Businesses are always looking for ways to reduce IT spend whilst retaining or improving service levels. One common consideration is to outsource the IT function, or part of it, typically the service desk, to a service provider.
In the case of the service desk, what this means is a third party commits to deliver IT support as a complete service for an agreed fixed fee.
As delivering IT support is the provider’s area of expertise, its aim is to provide a more efficient and effective service than the existing in-house operation and hence a business can save costs without compromise to service quality.
Understandably some organisations are wary of the term outsourcing and the concept of using a service provider. There is often a perception that handing part of the business to an external company equates to losing control over it. As the service provider manages the whole service, all aspects of managing staff which includes training, recruiting and rewarding, is the accountability of the provider, even if the staff are physically located on the client’s premises. IT Managers, in particular, may see the replacing of direct line management of staff with a managed service as a threat to their position and level of control. However, by engaging with a service provider, a business can arguably have more control over its IT support function and indeed the quality of its service. Firstly, as the supplier commits to meet jointly agreed Service Level Agreements (SLAs), the business is armed with a tangible set of targets that come with contractual penalties if the service provider fails to perform. Secondly, as the day-to-day delivery is taken care of by the service provider, the IT manager is free to focus on the strategic aspects of IT, how to align it to the business and other cost-efficiency and service improvement projects.
Control through a flexible contract
Another common concern is that of becoming ‘trapped’ in a contract with a service provider, or having to pay for a service that is no longer relevant. Contracts can last several years and be difficult to modify or end. However, a service provider can be flexible, and offer a Support model that adapts with the evolving needs of its client. It is therefore, important to choose a provider that offers this sort of flexibility and is transparent in their contract with regards to this.
Who’s got more to lose?
There is also a non-contractual consideration. When a business enters a contract with a service provider, it is the service provider that takes on the reputational risk if the relationship were to end. A business can choose to end the contract if it no longer sees the value in it without too many repercussions. However, for the service provider, its client track record and references is its key competitive advantage. Therefore, delivering a great service and ensuring customer satisfaction is everything.
It’s not all or nothing
Finally, a point to appreciate is that it’s not all or nothing when it comes to outsourcing IT. There are various solutions and degrees of flexibility to suit each business, for instance, out-of-hours or 1st line support, desk-side or all of it. In summary, it is important to understand that fear of losing control should not be an issue when considering outsourcing part of your IT service, as long as you choose an experienced, flexible and transparent provider – with those all-important client references. Indeed, the decision to do so could deliver significant commercial benefits to your business. Whilst outsourcing may not be for every business, it is those that objectively evaluate it as a strategic option that are definitely in control.