Should You Outsource Your IT Needs?

08 Jan 2014

The short is answer is yes, you probably should. However, the real answer is a little bit more complex than that. If you are the average company with the average IT needs, I wouldn't blink at the opportunity to pay another company to manage all your IT needs for you. The only problem is: how many of us are the "average" company? And how many of us have "average" IT needs? Here are some of the reasons why you might outsource, and some specific situations in which it is overwhelmingly advantageous to do so.

Focus on your core competency

For most of us, this should be a no-brainer. If our core competency is selling shoes, we're not going to hire dedicated staff to fix our customers' cars while they shop (or maybe we are, if that's how we're remarkable, but that's a topic for another day). Likewise, if we don't do IT service, we shouldn't hire staff specifically to perform IT service. If we do, one of two things will happen: either the IT person will feel left out of both the core group and fellow IT professionals, or the IT person's time will be splite between selling shoes and managing the IT resources, and turn out to be less effective at both.

Positions should be complete positions

It's difficult to suggest that you ensure all your positions are "full time" positions, because that's not the case for all jobs. However, all successful jobs have just the right amount of work for the time expected (for the right price, but again, a topic for another day). An IT person with less work than the expected time investment will get bored, while someone with more work than can be accomplished in the time allotted will become resentful. Both are dangerous. The former is a more obvious candidate for outsourcing, as outsourcing is considerably cheaper than hiring a full- or part-time employee, but the latter, while potentially more expensive than overworking an employee in the short term, is certainly less expensive than hiring an additional employee, or a replacement if the first one quits.

New ventures require new perspectives

If you're looking to do something you've never done before, you likely have very little perspective. This is OK, and is actually expected. A situation like this is the perfect opportunity to bring in new eyes and new perspectives from a third party whose focus is on the technology you're looking to introduce. Not only will you get a better result faster, but someone who has already spent the time to learn a new technology can better inform you as to what you need to know to capitalize on it.

It's not worth the frustration

There's a reason Red Hat Linux is such a profitable company, despite the fact that they give away their main software asset for free, and that's because people are willing to pay to have fewer headaches. Support contracts have a sort of calming effect on those that spend money on them, because they know that they can call someone else if it breaks. In one sense, they're not alone, and in another sense, they're not responsible. Who wouldn't like that combination?

There's a lot to IT

This is really two reasons. On the one hand, between maintaining hardware and software and keeping abreast of the security nightmares that crop up regularly, IT is really several full-time jobs (side note: in my experience, most in-house IT departments fall far short of having the "ideal" staffing numbers). On the other, developing a mobile app is a very different game requiring very different skills from network egineering. An organization requiring high throughput video feeds might find some gain by hiring a full-time network engineer, while contracting out their mobile app to a company like us. A small retail store might contract with a local IT provider, while a secretary maintains a fairly simple web site that another contractor built a few years prior. Every organization is unique and each organization's IT needs are different. Some are better provided by hired staff, while others are better contracted out.

Your Turn

Do you have an in-house IT department or do you contract out? Have you done a piecemeal approach with some in-house and some contracted? What motivated your decisions to choose one or the other? Let us know in the comments!