Balancing IT Chores and Fires with Long-Term Planning
3/24/15 3:34 PM iCorps Technologies
How Outsourcing Can Empower Your In-house IT Team
We get it. You have executives to answer to, team members to keep happy, and a business to keep up and running. The day-to-day IT demands often make it difficult (maybe even impossible) to prioritize long-term growth and planning. The problem is that… 3, 4, 5 years down the line, you know they’ll be looking at you again for answers - “Why haven’t we innovated? Why is our email slow? WHY are we behind? Why aren't we on the cloud?”
Unfortunately for busy businesses, it’s all IT can do to keep the lights on and put out fires, let alone think about the future.
Jonathan Crane, IPSoft’s former chief commercial officer, explains this IT conundrum in a Wired.com blog: “More than any other function in the organization, [IT] must balance the competing demands of running the business and changing the business.” 1
Crane goes on to say that CIOs are stacking the odds for inequity right from the get-go in their budget, allocating 80% of their IT spend for low-level chores and leaving a mere 20% for innovation and strategic planning.2
It only makes sense that this short-term firefighting leaves IT staff feeling stifled. As IT staff expends their productivity carrying out basic tasks such as password resets and break/fix requests, feelings of frustration grow as the time dwindles for focusing on “transformational work” (as Karl Flinders refers to it in Computer Weekly).
As new technologies and the demands of the business contribute to increased complexity of the IT environment with more to maintain and a greater need for specialized skills – it becomes crucial to reset the balance and apply IT resources where they will make the most impact on keeping the business competitive and core IT functionality performing at its peak. Attention must be paid, for example, to the business-critical functions such as backups, redundancy, and security that may be getting less attention in an IT organization that is in constant fire-fighting mode.
As more and more business leaders recognize the importance of IT planning for their overall growth, we’re seeing an increased number of strategic moves toward outsourced IT (see IT Outsourcing Choices are Becoming More Strategic). This doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing aproach. The decision of what to outsource versus keep in-house is specific to your organization – based on your unique business goals; IT workload, numbers of staff and skills, and a host of other factors. The benefits of IT outsourcing also are situation-specific. While these have been rehashed in countless blogs and journal articles, several constants emerge, including:
- Cost efficiencies (versus the cost of a FTE)
- Access to leading-edge resources and expertise
- Round-the-clock support
At the heart of the in-house vs. outsource debate, though, is understanding that IT functions – regardless of where they sit – remain your responsibility. In other words, simply handing over the reins to a managed service provider (MSP) or moving IT to the cloud doesn’t mean that those functions are no longer your problem. Success takes both commitment and effort.
If you are considering outsourcing some or all of your IT functionality, consider these influencing factors to help drive the best results:
Keep the Bar High: Delegating IT responsibilities means giving up some control. But in the end, MSPs are extensions of your team, and their performance and quality are reflections on you. Finding an MSP you can trust, and whose levels of quality and service delivery are consistent with yours is similar to finding the right employee – and critical to sustaining your company’s brand and your IT organization’s reputation.
Set the Standards: Service Level Agreements (SLAs), training, documentation, and other details help you establish the levels of quality and customer service you can expect from your vendor. These can include, for example, help desk issue escalation rules, the frequency of backup testing, issue response time, or network performance and availability.
Engage Actively: There certainly is no shortage of challenges when IT functions are distributed across internal resources and (often multiple) external IT providers. Active engagement with your IT service providers allows you to establish standards and keep them accountable for follow-through.
Just as mobility, cloud computing, virtualization, and other new technologies add responsibility and complexity to the IT environment, they also offer unprecedented opportunity, notes Crane. “The challenge," he says, "is in how IT departments manage resource capacity to capitalize on the potential.”1
Outsourcing can help.
1 [Source: Wired.com, Blog: Achieving IT Freedom with Automation, http://insights.wired.com/profiles/blogs/achieving-it-freedom-with-automation?xg_source=activity#axzz3UlEMes2nJonathan Crane, http://insights.wired.com/profile/JonathanCrane#axzz3UlEMes2nMarch, 2013]
2 [Source: Wired.com, Blog: Overcoming the 80/20 Barrier to Enable IT Innovation, http://insights.wired.com/profiles/blogs/overcoming-the-80-20-barrier-to-enable-it-innovation#axzz3V5L76EaG Jonathan Crane, http://insights.wired.com/profile/JonathanCrane#axzz3UlEMes2nMarch, 2013]
3 [Source: ComputerWeekly.com, Article: Low-Level Tasks Eat up 30% of IT Departments’ Time, Report Reveals, http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240174337/Low-level-tasks-eat-up-30-of-IT-departments-time December 2012]