Do we keep our IT services in-house, or do we outsource IT responsibilities? That is the question many management teams ask themselves when they look at the benefits of managed IT services. Outsourcing IT services save costs, introduces new knowledge and helps businesses focus. However fully outsourcing IT functions is not the best route for every organisation, and there are pros and cons to each approach. But how about opting for a mixed model?
The benefits of managed IT services
Managed IT services are cost-effective and introduce a level of knowledge and skills into your IT operations which are almost impossible to build by means of an in-house team. The 2016 Global Outsourcing Survey by Deloitte found that 47% of respondents use outsourcing to boost capability. If you contract with a managed IT service provider who has broad experience and a large team you will benefit from the type of insight that can be game-changing for your IT operations, leading to significant cost savings and a big hike in business productivity.
Outsourcing IT functions also leaves your management team with fewer distractions as your internal structures are no longer responsible for business-critical services. An IT support provider offers greater levels of resilience and redundancy than your internal team, especially if your company runs a relatively small IT operation.
Finally, the sheer availability of managed IT services can be of real help when your business is experiencing a crisis. Your IT outsourcing partner can help you recover from disaster 24/7, 365 days a year thanks in part to the impressive skills managed IT companies hold, but more importantly because managed IT teams never go on leave.
Why businesses are hesitant to fully outsource
It is not uncommon for businesses to have concerns about outsourcing their IT operations in its entirety. Perhaps the most prominent issue is the institutional knowledge which internal IT engineers benefit from. Your internal IT staff have a deep understanding of your business and its priorities, an understanding which is not always easy to transfer to a managed IT service provider, though with the right level of communication this can be done.
Deep institutional knowledge is key when it comes to making the best IT strategy decisions, as a solution which appears to be the best on the surface may fail when organisational peculiarities come to the foreground – although the best managed IT services providers are excellent at identifying these.
There is also a perceived risk to completely losing all IT knowledge and skills in an organisation. Business leaders fear that it becomes difficult to judge the advice of a managed IT provider and that they can become locked into a single point of contact with suboptimal results, yet a good IT partner will always look after the best interests of your business.
Consider the middle path
The choice between outsourcing and managing IT in-house is too often presented as binary, when in fact your business can choose to retain the benefits of both strategies by opting for a solution that has mixed elements. For example, many organisations still maintain large fleets of IT equipment in the shape of servers and storage. Where possible, you should seriously consider moving servers to the cloud to reduce ongoing costs, as the first step in outsourcing non-core activities.
You may lose a few specialist staff members along the way, but cloud infrastructure needs maintenance too and you could likely retain much of your IT team as long as they are willing to retrain. This way you can benefit from managed redundancy and round the clock availability while still driving IT strategy and decisions internally.
There are other areas that are fit for outsourcing while retaining a degree of in-house involvement. These include desktop and application support, an activity that can be incredibly distracting for in-house IT staff. It is not uncommon for internal IT staff members to be so overburdened with support queries that essential strategic decision making is neglected. Under this scenario, the institutional knowledge your IT staff have will never see the light of day. Instead, consider reducing their workload by handing over mundane support duties to a managed service provider.
The benefit of a mixed outsourcing model
As with many areas in your business, outsourcing non-core, non-essential activities carry benefits in terms of costs and focus. You won’t maximise cost savings by retaining IT staff in-house, but your business will benefit from internal IT knowledge which can drive IT strategy in partnership with a managed service provider.
At a minimum, take advantage of affordable cloud services to reduce your infrastructure burden. In fact, the benefits of outsourcing some activities to the cloud are irrefutable in most scenarios, which is why cloud computing spend is growing at 4.5 times overall IT expenditure, according to IDC. Either way, going it alone in all respects carries costs and a mixed model of familiar in-house IT staff combined with knowledgeable outside help should always be under consideration.