What are your choices when it comes to IT support?
There is a debate raging in boardrooms across the UK – should we employ an expert or outsource to a specialist? In this article we explore some of the pros and cons of the choices available.
What do you need?
This is an excellent place to start when considering your support options, after all, the aim of the game is to win, and winning means acquiring the service you need at a price you’re happy to pay – right?
I’ve never met anyone who says they’re happy to pay for ineffective, unreliable IT services – so let’s put this at the top of our list:
1. Effective IT support
2. Reliable infrastructure
Next, let’s get cost out of the way – we all talk about wanting great value for money, but the real sticking point is the money. So, what are you prepared to pay? You might have a figure in mind, and acceptable levels of investment will differ from person to person, so we’ll summarise the point as:
3. For a fair price
These three points are generally the priority for most businesses. You may have a few more, so please do add them to the list and keep referring to them as we move through the pros and cons in this article.
Effective IT support
Defined as, ‘successful in producing a desired or intended result’. This could be achieved by both in-house or outsourced staff, so let’s dig into the detail.
Your IT ecosystem is made up of a combination of services, such as Internet provision, telephony and software – after all, most software now is sold as a service rather than a ‘boxed product’. Add to this hardware and the cabling that connects it all together.
To be effective, all these parts need to work in harmony, with the emphasis on need to work. So, from a support perspective the team need to have a solid working knowledge of all aspects of the system, how each part interacts with the next and how to bring it all together and keep it running optimally.
There’s a clear ‘pro’ for in-house staff – that’s the familiarity with the working practices within the business – planned changes can be prepared for. So, if you’re considering outsourced options, how could you overcome this? Planning and regular meetings, or perhaps new processes and procedures for implementing change are some simple ways forward.
One of the biggest challenges faced by in-house teams is having a strong working knowledge of a multitude of systems. Take this example. You have operated the same server setup for years, then the decision is made to ‘move to the cloud’, but your current team have little or no experience of working in a cloud environment. The benefits of better security, continuity of business in the event of a disaster and more reasons make the cloud the right choice for your business – but do you run the risk of overreaching on your team’s capabilities? Sure, you could send them on a training course, but most knowledge is gained through trial and error – are you sure you want someone using your business as a training ground?
Outsourced services clearly win in this space – after all, expertise can be bought in as and when needed.
We’ve all been there – you’ve worked all day on the most amazing presentation you’ve ever created, you’re about to hit ‘save’ and the screen goes blank, the lights stop flashing and your heart sinks to the floor … did you hit ‘save’ in time?
The cost to business of IT downtime cannot be underestimated, from reduced productivity to lost opportunities. It’s bad and we’ve all been there. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
So, let’s go back to our heart-sinking moment. What do you do next? As you reach for the phone, do you have confidence that the person on the other end can help? Will they understand the severity of the situation?
Let’s say you’re calling the in-house team. You have two full-time staff. Their line is engaged. You look around the office, there are lots of blank screens, you are not alone in your plight. No matter how knowledgeable and effective your two-person team is, they are just two people. The cavalry is not around the corner and it’s going to be a long day.
Now, the alternative scenario of an outsourced team means you can bring in the reserves when you need them. More people, more knowledge and a faster resolution. What would that be worth to you?
If you compare employee overhead with the cost of an external supplier, you might be pleasantly surprised. You see, employees need more than just a salary. Most companies offer a benefits package, holiday pay, sickness pay and more. So, sometimes you’re paying for a service you’re not receiving, and potentially paying a lot more than you think.
For an external service you’ll be paying for exactly what you’ve agreed. So, if you’ve asked for 24/7 monitoring, that’s what you’ll get. If you need a two-hour response time, it will be reflected in the price, but that’s the service level you can expect. Holidays, sickness and more are someone else’s concern.
Now, consider the cost of training – after all, business is constantly changing. Do you have a rolling education programme for your team or do you simply ‘add an extra service’ when it’s needed from your external contractor and pay only for what you need, when you need it?
I’m biased, aren’t I?
In this article, I’ve looked at just a few of the pros and cons of employing an IT team versus outsourcing to a team like mine, but truthfully, I see an optimal outcome with a blend of the two.
For larger businesses, having an in-house team makes sense. The value of hands-on knowledge of the changes within the business, both current and planned, plus an onsite presence, cannot be underestimated. The weaknesses presented here, and perhaps you’ve identified some more for your business, can be easily overcome by working in partnership with an external provider, leveraging the best of both worlds for a cost-effective solution. For smaller businesses, it’s likely to be a choice of one or the other and I would urge all decision-makers to consider the benefits of an outsourced team before reaching for the recruitment agency’s number. If it turns out to not be the right fit for your business you can always return to recruitment, but if you hire first, you’ll be restricted by the handcuffs of employment. I am, of course, quietly confident there’s an IT company that can provide everything you need for a fair price … hint … the number’s below.
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