DISCLAIMER: You are about to read an outsourced IT firm’s account of what challenges are inherent to maintaining an in-house technology staff. While we have already acknowledged the problems with our own service model in this article, the fact remains that we benefit from organizations choosing not to maintain an in-house team.
But here’s the thing: outsourcing and insourcing are not mutually exclusive. Yes, we are sometimes brought into analyze internal teams (read: prove their ineffectiveness so that leadership will agree to outsource), and yes, we hear a lot of the following complaints by way of our sales process. But we also (successfully) work hand-in-hand with many internal teams to help alleviate the support burden, and to step in when they aren’t able to.
This level of interaction has given us a unique vantage point when it comes to the pros and cons associated with having an in-house IT team, so we thought it would be worthwhile to take the time to discuss what we’ve encountered over our nearly 3 decades in the industry.
Below we’ll work through the most common challenges with maintaining an in-house IT staff, and how they may affect your organization going forward.
What are the main challenges with having an in-house IT team?
The main challenges we’ve encountered are below:
- Selection. Are your IT people hired with the same level of diligence as your accountant or your attorney? Of all your employees, there is no one with as much power as your IT person; they have administrative access to every nook and cranny of your system, every piece of data you have, and could take your entire system down in moments if they wanted to. Still, many companies place the burden of selection on someone who is both non-technical and not familiar with the qualifications they need to look for. And, since there’s no sort of standardized qualifier in IT (there’s no bar exam here), you’re left at the mercy of the résumé, which is largely unreliable. This all becomes a bit easier if you have an IT manager, but if not, you’re in for a really trying process to find a competent and appropriately-qualified hire.
- Ongoing Management. Beyond making the right hire, does your organization have someone who is tech-savvy enough to manage your IT team? In a lot of cases, the COO or Firm Administrator will be the one managing your team, and they don’t have experience in the area beyond determining what is broken and what needs to be upgraded. This leaves the IT person up to their own devices, which may or may not be a good thing for your organization on a strategic level.
- Training. Training is an ongoing process in IT. Even if your internal person is qualified today, they might not be qualified to determine where you need to go (and to manage the technologies associated with that path). In that case, the person tends to manage the network to their level of competence—not to where the organization needs to be. On the other hand, we’ve seen internal staff take training and literally run with it; once they have more knowledge, they’ll find the opportunity to put these skills to use (whether it’s as a part of your organization or not). The trick is keeping your internal staff on a forward trajectory, but at the same time keeping them engaged so that they can be the catalyst you’re looking for.
- Redundancy. There isn’t any when your IT team is in-house. This is especially true when there is only one technical person on staff—if they are ever out of the office, or if they ever want to take a vacation, this leaves the organization without any recourse for technical issues. This either means that the company will go without support for a week (and be in deep trouble if an emergency like server failure were to occur), or—more likely—that the IT person will remain “on call” at all times, be completely unable to relax, and be generally overwhelmed and exhausted at all times. We can’t count the number of times an IT person has reached out to us for “backup,” having not been able to take a day off for actual years.
So there you have the main challenges we’ve encountered during our tenure in the industry.
Across the board, we’ve found that having a stable and reliable IT Manager on staff will help tremendously in alleviating these challenges; if you have a strong pillar guiding your team, you can oftentimes avoid these problems altogether.
In some cases, however, bringing this strong pillar on board is just not feasible. And without that leader on board, you are basically guaranteed to experience one or more of these issues as time goes on.
In the end, it’s a matter of weighing these potential costs with the benefits, and seeing what works best for your organization. For some, outsourcing would be a mistake. For others, it’s the converse. Take the time to make a fair comparison, and feel free to get an outside opinion. Just be sure to take the decision seriously—your productivity, your operations, and your business strategy depend on it.