Definition of Outsourcing
The definition of outsourcing in the world of business, is to hire an external entity or person to provide a particular service or business process. When considering IT services, outsourcing specifically refers to the provision of products and services such as IT user support, infrastructure design, backup software, website management and cloud solutions.
Companies often outsource for the same reasons. Outsourcing the knowledge and skills of another company provides businesses with a team of experts at a fraction of the cost of having one in-house employee. Outsourcing is also very convenient for businesses that wish to avoid lengthy recruitment processes.
IT Services that can be Outsourced
IT Support – Can be given either online or over the phone, this is usually outsourced so that businesses can save money on the hiring, deployment, and training of support staff.
IT Security – Outsourcing IT security services can bring many benefits to businesses. It can decrease costs whilst giving companies access to a team of experts that ensure device software is up to date, such as firewalls, or content filtering programmes. Outsourcing security is particularly useful for organisations that trade via credit card operating systems, as the provider can make sure industry standards are being adhered to throughout the business.
Infrastructure Design – The required infrastructure is different and unique to every business. By seeking this as a service companies can get the right IT hardware and software of specific benefit to them. By outsourcing infrastructure management businesses may also see an improvement in efficiency, flexibility, scalability, and a major reduction in costs.
Licensing – By gaining licensing support from another certified company, businesses can make sure that they are compliant with the latest policies and terms surrounding crucial business software. This also includes making sure all devices owned by that company are up to date, and frees the responsibility from employees, instead allowing them to focus on business development.
Web Design – Outsourcing web design services is usually the preferred choice for standard smaller corporate design jobs. If a bigger project requires significant creative input from the customer then it is usually best to undertake these projects in-house, working directly with a specialist on an hourly basis. It may be best for businesses to define their desired results, and then determine what will work for them to get those results.
Website Management – Often provided via a content management system (CMS), the management of a website can be completely outsourced. Companies that offer this service tend to offer infrastructure and software design, development and editing, project management, backup, marketing, and hosting and cloud solutions.
Managed Print Services – Managed Print Services (MPS), is the management of a company’s print fleet and their associated components. A good MPS provider will offer reliable machines, send automatic ink and toner refills, have large teams of engineers, track printing, and sometimes offer print services, all within a cost per copy bundle.
Telecommunication Solutions – In the telecommunications industry, outsourcing refers to the provision of a business’ communication infrastructures by a third party. It may consist of networks, broadband, telephone systems, mobile phones, servicing and repairs.
Benefits of Outsourcing IT
Businesses will typically outsource a process or function that requires some form of expertise. The main benefit of outsourcing this expertise is that the company can have access to a whole team of dedicated experts at the fraction of the cost of one full-time employee.
Specifically in IT, a business can benefit from outsourcing third party IT services by removing the need for employees to fix IT issues, which instead gives them more time to focus on work towards growth for the business. As previously mentioned, having internal IT staff can be costly, and dependant on the frequency of issues, they may be unable to help everybody in good time. Outsourcing IT could save on the cost of a full-time employee, whilst still having access to an entire support team whenever it is needed.
Disadvantages of Outsourcing IT
The main disadvantage associated with outsourcing a service is the lack of control. By hiring external teams to manage a process, a business is effectively relinquishing control. This can lead to inefficiency when it comes to things like design work; without control or input, specific design preferences can be lost in translation and lead to work being re-worked. Members of staff may also have to wait for prolonged periods of down-time if they have joined a ticket queue; this is often the case for outsourcing IT partners that handle the support of lots of businesses.
What to look for in a good IT provider?
There is often a huge amount of trust placed in an IT outsourcing partner, as the third party has complete access to company data such as emails and client data, so choosing the right partner is important. The chosen partner should agree certain service level agreements and a certain number of hours of support. There is often a huge amount of trust placed in an IT outsourcing partner, as the third party has complete access to company data such as emails and client data, so choosing the right partner is important. The chosen partner should agree certain service level agreements and a certain number of hours of support.
Usually, the most basic requirement for outsourcing IT services is how readily available the provider is to speak to in case something goes wrong. When looking for a provider, the customer should always find out how reachable their helpline is; is it limited typical business working hours? Where does the call go if it operates out of these hours?It may also be important to check the location of the provider. If a company is based on the other side of the country, then the likelihood of a technician being able to arrive quickly if on-site support is required is slim, choosing a provider based nearer to your office may be more wise.
When considering an IT service provider, it is important to ensure you are choosing a business that has a wide range of talented individuals. Firstly, find out how many staff they employ (this will also let you know how long you could be in a support queue for), then find out what technical expertise they have. Awards and AccreditationsThere are hundreds of IT accreditations to watch out for, it would be best to ensure your service providers have a talent pool with a mixture of practical and academic qualifications, including:
- ITIL – The Information Technology Infrastructure Library is an extensive set of practices for the management of IT services. Making sure your provider is ITIL certified will ensure that they can manage a complicated IT infrastructure.
- Prince2 – The Projects in Controlled Environments accreditation teaches people structured project management methods using practical experience and training.
- Microsoft Accreditations – There are several certifications developed entirely by Microsoft. Ensuring that support staff are Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs) gives peace of mind in knowing that your technician has been thoroughly trained on the Microsoft products you use.
- ISO Certifications – ISO certifications are industry standard accreditations established by the International Organisation for Standardisation to ensure that a business adheres to acceptable levels of service within their industry.
Service Level Agreements
It is always important to establish agreed levels of service that can be expected at all times and particularly in times of crisis. When you are experiencing IT issues, the last thing you want to be told is that there is no one available to help. Find out how your provider raises and processes support tickets. Do emergencies get moved to the front of the queue? Is it first come first served? Is there an escalation process if you are unhappy with the technician dealing with your query or issue?
Also check the number of staff that the partner employs, do they have a well sized team that can be called upon if necessary?
Partners and Suppliers
When choosing an outsourcing partner, it may be important to determine who they are supplied by and partner with. Businesses should look for the brands that the prospective company works with, are they reputable? Well-known and established? How many do they partner with? Is there a good brand range with a wide choice of products?
Can the company provide truthful and compelling customer testimonials? Do they have detailed and engaging case studies? It is also worth asking for the contact details of the customers that provided testimonials, it would be good to get their opinion – if the company refuses to give contact details, then that in itself should raise an alarm.
IT Outsourcing for Small Businesses?
Outsourcing IT can benefit a small business by improving opportunities for growth. If services are performed externally, then employees can focus on business development, as opposed to fixing internal IT issues. Additionally, small businesses typically have small teams, and with a small number of users it would be a waste of resources to employ someone full-time. It would be more useful to outsource IT, and also have access to an entire team of experts as opposed to stretching the skills of one employee.
IT Outsourcing for Large Businesses?
In today’s unpredictable economic environment, it is important even for large businesses to consolidate services where possible and ensure business processes are streamlined, innovative, and do not fall behind the competition. By outsourcing specialist IT services such as help-desk support, website design, or website management, employees can again focus on their work, saving the overhead cost of internal IT staff, and gives creative input from a whole team of technical developers, access to the latest specialist technologies, and cutting edge solutions.