Archive for the ‘IT outsourcing’ Category

What is IT outsourcing, businesses ask? What are managed IT services? And finally, what are shared services?

October 11, 2012

Although IT is now a fundamental part of the structure of a business, there is still a lot of confusion surrounding all the available management options. Search engine Google estimates there are around 135,000 searches each month for ‘What is IT outsourcing?’, 33,100 for ‘What are managed services’ and 27,100 for ‘What are shared services?’.

There is obviously a great need for clarification on the alternatives to managing the IT department in-house.

IT sourcing models

Generally, when certain business functions or operations are performed and managed by an external party, it is called outsourcing. In the case of IT support, many things can be outsourced: from the help desk to software development, from a small part of the department to all of it.

We normally define full IT outsourcing the practice of having an external provider take care of all IT support functions and operations: staff, hardware and software usually belong to the third party used, and are based at the provider’s site. This could also be located in another country or continent, taking the form of near-shoring (within the same continent) or off-shoring (overseas).

A different approach is to keep the infrastructure in-house and only outsource management and staffing to an external partner – totally or in part. When the IT department is kept in-house but completely managed by a service provider, you have a managed service. If only some staff members are managed by an external provider, like in the case where different service providers coexist in the same environment to keep competition high, it is called a co-sourced environment. Finally, managed sourcing is the practice of having some extra resources to cover for sickness, annual leave and peak in service as needs arise without having to employ contractors and going through a selection process, as these engineers are immediately procured and managed by a third party. Managed sourcing typically has a lesser supplier management framework associated with it and is suitable for quick, lower cost and high volume resourcing. This practice can lead to the supply converting into aco-sourced or managed service support service in time.

An externally managed IT support service can also be shared between a number of companies, for added cost benefits: this is a shared service, which can be especially efficient if the participating companies have similar needs and environments, and the number of those sharing is kept low. This model can also be adopted in part, limited to certain functions such as out-of-hours support or peak times.

Reasons for outsourcing

Why do people use outsourcing and managed services for their IT? There are many different reasons for this. A KPMG report entitled ‘UK Service Provider Performance and Satisfaction 2012’ shows how the drivers for outsourcing are constantly changing. If a couple of years ago the main drivers were financial – ‘cost savings’ for 83 per cent of respondents, and ‘financial flexibility’ for 41 per cent – there is now a shift towards a more holistic and strategic view of this practice. Whilst ‘cost savings’ remains very high (70 per cent) it is now followed by ‘access to skills’ for 51 per cent of participants and ‘quality improvement’ in 46 per cent of cases.

Overall, you can say that having access to skills and experience which are not present in-house is one of the main aspects of outsourcing the IT support function. Having a generally predictive cost (depending on the contract) and being able to control service quality through Service Level Agreements (SLA) are a near-guarantee for service desk cost-efficiency.

Choosing the right sourcing model

Every organisation has different needs and requirements, therefore their IT support needs to be personalised for maximum success. A pure model – full IT outsourcing or a fully managed service – can be effective for some organisations, but others may feel that a mixed model, integrating co-sourcing and shared services in their normal in-house service, works better for them.

Your service provider of choice needs to understand this and help you choose the right model for you, therefore both fit for purpose and fit for use. Having previous experience of your environment is also an important advantage, especially if IT has a strategic function for your organisation, such as in the case of banks, traders, law firms or some media companies. A thing which organisations wishing to use one of the many outsourcing solutions need to know is that the choice of service provider is as important as the choice of model.

A combination of trusted IT service provider and appropriate sourcing model is key to transform the IT function from mere business support to a business enabler. IT can then become a value-add and help organisations improve their service to their clients – with all the benefits this entails.

Ben Whitehead, Service Delivery Manager

Selling Managed Services to the CFO

August 28, 2012

It can sometimes be very difficult for IT Managers, CIOs and other Senior Managers within the business to get the CFO’s buy-in for an IT project. Many find it even more challenging when they are considering proposing a Managed Service model, where a third party manages the IT Service Desk or parts of it, taking over an in-house function.

The CFO wants to know what the benefits are, especially in financial terms: how does it save us money? What are the risks involved? And finally, why would using a provider be better than doing things in-house? Luckily, it is not difficult to show the return on investment of this sourcing solution if all the factors are accounted for.

