What to Watch Out for When Outsourcing Your IT
IT outsourcing often wins the debate between in-house IT or outsourcing technology requirements to an IT support company, businesses commonly opt for the latter because outsourcing reduces costs, draws in more expertise and allows businesses to focus on core competencies.
Sometimes, however, companies decide to take IT back in-house or do not consider outsourcing. A few horror stories or a bad outsourcing experience can often sour the mood around outsourced IT. Like a lot of things in business and technology, getting the most out of IT outsourcing – and avoiding the horror stories – just involves a degree of awareness and the right steps.
At OSCS we’ve helped countless companies with their IT requirements, and we know where the typical IT outsourcing pitfalls lie. So, in our opinion, these are the six points your company should consider when outsourcing IT. Be mindful of the following, and your company will enjoy IT outsourcing success.
DON’T LOSE SIGHT OF VALUE BY FOCUSING JUST ON COST
Cost is often the biggest driver behind outsourcing – and, yes, in most cases companies stand to save by hiring outside IT expertise. The benefits include less expenditure on year-round permanent staff, reduced costs in terms of on-site equipment and better value from tech thanks to better expertise.
It is important to realise that the combination of low cost and capability is what drives value. Low cost alone will not deliver IT outsourcing value – in fact, low cost alone can destroy value by delivering unsuitable, non-performing IT. So, when outsourcing, do not simply look for the IT support company offering the lowest cost – also seek out capability, finding the happy marriage between reasonable costs and solid capabilities.
MAKE SURE YOU FULLY UNDERSTAND THE COST STRUCTURE
Cost does matter. Companies should clarify the cost structures of an IT outsourcing arrangement. Be hesitant about an outsourced IT provider that is happy to commit to fixed arrangements without doing a thorough investigation into your company’s requirements – as the resulting fixed fee could hold pitfalls for future service levels.
In the broad, make sure that your IT provider of choice clearly outlines what’s covered – and where additional costs may arise. It’s also worth clarifying exactly what your money buys – what is the response times for any given arrangement, and what happens when out of hours support is required. A service level agreement (SLA) can help ensure specific costs are tied to specific service levels.
EVALUATE VENDOR RELATIONSHIPS
The IT landscape is littered with vendors. Yes, there are many excellent vendors, but even the best of breed will have specific pros and cons to their products and services. Your outsourced IT support company should be, to a reasonable degree, vendor-agnostic: offering you only the products and services that are as close as possible to a perfect fit for your organisation.
Furthermore, your outsourced IT provider should have close relationships with key vendors: thoroughly understanding their products and services, and the pros and cons. It puts them in a better position to know which solutions are a best fit and ensures that your business will be the first to benefit from product updates and new solutions – before your competitors do. Close vendor relationships also ensure that those technical support issues are resolved much faster.
STAY MINDFUL OF COMPLIANCE AND SECURITY
Security and compliance concerns are only growing: on the security front, the pervasive use of technology – often provisioned remotely – is leading to more and more security vulnerabilities, while compliance risk is growing too as governments look after citizen’s rights. Adding an outsourced IT provider into the picture complicates matters.
However, outsourced IT does not necessarily imply that your company’s security and compliance exposure increases – indeed, with the right IT partner on board, outsourcing may well mean improved security and compliance. It just depends on your provider’s security chops: it’s a key aspect that your company must scrutinise before agreeing to an outsourced arrangement.
SEEK DEPTH OF EXPERIENCE
Any contemporary business or organisation of size will know how critical technology is to everyday business activities and in moving a business forward. In-house teams with deep knowledge of business requirements and the business environment can choose, implement and manage technology to the advantage of your company.
Will your outsourced IT provider have similar capabilities? It depends on the depth of their experience – has your provider of choice worked with companies in your field of business? Do they understand your business requirements and your business environment? Rather than merely evaluating a provider based on cost of technical expertise, you should also consider their depth of experience.
FOCUS ON FINDING A PARTNERSHIP
It is no longer good enough to hire outsourced IT support that simply acts as an emergency button – someone to call when IT breaks down. We’ve suggested in the previous section that your IT provider must understand your company and the environment in which it operates in order to render effective support. However, the best IT solutions providers will also be true partners in business.
Run of the mill outsourced IT providers will deliver emergency fixes, patches and upgrades. The best providers, however, will see where IT can deliver more for your business: where IT can help your business beat its competitors, become more efficient in order to save costs – and help your company find new markets.
CAN YOUR IT PARTNER GROW WITH YOU?
We think that the last point is perhaps the most important. Switching from internal teams to an outsourced vendor can mean that essential knowledge, viewpoints and approaches are lost – your IT becomes the equivalent of buildings maintenance.
In this day and age, any business that takes a “buildings maintenance” approach to IT risks losing out to its competitors. However, your IT partner can be so much more than a fix-and-repair partner, and at OSCS we’ve seen how pro-active outsourced IT can deliver tremendous business benefits.