What’s your super-power, your secret weapon, your key talent, that which you are better at than anyone else? Is it security, or networking, or infrastructure? Are you the best at running your customer LOB app? Do you know your end users’ needs better than anyone else on the planet? Did you write the scripts that provision new users’ access to everything on your network? What else is there that you and your team are better at than anyone else, at which you excel? Write all of those down on a list.
Now, and be honest here, what do you suck at? What tasks are there that you wish you never had to deal with, but have to again and again? What IT workloads do you put off for as long as possible, because they are painful, onerous, and do absolutely nothing to remind you of the good reasons why you got into this career field to begin with. What are the tasks you assign to whomever draws the short straw or is late to the meeting or otherwise serves as a kind of punishment? Write those all down on a list too.
Small shops typically have one to two people who are it for the IT department. Heck, calling such a small team a department conveys more than it should considering everyone must do every job and ensure they can back up their peer when they need a day off.
Such small shops typically either do themselves or do without, because such a small org usually won’t have the budget to do anything else. Large shops have teams with specialties, and each team focuses on just what is theirs. They usually have to get together working groups or committees or cross-disciplinary focus groups to accomplish much of anything, since no one can do it all on their own. If these companies want to do something they lack the expertise for, they hire in someone who has the skills to get it done. In the middle are the medium sized businesses who have enough people to keep the shop running, and probably even have some specialists, but who don’t have enough staff or enough hours in the day to do it all. They want to do more, but can’t find a way to do it. For these, outsourcing may be the perfect answer. If you are considering outsourcing some of your IT workload, here are the things to consider.
Do what is core
Keep the core parts of your work in-house. Look at each thing, and determine what things you have to deal with on a daily basis, or those things that are so specific to your business that you couldn’t outsource them, and make sure you keep those core workloads internal. Not all of them will be glamourous or fun but if they are what keeps the lights on and the paychecks coming, you want to keep them close.
Outsource the rest
Anything in your IT wheelhouse that is commodity or utility is something you could outsource. Maybe that is email or IP Telephony, or perhaps managed WAN services or even perimeter security. It could be your customer facing website or your internal portal. Anything that is essentially the same for you as for other businesses of the same size is a good candidate for outsourcing, particularly if you don’t have the on-staff expertise.
Find the right partner
There are lots of businesses out there doing managed services. You need to find the right one for you. Personally, my experience has been that the shops that are local, and of a similar size to your own, seem to be the most personal and responsive. Your mileage may vary, especially if you are in a larger market, but meet with several of them and ensure you get a good feel before signing any contracts. Talk to reference customers, and if they don’t have any to share, take that for the red flag that it is.
Beware of long-term commitments
A lot of Managed Service Providers have reasonable contract periods or will even go month to month. Others, especially if significant infrastructure is involved, will look for longer periods of time to ensure a profitable return on their investment. I’m not saying you should never sign a multi-year contract, but you want to make sure you have a period of time in which to back out in case you are not satisfied, and that you can “quit for cause” if they don’t meet the terms or your expectations. The last thing you want to do is sign a five-year agreement and spend the last four of those years counting down to the day you can drop them.
Read the fine-print
Outsourcing means giving up control, and managed service providers are very good at defining exactly what they will and won’t do as a part of the services they provide. You must make sure you understand exactly what is and isn’t included, and what it will cost you if you must add something later. Don’t get trapped in a contract where the standard rates do none of what you need, and everything you ask for is a change request with an additional fee.
The first list? That’s the list of things you should keep doing and ensure you do more of and do better. Those are your teams key skills and you are the best there is at them. The second list. That’s the list of things you should outsource. You don’t like doing them anyway, they provide you little to know personal or professional value, but they still remain a core requirement for your company. Find the right outsourcer and hand it over to them. Focus on the good, outsource the bad, and everyone will be happier for it.