Often, the perception in the market place is that a managed service trades in-house knowledge and control for greater cost. This is particularly the case when the organisation does not present the correct business case and/or is unaware of the true expense of its IT Service.

With this in mind, the very first step in preparing the business case for the CFO to review is consider all the financial implications of having an in-house solution. Armed with this knowledge, one can now consider the business case profile for the CFO.

The first and most tangible benefit of a managed IT service is cost. Expenditure related to managing the IT Service Desk can be extremely variable: it includes HR costs, sickness and holiday cover and training, as well as the design and implementation of new strategies and best practices to ensure service efficiency and continual improvement.

With a managed service, all of this becomes a fixed monthly cost, smoothing out the expense and providing known, quantifiable out-goings. It also lowers the risk profile of the service to the business with defined Services Metrics and the Managed service providers taking on the absence cover and staff training.

There is often a general apprehension amongst companies in having a third party take care of an internal function, particularly one that is viewed as the face of IT to the rest of the organisation. It is important to note that, with a managed service, the organisation always retains a level of control over the outsourced function, which allows them to focus on strategic business decisions, rather than grappling with the day-to-day management of the service desk.

Unlike full IT outsourcing, in a managed service the organisation normally retains ownership of all hardware and software, as well as locating the service desk within their premises rather than elsewhere. The organisation sets the Service Level Agreements (SLA) and if these are not met, there will be consequences – normally a fine and, in the long term, the non-renewal of the contract. These SLAs are constantly refined and honed as the business grows and changes.

It is easy to see that, in the end, it is the service provider that risks the most. If they fail, the organisation can find another provider or return to in-house provisioning, but they will damage their reputation and this affects their chances of getting new clients in the future.

Additional benefits include the immediate access to skill-sets and expertise which may be in short supply or not present internally. A fresh approach can result in spotting inefficiencies and improvements that internal staff are used to and don’t see any more, or alternatively are trying to cover up to defend their work and decision-making.

All in all, a managed service is a cost-efficient solution that can increase an organisation’s competitive advantage. There are different models which can be adopted: an organisation might only outsource its helpdesk or desktop support staff, the out-of-hours function, or use the provider for its flexibility in providing an amount of temporary staff for seasonal increase or holiday and sickness cover.

With the right model, tailored to the organisation’s specific needs, IT can become a cost-saver and a real value-add. Managed Services can not only support the business but also help it grow, flexing with the needs of the company and allowing the CFO to invest finances in other areas and projects without having to worry about unexpected IT support costs any more.

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Jennifer Grant, Service Delivery Manager

This article has been published on Service Management: http://bit.ly/Om1Y7r

IT outsourcing in the banking sector – what’s the big deal?

July 10, 2012

It is no surprise for those who work in the technology and banking sectors: banks often make large use of outsourcing and managed services for their IT. It is a cost-efficient solution that can help them remain competitive within the market with easy access to the best skills, technology and processes available. However, banks tend to be wary of announcing this practice to the world as they fear customers will think their personal and financial information may be put at risk, and won’t trust them with their money.

Since the NatWest/RBS/Ulster IT glitch became public there has been a lot of speculation around the origin of the issue. The banking group has tried to remain vague while focussing on reassuring their customers, while people took to online forums and social networks to make accusations towards the bank’s IT management and sourcing choices.

The banking giant was in fact accused of hiding the fact that the problem was possibly linked to their use of offshoring, as recent job ads for the support of one particular system which was thought to be the cause were found on recruitment websites in India.

But if the glitch had been caused by an in-house team member, would it have caused less of a reaction? What about an in-house IT Service Desk, but managed by an external service provider? Rather than pointing fingers at ‘outsourcing’, the real issue might be ‘bad sourcing’ or ‘bad IT management’. As this example might have shown, offshoring to save money might actually create more costs due to many factors, such as cultural differences, lack of control, different laws related to data security, and so on. A managed service, where IT is retained in-house and simply managed by a trusted third party, can be a much safer option.

Perhaps if there was more information on outsourcing, customer culture could change and they, too, could start to see outsourcing like a good thing, an improvement, a cost-efficient solution rather than a threat.

