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Fear of surrendering control is probably the main factor holding many IT directors back from realising the benefits of outsourcing some IT services – or even their entire application or database management infrastructure.
But if you can find an IT services supplier who will work with you in a genuine partnership, understanding the specific needs of your business, it soon becomes clear that this fear is misplaced. It is perfectly possible to retain your strategic power while outsourcing the fundamental and mundane elements of your IT service and support. And in doing so, you can generate a host of business benefits.
The top 10 benefits of outsourcing
For some time, there have been signs that IT directors in smaller enterprises are increasingly receptive to these benefits – and are even embracing them with greater agility than their global counterparts. A 2009 survey from Computer Economics suggested that 27% of businesses now outsource applications management, while 21% outsource database management.
According to Information Week, as this level of outsourcing gains credibility and trust among SMEs, the benefits quickly accumulate in terms of greater flexibility (particularly for companies that are growing rapidly); access to cost-effective expertise, techniques and programs; access to third-party resources such as the help desk, which liberates IT staff to focus on more productive business-focused activities; and the wider savings achieved by not having to invest in infrastructure and licenses.
Take email services as one example: Gartner estimates that outsourcing just this one application could save businesses with fewer than 300 employees a significant amount, because an outsourcing partner has the dedicated infrastructure to manage it at a much lower cost.
Here are five good reasons why you should think about outsourcing your IT services:
1. You could save significant staff costs.
Not just on the recruitment and hiring front – and skilled people with strong application-based credentials don’t come cheap – but in the longer term. Why spend time and money training somebody to support a core business application, only to see them poached by another employer and taking their expensively-acquired skills with them? And why not liberate your in-house IT staff to focus on projects that add value to the business rather than spending their precious time on firefighting duty?
2. An outsourced call centre/help desk frees your resources.
Providing round-the-clock support for your users in-house is expensive. Depending on the size of your business, you might need a dedicated facility that is operated by key IT support staff and is a significant cost centre in terms of facilities management overheads. Even in a smaller IT operation, somebody – it might even be you – has to be on call outside office hours to provide IT support for an increasingly mobile workforce. Thanks to its greater economies of scale, a dynamic IT services partner should provide a superior help desk at a greatly reduced cost.
3. You can save money all round – with the right outsourcing strategy and partner.
A good IT services partner will work with you to identify the pressure points at which it makes sense for you to outsource aspects of your IT service and support. These can vary tremendously from one business to another, as consultancy Toolbox.com points out. But they could depend on the number of employees who need support and to what degree, the number of devices involved, the types of applications that you use, the ratio of employees using office space to remote workers, and even your geographic location when it comes to the price of on-site support. These are complex calculations that deserve patient analysis.
4. Your business will be more flexible in its use and consumption of IT services.
Infrastructure is expensive. Why invest in servers, complex networks and other hardware, just to deliver vital but everyday applications to your users, when you can have those applications managed and distributed as a service direct to the desktop without the expense of hardware maintenance? Because your applications are being managed and hosted by a third-party, they can be scaled up or down to meet fluctuating demand – and your costs will be more tightly controlled as a result.
5. Peace of mind.
Why let worries about more complex issues such as data security or disaster recovery keep you awake at night, when they can be managed and supported by a third-party who has all the necessary expertise and infrastructure to meet your security and business continuity requirements? Yes, they are important – but by choosing the right partner to provide relevant support services, you are prioritising them rather than allowing them to become distractions that need constant attention from your in-house IT team.
This is the key to getting your relationship with your IT services supplier off to the best start – and making sure you realise the business benefits that you have in mind. And it starts long before the contract is signed.
As Forrester analyst Wolfgang Benkel says in his useful report, Negotiate a Successful IT Service Outsourcing Contract, ‘Renegotiating during an existing outsourcing relationship requires time and effort, decreases agility, and is always based on less competition, which influences the provider’s motivation and the price.’
In other words, you’ll get more bang from your buck – and keep a tight hold of your IT service strategy – if you decide what you want from your contract before you choose your supplier.
Combine your goals with an IT service partner who has the vision to match them and deliver the latest service desk technologies, provide you with complete visibility of the way your service strategy is performing – including measurable indications of performance quality – and you’ll soon become part of the rising tide of SMEs that are living proof of the benefits of outsourcing.