Meeting the ever-growing needs of the modern enterprise requires IT managers to make some critical decisions. One such decision is whether to retain IT service management in-house, or outsource to an expert service provider. While both approaches have their advantages, IT decision makers may also find certain limitations.
Your in-house activity can only scale to the personnel and expertise you have at hand, while agreeing an outsourcing contract generally requires a longer-term commitment where your team has little involvement in day-to-day running of IT operations.
Increasingly, IT decision makers are finding that there’s a third option that helps them find the right balance between support and control: out-tasking specific, routine IT functions to a service provider, while retaining the most valuable and specialist work in-house.
Out-tasking vs outsourcing
Outsourcing refers to giving full management of your IT services to an external service provider. This is generally done on a multi-year contract basis and means that the provider has full responsibility for managing your IT. Everything from data centre management, storage, networking and security become their concern, not yours. This approach works well for organisations that have limited internal personnel or IT skills, providing peace of mind that their IT environment is in expert hands, and they always have one point of contact if anything goes wrong.
Out-tasking, on the other hand, is more micro-segmented. With this approach in-house IT decision makers assess which specific functions they want to manage, and which they would prefer to farm out to specialists. This allows IT staff to focus on their core competencies, while handing over ‘low-value’ maintenance tasks. Examples of tasks that could be out-tasked include storage maintenance, backups, security operations and helpdesk functions.
The core difference between the two approaches is the level of responsibility your team holds over IT. Taking an out-tasking approach means your team retains full oversight and governance of the environment from start to finish, while receiving external support from multiple providers. Your staff are therefore responsible for architecting the solution to meet the business’s needs, and act as ‘project managers’ for its implementation. If IT services are failing to deliver, you have full visibility over where the issues lie and can work with providers to put everything back on course.
The latter approach is clearly a more granular and involved process than large-scale outsourcing. While not suitable for every environment, there are a number of benefits that make it appealing to IT decision makers. These include:
Maintaining oversight – Retaining ultimate control over your IT environment and day-to-day operations means your team is in the driving seat. You have a clear view of all current projects and processes so you know what needs to be done and what specific tasks require additional support. This level of oversight means your team is never at the mercy of third-parties in IT decision-making.
Promoting internal leadership – Out-tasking supports your team to take a greater leadership role within the business. IT now plays a bigger role in various aspects of business operations, such as customer service, marketing, and business analytics, so there’s demand across the business for direction on how to get maximum benefit from IT investments. By retaining valuable IT functions in-house, your team can operate with greater agility. Their attention can be focused on core operations, while using external partners to find the redundancy and scale to manage more laborious or mundane tasks. Having a clear distinction over which work produces the greatest commercial outcomes can help IT to become a source of innovation and differentiation within the organisation.
Internal skills development – The skills and expertise of a modern, successful IT team extend far beyond maintenance tasks. These skills are attained by practical management and problem-solving. Developing your internal IT knowledge and skills through hands-on management and by resolving business-critical issues will have long-term benefits for the business as well as for your team’s career aspirations.
Scaling up – Business needs can vary greatly week to week. In times of high demand you want your IT infrastructure to scale up accordingly. When outsourcing IT services you may find that the contractual terms don’t easily allow your requirements to change, limiting your ability to adapt. With out-tasking you have the flexibility over your contract with suppliers, which allows you to scale up and down the level of support based on emerging requirements.
Adapting to a fast-evolving IT landscape – IT is one of the most dynamic fields in business. The pace of change activated by the emergence of cloud computing will only accelerate as new innovations such as IoT, big data, machine learning and blockchain become widely adopted. Retaining control over IT functions means having the agility to adapt to a fast-changing technology landscape by continually adjusting your requirements to embrace new opportunities.
Making the right choice for your business – Ultimately, the decision on whether to retain all IT in-house, out-task specific functions or fully outsource your IT operations depends on your business’s needs. By being clear on what the purpose of IT is in your organisation you can better assess what functions are valuable to your business’s core operations, and which would more suitably be addressed by a service provider with more specialist skills in that area.
Adopting an out-tasking approach to IT services gives you the flexibility to decide just how much control you want to have. Day-to-day involvement means your team will build up a range of internal capabilities that allows them to better align supply with demand for IT services. They will also develop new skills in IT planning and project management, allowing you to retain the functions that make good business sense while out-tasking more routine maintenance tasks.
With more flexibility and time to focus on the tasks that matter, you can make IT the differentiator and source of innovation in your business.