The risks and rewards of outsourced IT support
March 21st, 2018
As a business or IT leader within a growing business, you have probably considered outsourcing parts of or potentially your wider IT operations to a third-party provider at some point.
Of course, the financial benefits of outsourcing are widely discussed, but there are more reasons to outsource IT – some just as, if not more, important than the flat costs.
In this blog we’ll be discussing some of the reasons businesses consider IT outsourcing, the potential risks typically associated with that and the rewards you stand to gain.
Why do businesses consider IT outsourcing?
1. Reduce and control costs
When you outsource you reduce the cost – and time – associated with managing internal employees. For example recruitment costs, interviewing, training, planning, holidays, retention, illness etc.
2. Improve company focus
It’s neither practical nor desirable, for a company to cover every single area. Therefore it makes sense to consider outsourcing certain areas to third parties who have the experience and expertise.
3. Gain access to expertise
You stand to gain a greater return on your investment by outsourcing your IT to a company that specialises in that area. You benefit from the collective knowledge and experience of a whole team of experts. Plus, providers often require their employees to have specific certifications and qualifications.
4. Free up internal resources
Have the day to day IT operation looked after by experts who have the tools, people, skills and technology to manage it better than you. Then use your internal resources to focus on business improvement initiatives, often in partnership with the IT provider.
5. Gain additional resources
If you do have not someone in-house to manage all or a specific part of your IT nor the budget to attract and retain someone capable, then outsourcing presents a viable solution – in both the short and long term.
6. Reduce risk
Keeping with technology changes, the latest security risks and best practice is expensive and time-consuming. Keeping up with industry change is part of being an IT support provider and by outsourcing, you can access this knowledge. It’s highly valuable and can prevent you from making wrong or poor decisions for the business.
What are the risks of IT outsourcing?
Handing over control of any part of your business to a third party will always present some level of risk. With IT outsourcing this could include:
1. Deciding what to outsource?
Your whole organisation will rely on IT in some way so it is essential to ensure your provider is qualified to run your operations. However, don’t forget that you don’t necessarily have to outsource your whole IT environment. For example, if you have bespoke software you may decide it is best to keep this in-house and outsource other tasks. For example, project management, day-to-day support and IT strategy to a third party. It all depends on what is best for the business and where you get the best value and return.
2. The level of control
Critics of IT outsourcing argue that outsourced support will never be as effective as an internal employee directly under the control of senior management. This just isn’t true in the main – unless you are a large business. It really depends on the partner you’ve chosen to work with. If you’ve taken the time to select a partner who understands your business, is aligned to your goals then it is more likely you will find you have a long-lasting and business-enhancing relationship – rather than a lack of control. It’s simply not possible for a large percentage of small and mid-sized businesses to attract and retain the best IT minds – the challenge on a day-to-day level is just not there.
3. Employee morale
The mere mention of outsourcing can leave some employees feeling like their job is at risk. To negate this risk ensure you communicate openly across your entire organisation. An IT support provider is there to support your business, often working in tandem with an internal IT team for those businesses who already have them in place. It will typically give internal IT teams room to grow, develop and deliver wider benefits to the business.
You can avoid many of these risks if you take the time to find a support provider and ask them the right questions before you begin your outsourcing contract.
What are the rewards of IT outsourcing?
1. High quality and experienced staff
Since IT is their core focus, IT support providers will ensure they hire staff with the right qualifications, specialisms and experience. There will be a breadth of expertise and knowledge, which enables providers to assign the best person to the project.
2. Access to the latest technology
Technology changes so rapidly it can be difficult for a single person to keep up with. Let alone working out what is just a trend and what is worth your investment for the long term. An IT support provider will be able to keep you updated and advise on these areas.
3. Cost savings
Of course, there are the financial benefits to consider such as leaner overheads, smaller project delivery windows, bulk purchasing and financing options for hardware and software.
Providers will have a greater number of resources available to them due to the size of their team and the breadth of knowledge and experience. In contrast, an internal team may have limited resources and capabilities.
5. Improve staff morale
Using an IT outsourcing company often removes the burden from your internal staff. Bringing in a third party can help as it allows the team to focus on particular areas. For example, the provider might take over day-to-day support while the internal team focuses on projects or vice versa.
What are the next steps?
There is a lot to think about when it comes to IT outsourcing. However, if you think it’s the right step then there are a few things to get in order:
- A clear understanding of your business’s goals and objectives and the ability to communicate these clearly to potential providers
- A strategic plan or vision for your potential relationship
- A list of questions to ask potential vendors (we have one available here)
- Keep open communication with all affected individuals/groups
- Gain support and involvement of all the senior decision-makers
- Know how you will get in and/or get out of any contractual commitments