When using outside IT makes the most sense
Downtime is no longer an option. End-users expect flawless results in the always-on world of digital business. There is an expectation for technological perfection in every aspect of our lives — raising the bar from the perspective of both customers and employees.
Website design, SEO, social media engagement and online marketing have all become full-time jobs. Cybersecurity, disaster recovery and network maintenance are all business critical processes that stray beyond the natural expertise of most organisations. This has been made all the more complicated by BYOD policies and location-flexible working conditions demanded by the modern workforce.
The Outside IT Expert has arisen as an answer to this problem. Although they remain a minority within IT budgets, their use is growing. According to a study by Computer Economics, contracting grew as a percentage of the total average IT budget by nearly 20% between 2015 and 2017 — now sitting at 11.9%. Large businesses have experienced the highest growth. But, the expansion was seen across all sectors and sizes.
This article is a look at the particularities of IT that are driving this change, and when it makes the most sense to bring in experts to augment your in-house capabilities.
Outside IT Experts
A growing solution to complexity and specialisation.
During the late 2000s, with the increase in labour supply following the Great Recession, there was a corporate-wide shift towards bringing tasks in-house. This has changed since 2014. In a biennial survey, Deloitte has detailed the expansion of the specialist and expert economy throughout the 2010s.
This has been partially fueled by the growth of new functions incorporated within this trend — particularly facilities management and legal services. However, IT, Human Resources, Accounting and Procurement remain the dominant functions prone to the use of outside experts. In 2016, 31% of companies saw IT as an area of growth — up from 26% in 2014.
23% of companies stated that cyber risks are impacting their decision to use outside experts. Companies gave mixed responses when asked what impact they thought data protection laws would have on future plans. However, of the companies that were changing their systems to meet new requirements, a majority saw outside experts as part of the solution, not the problem.
Security is the fastest growing function when it comes to the use of outside expertise. A close second was disaster recovery and network operations. Application development, however, remains the task where outside IT experts are most often used. It is also one of the areas of greatest general expense for IT departments.
- The use of outside experts is growing
- New corporate functions have been incorporated into this trend
- Cyber risks are driving the use of outside experts
- IT application development remains the area where outside IT experts are most often used
Where Outside IT Experts Can Help You
Outside Experts are most helpful when they fulfil a function that is of vital importance to your business, but requires skill specialisations that are not core competencies. This is reflected in the economic growth trends.
The duration of the project is also important to consider. A technical but short-term project that will require less attention once developed (such as upgrading a web page or app, or expanding a data centre) won’t accrue many benefits from the challenge of building a team in-house. However, long-partnerships are also worth considering — disaster recovery, cybersecurity, data centre administration, etc.
Spot Checking Problems with Outside IT Experts
One of the most obvious times to bring in outside expertise is when something goes wrong. Your in-house team may be capable of running your system day-to-day, but woefully unprepared to tackle a fault. 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. Outside experts allow you to bring in the best people for the job at hand, solely for the period of time that you need them.
Make Procurement Decisions with Outside IT Expert Help
You may know more than anyone about your business. You may also know what outcome you need delivered. But, do you know enough about the various technical products on the market to get the best value for money when making that purchase?
Depending on the IT expertise of your business, it is advisable to bring on outside support when evaluating the specifics of making that long-term investment.
Undertake System Migrations Using Outside IT Experts
Setting up a new IT system is a short-term area where bringing in outside help can make a huge difference. IT solutions are generally much easier to use than install. Bringing in outside expertise can enable you to take advantage of IT solutions that your in-house team can run, but could not have put together.
Jump-start Development Projects with Outside IT Experts
Development projects are a focus of IT expenditure for businesses large and small. If undertaking a serious development project in-house, you will often have to consider hiring additional and specialist staff to make it happen.
Here, the longevity of the project matter. Long-term application development projects that are core to your business benefit from an in-house team’s ability tweak to the technology as you go along*.
If you are a start-up, however, with newly secured VC funding and lack the time or money to build out an entire team — using outside experts to develop a portion of that process provides you with an affordable and quick option to get your business started*.
Engage in Long-term Partnerships with Outside IT Experts
In some cases, leaving the administration of an entire system to a contracted partner may be the move you need to make to focus on the core business drivers of your company. Depending on the IT function, this can generate cost savings and/or drastic improvements in service quality.
Help desks, desktop support, disaster recovery and data centre operations all operate on an economy of scale that allows for decreased costs to individual businesses through cost-sharing. IT security, disaster recovery, database administration and application maintenance all require such specialisation that most businesses can improve outcomes through outsourcing.
Look to bring in experts when:
- Embarking on specific, technical and short-term projects
- You don’t have the time or resources to build a dedicated team
- Undertaking the procurement of new products
- Your business does not have an IT function
- Engaging in long term-partnerships for particular IT functions
Summary — bring in outside IT experts, but do so selectively with the right people.
Using outside experts has become a critical asset for businesses tackling the complexity challenges of an ever-expanding IT frontier. However, it is important to make the right choices when looking for partners.
46% of those surveyed by Deloitte in 2016 said that their main complaint about outside service providers was a reactive rather than proactive approach*. 33% claim outside IT firms lack innovation. Particularly for IT issues, it is critical to get Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that reflect the needs of your business.
Purchasing decisions for IT products can be improved through bringing in outside support. Businesses that have historically operated without a major IT function, or are looking to bring on an entirely new area of technology (such as cloud infrastructure or flash arrays) can particularly benefit from outside knowledge. A large part of doing your due diligence is bringing in people who know the technology market to assess your requirements.
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.
Another blog article on the values of bringing outside IT experts.