IT support means different things to different companies and agencies. For a bigger business, it takes in everything from their full roadmap, growth plans and project management to the telephone system and end-to-end operations. A smaller company might not even think of their simpler requirements, such as making sure they maintain strong connectivity and can connect to printers, as IT.
They’re all unique and need different levels of support. So, the most important thing for a business to do before they think about hiring on the IT front, is to work out exactly what they need right now and what kind of expertise and IT support they’ll need to reach their growth potential.
Big, small or in-between, IT plays an important role in the make-up of every business in the UK today. Even seemingly basic functions often require a specialist skillset to create and maintain, which leads to the inevitable question – do we hire in-house resources or outsource our IT services?
There’s no doubt it’s a specialist hire, either way. When headhunting IT professionals, recruitment specialists look for candidates to be skilled in:
- Project management – essential for clear planning, regular updates, vendor management and good communication
- Quality assurance – central to developing software and systems
- Documentation – for designing clear processes, ensuring traceability and meeting regulatory compliance requirements
- Databases – given they’re at the heart of most software programmes
- Networks – because everything is connected, and understanding is key to troubleshooting
- HTML – so they can code websites
- Microsoft Office – as it’s so prevalent in the workspace
A more exhaustive list will also include:
- Programming and application development
- Experience on the help desk and technical support side
- Business intelligence and strong analytic skills
- Big data
That’s a lot to ask of any one person, or even a handful of people, but if you’re going to invest in IT as a service or pay a new employee to do the job, it’s important to hold out and get what you need, preferably in one strong package.
If budgets are tight, it’s even more important you don’t fall into the classic trap of hiring a new full-time IT guy who ticks a few of the key skills on your list, but not others, leaving you still needing to outsource to fill the gaps.
No matter how you dress it up, you’re paying twice, and you’ll have two sets of people to manage, when the aim was to make life easier.
The best advice you’ll get on this subject is to take time to weigh up the pros and cons first. Talk to recruiters, and see who’s out there. Talk to professional outsourced IT consultants and get a sense of what they can bring to the table above and beyond a regular hire.
You wouldn’t invest tens of thousands in office equipment every year without doing your homework, and services shouldn’t be any different. Look for reviews, recommendations, talk to people who’ve experience of using both, and weigh up the pros and cons.
That way, you’ll understand the risks and opportunities and can make a truly informed decision.
Weighing up the benefits
Benefits of in-house IT professionals:
- In-house IT work with your network every day, giving them time to learn its functionality and limitations in-depth.
- If employee integration is important to the core values of the organisation, in-house resources may allow a company to spend more time finding individuals who are the strongest match to the company culture.
- Downtime might be less if your in-house team are on site or on call 24/7.
Benefits of outsourced IT support:
- Operating and hire costs can be significantly reduced. Overheads will be leaner and there are no obligations like holidays or benefits. In fact, the benefits should flow in the opposite direction, allowing you to tap into things such as their buying power and vendor relationships.
- You can free up resources. If IT has been managed in-house up to now, chances are several people from across the business will have been picking up work to bridge the gap. By finding a full-time home for it, other employees will be able to focus on the job they were hired for and achieve more in their own roles.
- Expert help 24/7 means you get a trained professional to manage any IT project or issue that arises. No single hire can be expected to do everything, but with outsourcing, you’re guaranteed the best person for the job every time.
- You can reduce business risk. Outsource providers will keep pace with best practices in everything from software development to regulation and security. This means you’ll always be on the front foot and best placed to avoid unnecessary risk.
- Retention and motivation aren’t an issue. It’s a contractor’s job to keep the client happy, not the other way around, which can save the business significant amounts of time, effort and money.
- Up-to-the minute training, market knowledge and competitor insight is a given as outsourcers bring a wealth of knowledge and experience from other businesses to yours.
- Flexibility and scalability is easy if you pay for outsourced services as they’re used. Remember in-house resource needs to be paid, whether it’s been a quiet or busy month on the IT front.
- By tapping into an outsource company’s inventory, you may be able to invest less in equipment and software without risking efficiency.
There’s a lot to think about and plenty of questions you can ask to get a good picture of what the future would like with either option.
To get off on the right foot, we suggest:
- Setting clear goals and objectives, you’re crystal clear about what your business needs and the kind of relationship you want.
- Insist on project management, whatever route you decide to go down. It’s an invaluable skill and you’ll experience the downside very quickly if you hire without it.
- Be diligent, follow through on references, and encourage the person or outsource provider to prove their worth with examples of the kind of projects they’ve worked on before, and the value they added.
- Get key decision makers involved early in the process so you have the buy-in and support you need when you’re ready to take the leap.
- Stay involved. You don’t need to micro-manage anyone, but by remaining an active part of the IT conversation, you’ll be much more informed on what’s working, what’s not, and the direction the business needs to go in to continue to grow. It will also allow IT services to better align with business needs.
- Legislation coming down the tracks in May 2018, in the form of the General Data Protection Regulation, will increase the obligations of any business that uses or processes personal data, so it makes sense to include the IT solutions that can make this happen in your thinking, if you haven’t already.
- Don’t just go with the cheapest. You don’t have to spend a fortune for good IT support, but you do have to spend wisely, so make sure costs are affordable and can be justified.
pebble.it can help any business considering an outsourced service. That starts with answering your questions and helping you get a sense of what you need, so you can make decisions that will benefit your business now and in years to come.
Find out just what good IT support can do for your business by downloading our eBook on The Role of IT In Your Growing Agency: