The pros and cons of outside IT Experts
Businesses are struggling to meet the complex demands of digitisation. The number of IT experts required to manage website design, SEO, social media engagement and online marketing, has ballooned. So too has the importance of expertise in cybersecurity, disaster recovery and network maintenance. Cloud computing, changes to the data centre, and the ubiquity/utility of data analytics has made keeping on top of your business’ IT demands a full-time job.
Every business understands the need for specialisation. With IT, the question under debate is the necessity to build a comprehensive in-house team versus the advantages of partnering with IT specialists. This article is a guide to the basics of why and how people go about augmenting their in-house capabilities with outside IT experts.
Benefits of In-house IT vs. Outside IT Experts
The significant advantage of in-house staff is your ability to train them to understand the specific needs of your business and the ability to rely on them whenever they are needed.
Retaining talented staff can also help sharpen your competitive edge. If you have an amazing web designer, freely allowing them to go and build a website for your competition could be counterproductive.
What you get with an in-house team are people who are invested in your company and are already familiar with how everything works. This is particularly valuable if you are operating a bespoke system with few similarities to out-of-the-box solutions. Outside experts will always need time to be brought up to speed with how things run.
Your in-house team may be expensive. However, you will know what they cost you every month. Expenses won’t suddenly expand because of an unforeseen complication — your team is already on salary, the only cost is more time.
- Know your business
- Are reliable in terms of availability and cost
- Allow you to sharpen your competitive edge by monopolising talent
Problems with In-house IT Teams vs. Outside IT Experts
The difficulty with managing all IT needs in-house is cost and the availability of talent. Finding the right outside experts can be hard. But, finding the right people to invest years in is even harder*. You need the resources and time to invest in training. With IT, that training never stops. People need to constantly update their knowledge base to stay abreast of changes.
Then there are the costs of a regular salary, benefits, and tax liabilities. The more skilled your employees are, the more expensive it will be to retain them. Whatever job is causing your IT team a headache may not come up enough to keep someone on staff who truly understands the ins and outs of that specific issue.
Fundamentally, you may not be able to afford the top specialists all of the time. Using outside experts can enable you to bring in the right people for only as long as you need them.
- May not be as good at specific jobs as outside experts
- May cost more to retain in the long-run
When Does it Make the Most Sense Use Outside IT Experts vs. In-house IT?
Something you see in common among IT functions that are increasingly using outside expertise are that they represent areas of vital importance, but require skill specialisations that are not necessarily core to the business. Procurement, security, disaster recovery and particular development projects all fall under this category.
One of the main things to consider when looking to use an outside expert is the longevity of the project. Long-term application development projects that are core to your business, for example, benefit from an in-house team’s ability to tweak the technology as you go along. If faced with a short-term project that requires advanced technical expertise, IT experts can provide the right skills for the right period of time. However, sustained IT partnerships are not always a bad idea.
Long-Term IT Partnerships with Outside Experts
There isn’t always a trade off — particularly for disaster recovery
Outside experts are generally exceptionally skilled and focused on a particular area. However, they almost universally command a higher hourly rate than permanent employees. The upshot is that you only need to pay them for the duration of the project. You will also save money on equipment and software costs.
Using IT experts, however, does not solely refer to bringing in highly competent troubleshooting specialists or app developers for the duration of a project. Well chosen long-term partnerships can generate cost savings along with improvements in service quality.
Cost Savings: In-house IT vs. Outside Experts
The IT functions that generate the most cost savings through the use of long-term outside partnerships are help desks, desktop support, disaster recovery and data centre operations*. All of these operate on an economy of scale that can allow for decreased costs to individual businesses through cost-sharing.
Improved Service Quality: In-house IT vs. Outside Experts
IT security, disaster recovery, database administration and application maintenance are all areas identified as having the greatest potential to improve service quality through the use of experts.
The use of outside experts for security and disaster recovery has been specifically fueled by quality control. The evolving cyber-threat landscape and new legislation have peaked corporate interest in this area.
Goldilocks Zones for Outside Experts
Disaster recovery, particularly, sits at an intersection between gaining the best product for the cheapest price when using an outside firm.
Areas particularly suitable for long-term outside partnership solutions are:
- Data centres, help desks, desktop support and disaster recovery can all reap cost savings through the use of outside experts.
- Cybersecurity, disaster recovery, database administration and application maintenance are all areas that many companies can obtain better results through using experts.
- Disaster recovery sits in a Goldilocks Zone of better quality at a lower price when using outside experts.
Does Size Matter When Looking at In-house IT vs. Outside IT Experts?
Mid-sized companies are often the most pressed to make big decisions about IT. Start-ups rarely have the resources to fully develop every department. Big businesses, although they generally engage with outside experts, almost always have so much continuous work that it makes sense to invest in an in-house team as well.
Ideally, one wants to hit a middle ground on all fronts. No matter how small your company is, it is generally un-advisable to operate completely blind when it comes to IT. Having at least one skilled IT generalist that understands your company can improve your ability to liaison with outside IT experts. Then, finding an outside team that you can work with regularly and feels in-house can offer you the best of everything — flexibility, access to specialists and a degree of familiarity with your business within a trusted relationship.
- It is important to have some in-house capabilities
- Businesses of all sizes can benefit from outside IT expertise
Summary: Outside IT Experts are a Great Choice vs. In-house IT — But Make Sure You Chose The Right Partners
Using outside experts has become a critical asset for businesses tackling the complex challenges of an ever-expanding IT frontier. In-house teams have intimate knowledge of your business. But, using outside experts can provide you with experts you could otherwise not afford when you need them. That makes them ideal to solve problems or take over technically demanding functions like cybersecurity. Outside experts can also reduce costs in particular areas when engaging in long-term partnerships for help desks, disaster recovery, etc.
Disaster recovery sits in the Goldilocks Zone of price savings and quality improvement when working with experts — however, that is only true if they are actually guaranteeing a quality outcome. Cybersecurity is another area where you can improve outcomes through long-term outside partnerships. But, it is again vital to know exactly what you are buying.
It is vital to read the fine-print whenever placing your critical business processes in the hands of another company. Finding a company that will work with you, get to know your processes and provide a solution that fits your needs is key. Simply, make sure the SLAs reflect what they say they are selling.