IT: In-house or outsource? It’s very subjective.

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IT: In-house or outsource? It’s very subjective.

If your business is of “a certain size”, you may be wrestling with IT delivery. You realize something has to change, because if two employees encounter different but equally serious problems at the same time, one of them is likely to be dead in the water. Your IT people accomplish a tremendous amount of work, but the limit has been reached. New software you acquired is great for productivity, but if there is a problem or question about it, the software vendor is horrible to deal with. Employees won’t contact them anymore. They call IT, who can usually determine the problem, but IT doesn’t have time for that. And IT has told you that new workstations will make all the difference, if they can ever find time to find a good deal on those. And how dangerously close one staffer came to falling for a phishing email that could have done tremendous damage. That’s probably because IT doesn’t train staff on cyber security often enough.

So… time for a new hire? More than one? Maybe. One good measure may be the nature of the technology your business needs. Are important systems and software proprietary, or configured specifically for you? Is it critical that IT understand these thoroughly? Maybe IT is charged with training others on these systems.

The truth is, there are many reasons a business may choose one direction or another. And, yes, you need to look at your own reasons, but it helps to take an aerial view first.

  • Cost is a good place to start, because something has occurred which was not a problem a few years ago: Compensating an IT professional equal to your company’s needs is likely to be expensive. To a great degree, this is because business IT needs have changed and grown to such an extent that finding the skills and knowledge you need in one hire isn’t easy. And if you find that stellar candidate, you are definitely not the only one looking for him or her. Therefore, to make the hire, you’ll have to pay a premium.
  • An essential consideration is peppered through that first point, too. Are you (or others on your staff) competent to evaluate IT candidates? Will you have to hire a specialty staffing service to do that? Normally, when you are hiring someone, you know more about their job than they do. Not so much with IT. Just think about network administration, cloud computing and cyber threats. How do you know your candidate has the right stuff?
  • And, though you may not need a certain specialty, you’ll likely get one. Because there is so much to know about every aspect of IT (and more every day), even an avowed IT generalist will have his or her strengths. The caveat here is to be certain the candidate’s area of strength is a good fit for you, or at least that his or her other areas are not lacking.

I detailed those three points because none of them are mentioned in current articles citing the pros and cons of outsourced versus internal IT teams, yet they are critical. And if it sounds like I’m headed toward endorsing outsourcing, I am, though not in the way you might think. Look back to the lead-in, the first paragraph of this article. Every concern expressed there can be easily addressed by a good managed IT service provider. When you contract with an external provider, your internal team is free to address the issues which are better addressed internally; paragraph two is just one example of a shout-out for in-house IT. So, my contention is that in many cases, the right answer is, “you need both”.
Addressing the three bullet-points above:

  • Even if you find them for $50k each, you will pay far less for the best outsourced IT team available in your area than for a couple of new internal hires. Now, if your systems are out of date, you will need to replace, update or reconfigure them if your new IT managers recommend it, but that is one of the many reasons costs are so much less for you than they would be with a comparable in-house team. You are benefitting from the experience in IT efficiencies inherent in a business whose world is IT. They will save your money and their time by installing the smoothest running IT infrastructure possible for your company. And in most cases, a flat fee per month is charged, so it can be reliably budgeted- no surprises.
  • You are perfectly competent to choose the right managed business IT company. How do I know that? Because I’m pretty sure you have trusted friends and colleagues, and even friends of friends and acquaintances, all of whom own or manage businesses, or know someone who does. It really is that simple. You’ll have a very hard time finding anyone who isn’t willing to express an opinion about the IT staff they work with. Of course, you’ll hear some miserable responses from those who are unhappy with their providers. But that’s good, isn’t it? You’ll know who to stay away from. What you’re looking for is that enthusiastic positive response. Once you have a few of those responses, ask what your friends pay these IT geniuses and scale that to your-size business. Voila- you even have an estimate.  You may find a wide range of pricing (often using a “per seat” model, which refers to the number of employees). But note that this is not a “you get what you pay for” industry. Some of the pricing may seem far out of line with what your business might gain, while lower pricing from another provider may well indicate that they operate more efficiently.
  • This third point may be key for most of you. With the right business tech management partner, you have a team of experts. Strengths will be repeated among the team, but for every area in which you may need expertise, you will have it. This is intentional. As business IT companies grow, good managers build a team with members who have outstanding aptitude in a given area. Because? Business IT is far past the point of one person holding overall expertise. Sure, anyone on the tech staff will know what’s necessary for your security, your communications, etc. But there should also be a few who immediately know, for instance, what the special considerations may be for installing and integrating security in a medical office, or the most efficient way to replace a complex existing phone system, or how to train your staff to guard against ransomware and other threats.

One more point. A successful managed business IT company will have a sharp emphasis on service. That means (or should mean) that the tech engineers will be very easy to like. Yes, I know techs have a certain reputation, but IT company managers usually spend time and effort finding just the right personalities- as well as qualifications- for the job. That means all your interactions will be professional and pleasant!

This article certainly isn’t an all-encompassing analysis, and you do have to look hard at your business’s specific issues and attributes. But you may already be dreaming about the projects your in-house IT could take on, and the efficiencies and productivity in your company’s future with your new IT provider.

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