A recent survey by the National Outsourcing Association (NOA) found that 80 per cent of UK citizens believe ‘outsourcing hinders British businesses’. However, only 27 per cent of UK citizens associated ‘a local computer company providing IT support to small businesses’ with ‘outsourcing’, while 58 per cent thought ‘a bank opening a call centre in India’ was an example. This clearly means that outsourcing is mainly associated with offshoring, which is only one possible way to outsource a service or function. But there are many other, safer solutions that still use UK resources, such as managed services, co-sourcing and shared services – some even allow the organisation to keep staff in the same office.

So on one side, banks should probably be more transparent on their use of IT outsourcing, so that customers can get used to the fact that its use is quite common. It is important for bank customers to know where their data is stored, who has access to it and what the risks are.

On the other, it is important that people are being made aware of what outsourcing is, what types exist and what benefits this practice can bring. Banks should clearly explain what measures are in place to ensure their personal and financial information is not accessed, stolen or lost and why using an outsourced or managed service can be a benefit for them as well, improving their banking experience by maximising the skills and services of outsourcers.

 

Jon Reeve, Principal Consultant

This article appeared on Director Of Finance Online:

http://bit.ly/PAAeia

Shedding light on the ambiguity surrounding IT outsourcing

June 1, 2012

A recent survey issued by the National Outsourcing Association (NOA) revealed that only 27% of UK citizens associate ‘a local computer company providing IT support to small businesses’ with ‘outsourcing’. However, 58% cited ‘a bank opening a call centre in India’ as an example of outsourcing – which it is not. Clearly misunderstanding the term, only 19% of respondents believe that outsourcing could help get the UK out of recession. These findings are quite worrying at a historical moment where this practice is not only important, but often vital for a company to survive in the current market.

The outcome of this ‘Public perception of outsourcing’ survey shows how outsourcing is often confused with offshoring, which generally has a negative connotation for UK citizens. Offshoring means relocating a department, certain business operations or functions to a less expensive country abroad, typically outside Europe. If this is managed by a third party, it is technically a type of outsourcing, although not the only one. If it is still managed by the organisation, then it is not, by definition, outsourcing – just a captive offshore project. With increasing concerns over job losses in this difficult economic climate, it is not surprising that 80% declared they believe ‘outsourcing hinders British businesses’ when they only have offshoring (outsourced or not) in mind.

This necessitates explaining more thoroughly what outsourcing is and how it can help the UK economy, from SMEs to large enterprises and across all sectors. IT outsourcing in particular, when correctly and appropriately implemented, does not negatively affect business growth. On the contrary, it can help organisations operate better with a more cost-efficient and productive IT service, allowing better forecasting of operational costs as well as possible cost savings, even potentially creating a competitive advantage.

Outsourcing, put simply, is the practice of contracting out certain business functions or operations to a third party and purchasing them as a service, rather than having them in-house. This has been common practice in business for a long time, and has only recently increased in the field of IT, becoming a buzzword.

In IT outsourcing, many different models exist. A third party may be involved  in just the provision of a couple of temporary staff for busy periods, holiday cover, or just a few more skilled engineers to take care of a new technology or a particular project. The outsourcing service might only cover a portion of services such as database, server or email management, or just the out-of-hours IT support. An outsourced or managed service can be shared between more than one company (shared service) or just dedicated to one.

The IT outsourcing type or model depends on factors such as scope, needs and level of control. An IT Service Desk is fully outsourced when the department is completely managed by a third party, and is set on another site to the core business. This could be in the same city, country or abroad – the term ‘nearshore’ outsourcing indicates that it is close to home, which could include other countries in Western and Eastern Europe, while ‘offshore’ normally means far away, in countries like India, China and Brazil. An organisation could choose to only outsource certain functions, for instance 1st line support or Server management. A managed service, instead, is when the Service Desk or part of it are managed by a service provider, but on the client’s site – with staff normally being transferred into the other company with the same conditions and rights through the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE). The presence of various IT staff employed and managed by more than one organisation (some in-house and some by one or more service providers) creates a co-sourced environment.

Although many types and models exist, they all have the same benefits in common: IT outsourcing is a way to gain immediate access to skills and expertise that might not be present internally, even just for a period or the hours needed. It is cheaper than doing it in-house, as the expenditure would be at a fixed cost and not variable, including any training and management costs that are necessary to meet the targets set. It can add value to the company: with sector experts taking care of one particular area of IT or all of the Service Desk, the organisation is free to concentrate on more strategic tasks and on their core business, including fewer day-to-day management worries, and more time released to focus on improving their organisation.

