Foration’s Managing Director, Paul Weeden, discusses how IT outsourcing can provide a cost-effective and flexible solution for your business
Most people will agree with this statement: Business has changed.
People no longer work (or have to work) in the office Monday to Friday 9-5. The Cloud has made it possible to work from any device, anywhere, at any time. Whilst this is great for flexible working and increasing productivity, ensuring you can get support outside ‘normal hours’ can be difficult.
Many IT support providers (whether in-house or external) only provide ‘business hours’ support. Increasingly, this does not cover the times your business is actually operating. What happens when you are working late to get a proposal out and you need help? Or you are working abroad and the local time means it’s the middle of the night back home? How do you get help?
This is where outsourcing and co-sourcing come in. A recent survey showed that over 60% of managers regarded 24×7 support as a crucial requirement when considering any form of outsourced / co-sourced arrangement (ahead of flexibility and cost).
Co-sourcing: supplementing your internal IT team with external resources to provide additional capacity, coverage or specialist systems support.
The need for 24×7 support may be the key driver for considering an outsourcing arrangement, but there are other benefits to this approach.
Lower costs: Outsourcing enables you to keep overheads down. The average salary of an in-house IT Manager is £30-40k (plus recruitment costs, company benefits, training, holiday…). Outsourcing helps to reduce your costs to a fixed, clearly defined, monthly fee.
Outsourcing can save your business up to 30% when compared to internal recruitment.
Breadth of expertise: The skills required to look after the IT systems of today’s businesses are diverse, ranging from helpdesk support to networking, backup, security and strategy. Finding this expertise in one individual can be difficult (or expensive). The economies of scale that an outsourcer enjoys ensures you have access to a team of experts who can support all facets of your IT system.
Multiple resources, quicker resolution times: What happens when the MD and FD have an urgent problem at the same time? Who is more important? Outsourcing does away with this problem. The MD and FD can call one number to get the help they need.
Increased resiliency: Relying on a single internal IT manager or designated employee can be risky. What would happen if there is a critical failure and they are on holiday, off sick or in a meeting? Outsourcing guarantees the availability of resources, with defined service levels, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Better reliability and performance: Outsourcers, on fixed price contracts, are heavily incentivised to ensure your systems are as reliable as they can be. Every failure, outage and problem costs them (as well as you!). What this really means is that the systems you rely on to run your business are well maintained and constantly updated to ensure maximum levels of reliability and security. This regular maintenance ensures fewer failures and better performance, resulting in greater productivity for your business.
Regardless of whether you are considering outsourcing or co-sourcing, selecting the right partner is critical to ensuring a successful relationship. To help with the selection process, we have prepared a key list of questions to ask any potential provider:
- What hours do you operate? Are they going to be available when you need them?
- Does the same team provide out of hours support as in hours support? This helps to ensure a consistent service regardless of time of day and faster resolution times.
- Do you outsource to a 3rd party? If so, what access do they have to our systems and how will this affect the service? Many MSPs practice what they preach and use third parties to keep costs down. This subcontracting however can be problematic for regulated businesses which must ensure the quality standards of their entire supply chain.
- How ‘unlimited’ is unlimited support? Most providers include a fair usage cap in their contracts so it is important that you understand how theirs is calculated and over what period.
- Do you help support and fix problems of other services e.g. mobile phones, Internet connectivity etc? Check that your provider will take ownership of all issues and help drive them through to resolution. You don’t want to be stuck between a pillar and a post when something goes wrong and IT says it is Provider X’s problem and vice versa.
- ICE – Will you have a copy of the administrator passwords? To help maintain accountability and ensure reliability, an outsourcer will typically recommend that administrator access be removed from all computers. This is good practice and something we recommend regardless of in-house IT / outsourced IT. Make sure you have a copy of the administrator password for your systems which can be used in case of emergency. In the past, customers have come to us after terminating the relationship with a previous provider, only for us to discover we can’t access their systems because no one knew the password.
- What level of reporting do you provide? Most businesses ask for regular reports from the key teams such as sales, finance and HR. IT should be no different and regular reports will help monitor performance and identify any problems.
Whilst the above list is by no means exhaustive, it will help you to identify the right provider and open a dialogue for more in-depth technical discussions. Finding a trusted partner will not only improve the security, reliability and performance of your IT systems, but it will also reduce your costs and empower you to work more efficiently.