When Is It Right To Outsource Your IT Services?


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It is a strange quirk of modern American political discourse that the term ‘outsourcing’ has essentially come to mean something roughly equivalent to ‘hollowing out the US economy from within and destroying any chance for future happiness that your family and friends ever had.’

The fact is that the mundane, day to day reality of much of the outsourcing that goes on is national companies transferring their data, IT services, business databases, server maintenance and telecommunications to other national companies, and therefore not quite the universally destructive practice it is sometimes portrayed to be.

As a former IT Manager working in the UK, I have never used a service outside the UK – simply because it is not worth the hassle. I have found in the course of my work that offshoring is a relatively rare practice, and where it is practised the company doing the offshoring will fail to remain competitive and relevant.

Outsourcing is not offshoring, and the distinction is important.

So, once you begin to think about the business concept of outsourcing in a more rounded and holistic way, it becomes a little more clear that there are certain situations in which a company should seriously consider outsourcing some of its IT.

Some of these situations are undoubtedly the result of technical capability and the hardware/software versus volume/ size of orders/clients equation, but some come about through a much subtler mix of managerial competency and leadership skills.

So what are some of the situations in which your company should seriously consider outsourcing your IT?

Finding The Right Mix Of Management Skills

There has always been a large and animated debate on whether non-technical managers should be put in charge of IT departments, as this thread shows. This debate highlights two important parts of the management puzzle which all IT based companies must seek to negotiate; the importance of having the right mix of technical and managerial skills.

The fact is that the person who possesses the right mixture of technical knowledge as well as hard and soft management skills is usually a hard entity to find wandering through the job market, so why not separate the two halves? Outsourcing gives you a certain guarantee of the technical expertise of the company you are outsourcing your IT to, and it also frees up you management team to do what they do.

The Need To Scale Out Quickly

Another reason to seriously consider outsourcing part of your IT operations is when the situation arises where you are caught out severely lacking in scalability potential. Outsourcing will allow your company to take on an increase in the size or volume of orders without actually having the infrastructural capability in place. This ability to pay another company to take on your infrastructural requirements on your behalf for a short period of time will (in theory) allow you to build up your resources in a sustainable way while still being able to take on the increased workload.

Do You Have Insufficient Time Or Manpower To Do The Training Yourself?

This is a similar problem to trying to find the right mix of managerial skills and technical prowess in the same pile of flesh and blood, but is potentially much more damaging to your company I the long term.

The modern pace of technological evolution means that there is always likely to be a more efficient way of using technology for your desired goals than the one you are currently using, and this can lead to two inherent sites of damage for your company. Either your staff remains stuck in their old ways and therefore remain in a state of being undertrained, or a you become so obsessed with trying to keep up that you spend too much time training and your productivity suffers.

Outsourcing can keep you away from these two potential pitfalls and allow you to take on your training in a long term and considered way. It is after these people’s jobs to stay at the front of the pack.

The Need For Excellent Network Administration

Another rarely discussed problem that a fair few IT companies experience is that the managerial staff may be perfectly competent when it comes to operating a single PC, but their network managerial skills are sorely lacking.

This problem is important not only because network administration is a radically different proposition then simply having IT skills or standalone management skills. The range and potential complexity of the problems that can be thrown up require a vary specific skillset, which again is something that IT outsourcing (specifically network support services) can help you with. Again, here outsourcing can give you the space required to either provide long term training or make sure that you hire the right person for the job.

So here are four reasons (there are many, many more) that the outsourcing of a company’s IT operations could really benefit the company strategically in the long term. A common misconception with outsourcing is that the changes that are undertaken by companies who outsource to third parties are permanent, which is a strange assumption indeed. Outsourcing can give you the space and time you need in order to make sure the structure and skillset of your company is exactly what you need without having to take a hit in productivity or workload.

What do you guys think about the idea that sometimes IT outsourcing can be beneficial, and have you got any other situations that are similar to the ones outlined above?

James Duval
James Duval is a marketing expert who has been cited by Mainstreet, ProBloggingSuccess and MarketingProfs. He works for Comm100, thinking about new tricks and techniques in the email and marketing industries.


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