By increasing the awareness of what outsourcing truly is and what it can do for businesses, UK citizens can understand how big an opportunity this is to help the British economy in these difficult times. The fact that the practice is increasing every year among businesses large and small is a clear indication that more and more organisations are seeing value in outsourcing – the trend will definitely not stop!

Jennifer Grant, Service Delivery Manager

This article is on Sourcing Focus: http://bit.ly/KPtysb

Shared services: a problem shared is a problem halved

May 1, 2012

A problem shared is a problem halved’ – This idiom generally refers to a person feeling better simply by sharing their woes with another, and most of us would agree that this phase is more often than not, very true.  From an IT perspective, this common saying is profoundly relevant when applied to Shared Services, and in more ways than one.

To make my point, I would draw on three words from this old saying:

  • Problem
  • Shared
  • Halved

IT support typically addresses the day-to-day, on-going management of ‘problems’.  In fact, a more popular (best-practice aligned) word these days might be ‘incident’ or ‘fault’.  Whatever they’re called, IT problems are an inconvenience to all businesses, are a distraction from the business’ core competency and interrupt the effected users from their work.  Furthermore, such problems do not contribute to the successes of the business, and worst still, are a costly overhead.

In this context, ‘shared’ has a double meaning.  By engaging with another to share your troubles, the weight of that trouble is somewhat lifted.  This, in itself, is welcome relief.  But ‘shared’ can also form part of the solution if an IT Shared Serviced is properly considered as an alternative to managing problems, incidents or faults, in-house.

Halved’, not be taken literally, is a reference to the measure of gain achieved by sharing the problem.  Use of a shared service can (and should) lead to a measurable improvement in service and reductions is cost.

As a result of the recent economic downturn and period of unprecedented financial uncertainty, providers of shared IT services have had to become very, very good at what they do.  Without stepping up to the mark, and indeed, extending the mark, IT service providers would simply slip by the wayside (and many of them have).  It is, therefore, a good thing for businesses that IT service providers have been forced to compete so aggressively with one another because it has led to new levels of service excellence and reductions in cost.

So, by referencing (for one last time) the proverb – ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’, businesses do have a chance of sharing the burden of IT support with others who are better placed to manage it whilst at the same time improving on service and reducing cost, but only if they are willing to consider the possibility of outsourcing their IT support needs.

Jon Reeve, Principal Consultant

Visit Plan-Net‘s website and learn more about what we do and how we can help your business: http://www.plan-net.co.uk

NEWS: Plan-Net expands UK’s only 24/7/365 shared, legal-dedicated IT support service

April 17, 2012

News release – for immediate release

17-04-2012

Service Provider Plan-Net Plc. is extending its unique 24-hour legal-dedicated IT support service to include more clients. After successfully running it with selected organisations for a period of time, the shared service is available to a limited number of City law firms.

Plan-Net’s central London legal-dedicated service centre caters for all of the requirements of a modern law firm; 24-hour availability, including weekends and bank holidays, high levels of customer service and security, high response rates, specialist knowledge of legal technology, and global reach.  The service is also modelled to align with each client’s individual IT support operations.

Plan-Net are restricting the number of firms that can participate in order to maintain quality levels of response, fix-rate and customer service.

Richard Forkan, Director at Plan-Net, said:

“Speaking to our clients in the legal sector over a number of years, it has become clear that a gap in the market exists for a legal-dedicated service that can meet the unique requirements of this sector.

With law firms under increasing pressure to maximize chargeable hours, the need to keep fee earning lawyers productive is not just limited to standard working hours.

We’re also seeing more and more UK law firms expand internationally and specifically in the middle and Far East requiring IT support to be truly 24/7.

The only options available to law firms in the UK at the moment are either to invest in their own in-house out-of-hours capability, which is a huge expense, or use a generic service which doesn’t accommodate the unique service models, applications and customer service requirements of individual legal firms.

Our legal-dedicated service has been built in specific response to the market, combining the cost savings of a shared service with the specific expertise and service levels needed in the legal sector.”

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Notes to the editor

  • There are limited places available in the Shared Service Centre. Law firms that are interested in participating should contact Plan-Net on 020 7353 4313 or send a message through this Contact Us form: http://www.plan-net.co.uk/contact-us
  • About Plan-Net

A specialist in transforming IT operations into high-performance, cost-efficient platforms for business success, Plan-Net is the service provider of choice for organisations in need of a tailored solution to suit their specific needs. Its focus on achieving high levels of availability, capability, response and customer service benefits clients demanding tangible competitive business advantage from their IT.

