Published in The Business News on September 26th, 2022
When I started out in IT, outsourcing wasn’t really an option. Either you had internal IT, or you had poorly thought out, randomly implemented and unmanaged technology assets. It was really one or the other, but it was the nineties and technology had not yet taken over, like it is today.
As the years have passed, technology has taken over in business and now it’s a necessity. Whether we are talking about a couple PCs, an internal server environment or enterprise, cloud-based infrastructure, virtually all businesses need technology in the modern age. Handwritten ledgers are for loan sharks and the only reason anyone would WRITE a letter is to be ironic.
So, if you need technology and you don’t understand technology, how can you be sure that the technology that you have is right for you? Simple; IT people. It’s the same as anything else that you aren’t good at. You don’t do your own wiring; you call an electrician. Plumbers, hairdressers, horse whisperers… you don’t want to, or you are unable to, so you hire it out. But do you hire directly or outsource to a firm, who can provide as-needed services? Either is fine, but what and how things are done is going to make a significant difference.
In my humble opinion, internal IT is for either or both of two scenarios. The first is that you are a large enough organization to need it and to justify the cost of it. In this case, it’s a simple numbers game. X employees plus Y assets, equals Z technical person hours. Factor in the hourly cost to outsource the management and planning of, administration of and support of Z, and you’ll probably see which is right for you financially.
Scenario two is for when you need IT to always be available. If you are the type or person or organization, who frequently has problems or questions and you need help now, internal IT is your answer. There really is no firm that you can outsource to, who will prioritize your problems to the same level that you will. Whether justified or neurosis, if you need it NOW every time, you need to have your own IT people on staff.
I broke out three types of It need above intentionally. This is because you are not likely to get IT management and planning, administration and helpdesk from one person. With the right person, you may get two of three, but it’s almost impossible to get all three. Support and administration? Sure. Administration and management, eh maybe. Those three roles are just too different to assume that anyone one person can do all of them well.
For outsourcing, you have to consider those three roles and what you need. Outsourcing planning is obvious. Someone creates a plan and then there are routine check-ins to ensure plan adherence. Unless you are a major corporation, IT management is an easy outsource. In the SMB space, there will be a variable cost up front, to create a plan, then a few hours per month to review and adjust.
Administration, if done correctly is also an easy outsource. Administration of server, network and/or could resources is not a full time gig. Again, Small and mid-sized businesses don’t have enough stuff to justify anyone full time. For those businesses, we’re probably looking at four to twenty hours per month, which is hardly full time.
Support is the meat, and we will have to revisit scenario two. In virtually any SMB, support takes up the majority of IT time. Even if all of your IT is setup correctly, you still have employees and employees are where all of your risk and time reside. Culture plays a role here, as does the technical aptitude of your staff.
I roughly assume about an hour per month, per PC, when gaging support needs. That varies. Looking back at scenario two, are you the type of company or person who needs every problem, regardless of impact, addressed right now? If you do, and if you are unwilling to change that bad habit (and it is a bad habit) than hire IT and waste your money. If your business is planned and mature, your need for instant support is limited to actual emergencies and you can outsource your support.
Of course, you can always mix and match. You can have an internal support person, to deal with the day to day, but outsource the administration of your systems and planning of your technology. This is very common. Virtually any combination of internal and outsource will work, but you have to consider your needs and costs and do what is right for your business.
This topic is more complex than I have room for here. If you are on the fence or need some help, look me up. I am happy to grab a coffee and talk it through.