT support you require. In small businesses it is not uncommon to find that the person who has the best “computer knowledge” has become responsible for IT management, even though this may not be the role they were originally hired for. While that person may be able to assist with troubleshooting, other tasks are outside of their skill set – and any time they do spend on IT takes away from their original job function. Similarly, as your business grows you may find that your internal IT staff just don’t have the time, knowledge or expertise to deal with everything. When you outsource your IT to a company who speciailises in this work you are getting access to a whole group of highly qualified and experienced technical professionals, who will be able to meet your IT requirements. It is important to remember that IT outsourcing can be flexible, from a fully managed service to provided support for specific areas. The right IT outsourcing provider will be able to assign the right people, with the right experience, qualifications and skills, to the right tasks to ensure you get the technical expertise you need.
4. How much time do you have?
In a small business it’s critical that you are strategic with your resources to ensure you are getting the greatest return. If you’re focused on growing your business then you may not have the time to dedicate to recruiting an IT Manager – and finding the right person with the right skills can sometimes result in costly recruitment fees. Even if you already have someone in-house with the right skills, you may find the demands of daily management, monitoring and maintenance stretches their time quite thin. Outsourcing your IT alleviates the burden on both fronts, by providing your business with access to qualified and experienced IT professionals who can provide technical support and guidance. There will be few problems a managed service provider won’t have seen, and they will ensure the right engineers – with the right experience – are assigned to the right tasks.
5. What will you outsource?
You must also consider what tasks you want to outsource. While you can have a fully managed IT service, there is also the option for co-sourced IT support. This is a flexible service where a provider offers additional support to an internal IT team on an ad-hoc basis. It is an efficient and cost-effective way to extend your own team and can be used in a number of ways such as; ongoing management of a particular area of IT, additional guidance for a specific project, assistance with IT strategy, project management, service desk support or absence cover for busy periods or staff holidays. This may be an ideal option if you are growing your own internal IT team, but need additional assistance to get things up and running.
6. Where will you outsource to?
There are many companies overseas who will offer outsourced IT support at very low prices. This can seem like incredible value, but it can also raise other issues. You must consider aspects like time zones, which can be a hindrance or a help. For example you may be able to have work completed overnight during your time, which means your business is effectively running around the clock, but on the other hand it may not be as easy to communicate with your IT Help Desk. Language barriers and cultural nuances can also sometimes cause difficulties.
Like any business decision, IT outsourcing is not something you should rush into. You should carefully consider your business goals and objectives and decide which path will help you meet these efficiently and effectively. There are pro’s and con’s for IT outsourcing, but many of the con’s can be minimised by finding the right managed IT support provider.