Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Outsourcing IT Management Mitigates Risk

While every good organisation has an IT management strategy, it is not always possible for an SME to employ several people with the skills required to effectively manage the various elements of an organisation’s IT. An outsourced IT model will mitigate risk from a lack of skills, threat of staff turnover and budget restrictions.
Having a supervisor is all well and good when there is a problem with a PC, but such an employee seldom has the skills to assist in other areas of IT. This is the challenge for most SMEs – their view of IT is very operational, meaning there is little long term strategy in place.

In other words, an SME may spend quite a bit of money getting the basics in place, but they will seldom have considered all aspects of their IT strategy. The goal is to empower SME customers to make the right IT decisions.

There are numerous areas within IT that need to be considered; everything from servers, to desktops to connectivity needs to be taken into account. In addition, other areas of concern include the company’s expansions plans, potential hardware replacement costs, taking care of software licensing and so on.

The outsourced provider should assist clients to determine what their IT requirements are, how to plan their Opex or Capex spend, how to understand the difference between core requirements and business-specific needs and how to get operational again in the case of a disaster. It is an imperative to work together to ensure that their IT works as an investment rather than a liability and will assist the business moving forward, rather than costing it money.

In my experience a number of SMEs make the decision to do it themselves simply because they don’t have the information available to help them in making the right decisions. However, the benefits of outsourcing should be plain – moving from a Capex model to an Opex-driven one; access to a large base of skills and resources; and handing the management and strategy of your IT to an expert are among the key motivating factors in this regard.

As part of an outsource model, the service provider will offer a holistic view of the customer’s entire IT strategy. So for example, the provider should ensure that the customer has an effective disaster recovery (DR) plan in place, which is something the SME itself doesn’t always properly consider.

Using some basic mathematics can show just how beneficial an outsource model can be. For example, an SME that has a 60-user site that needs server and desktop maintenance, hiring an entry-level engineer (at around R12-15 000 per month) and a more senior engineer (at around R20 000 per month) would mean a business would be spending approximately R30-35 000 per month for a basic set of resources.

For that sort of investment with an outsource provider, an SME could have access to a network, servers, telephony and desktops as core services, as well as access to a call centre for first line support. In addition, their licensing management, backup and DR strategies would all be taken care of and backed up by service level agreements (SLAs). It would also mean no worries around staff turnover and skills upgrades. And with a large pool of resources to call on, they would have access to a greater number of skills than they could reasonably expect to employ.

Going on your own can easily lead to uncontained costs, whereas an outsource service provider is focused on saving you money while also providing you with business flexibility, ease of maintenance and simplified management.

Ultimately the goal must be to assist the SME to them make the right decisions, based on the right information supplied by the outsourced provider. The aim is to help the SME think about the things they would otherwise never know to ask.

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