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As wonderful as it would be for an outsourced IT firm to say that there isn’t a single fundamental problem with the concept of outsourcing, that of course cannot logically be true. In fact, it is outsourced IT firms who are the most intimately familiar with the challenges of outsourcing IT—these are the very elements that our service plans and internal procedures are designed to counteract.
So what are the problems that you need to be cognizant of before you choose to outsource the support and management of your IT systems? We’ll work through them below.
What are the problems with outsourcing IT?
When compared to having an in-house IT team, the main challenges with outsourcing IT are as follows:
- Ramp-up period. It’s going to take an outsourced engineer longer to become familiar with your environment. And internal IT team will be immersed in your environment full-time, and they won’t be bound by an hourly schedule as far as investigation goes. Depending upon how frequently your outsourced team is on-site, it could take anywhere from weeks to months for them to really become familiar with your setup, and to become knowledgeable enough to start offering guidance and recommendations for your systems.
- Timeframes. Beyond the initial ramp-up period, work in general will take longer for an outsourced team. They aren’t going to be in your offices every day (unless you have a seriously robust service plan), and they’ll be juggling not just your technology priorities, but the priorities of a number of different clients. This means that larger-scale initiatives may span several weeks rather than several days. It also means that you won’t always get immediate attention if you call in for remote support.
- Specialization. If your organization is using non-standard applications, your outsourced IT company may or may not be well-positioned to actually support them. While outsourced companies are generally very adept at supporting mainstream technologies and applications, they don’t always have specialized knowledge about, say, your document management system, of that fully-customized, home-grown software application.
- Project budgeting. Say you have an upcoming server replacement project. If you have an internal team, you’re going to have to allot the necessary time for them to work on it. If you have an outsourced team, multiply that allotted time by your engineer’s hourly rate. When you outsource, project work tends to fall outside of your ongoing service plan, which means that you’re going to have to budget for a separate investment in labor.
- Culture. An outsourced firm, at their very best, will be an accepted part of your organization. They will never, however, be fully immersed in your culture the way a full-time employee would be. Sure, a good firm will have the systems in place to help bridge the gap, but your engineer won’t be continually connected to the pulse of your organization (nor will you see them on the company softball team).
The fact of the matter is this: outsourcing’s very nature implies a disconnect between your organization and your IT team. To some, this disconnect may be insurmountable to the point where outsourcing is simply not an option.
The real key here is to choosing a provider that acknowledges the challenges inherent to outsourcing, and who has the internal procedures in place to compensate and thereby prevent any lapses in service.
They’ll front-load an assessment project to accelerate the ramp-up. They’ll have a responsive remote team that can work with you in real-time (and will be held accountable in the event that there is a delay). They’ll give your systems proactive attention to prevent emergencies. They’ll make a concerted effort to learn your business and your people–from top to bottom. They’ll help plan your annual budget well in advance to account for any upcoming projects. They’ll outfit themselves with enough resources to give you steady and reliable support when you need it.
It will, of course, take some effort on your part to identify firms who really take these tenets seriously. Call references. Ask probing questions. Make sure that they treat each of their clients, no matter how small, with the same high level of care. Make sure that they treat their own people with a high level of care—that’s the true litmus test.
Do some digging, and you could very well find yourself a diamond.