Plan-Net’s Support and Consultancy Services have helped clients enhance IT performance, flexibility, security, cost-efficiency and user-productivity for over two prosperous decades.

Website: www.plan-net.co.uk

Blog: https://plannetplc.wordpress.com/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/PlanNetplc

  • Press contact:

Samantha Selvini

Press Officer, Plan-Net plc

Tel: 020 7632 7990

Email: samantha.selvini@plan-net.co.uk

Focus on 2012: 5 key areas in Enterprise IT

December 19, 2011

According to the industry analysts, experts and professionals, some of the changes and novelties introduced in the last few years are set to become actual trends in 2012. Influenced by the ever-challenging economic climate, disillusioned yet careful outlook on industry best practices and need to obtain measurable efficiency from any IT project, these are the five key areas that will acquire growing importance next year:

1)      Larger use of non-desktop-based applications

This is due to of a growing need for mobility and flexibility. Users need to be able to work while travelling, from any desk or office (for instance, in the case of large/international companies) and from home, as home-working is growing due to the financial benefits involved. It is also a good choice to guarantee business continuity in the case of unforeseen circumstances such as natural disaster or strikes which leave the workers stranded or unable to reach the office. As well as cloud applications, virtualised desktops are becoming a must-have for many organisations. Companies with older desktops which need updating anyway will find this switch more financially convenient, as well as those which have a large number of mobile users which need to access applications from their smartphone or laptop while out of their main office. It can also give those organisations considering or embracing home-working more control over the desktops, as they will be centralised and managed by the company and not at user level.

2)      Larger use of outsourced management services

The ‘doing more with less’ concept that started to take grip at the beginning of the past recession has translated into practical measures. These include handing part or the whole of the Service Desk to an external service provider which, for a fixed cost, will know how to make the best of what the company has, and provide skilled personnel, up-to-date technology and performance metrics. Managed services, IT outsourcing and cloud services will become even more prominent in 2012 and the following years due to their convenience from a practical and financial point of view. With the right service provider, the outcome is improved efficiency, less losses deriving from IT-related incidents and more manageable IT expenditure.

3)      Management plans for ‘big data’

There is much talk around the current topic of ‘big data’, which describes the concept of the large amount of varied data organisations have to deal with nowadays. There are some practical issues that arise from this – mainly how to store it, share it and use it, all without breaching the Data Protection Act. However, at the moment it is still very difficult to understand how to take the next step: using this data strategically and to create business advantage. This is something companies will have to look at in the years to come; as for the next year, they might just concentrate on dealing with data safely and efficiently, possibly storing it on a private virtual server or using public cloud services.

4)      A more balanced approach to security

This new approach sees the over-adoption of security measures dropped after the realisation that it might affect productivity as it may cause delay in carrying out business operations; it could also diminish opportunities that are found in sharing data within the sector to allow organisations to improve and grow; lastly, it can be counter-productive, with employees bypassing the measures in place in order to make operations quicker. Although being compliant with on-going regulations is becoming vital, there will be more scoping and tailoring than large technology adoption. Organisations will be analysed to understand which areas are in need of security measures and to what extent. This way, heavy security measures will be applied only to high risk areas rather than throughout the whole organisations, with less critical areas able to work more freely. In this approach, risks are balanced against efficiency and opportunity and the end result is a tailored solution rather than a collection of off-the-shelf products.

5)      Less budget control

Due to the challenging economic climate, other departments, in particular the financial department and therefore the DOF, will have more control over IT investments. CIOs and IT Managers will have to be able to evaluate if their IT project is necessary or just a nice-to-have, and how it can bring business advantage.  All proposed IT investment will have to be justified financially; therefore, it is important to analyse each project and find a reasonable ROI before presenting it to the finance decision-makers. This implies that IT professionals have to learn ‘business talk’ and manage to translate difficult technical descriptions in business terms.

All in all, developments within IT will not come to a halt next year – investment and changes will continue but with a more careful outlook and a stronger focus on efficiency, safety and Return on Investment rather than on following trends or adopting the latest technology for the sake of it. Because of this, the difficult economic climate could also be seen as a good thing: organisations make wiser and far-sighted choices that will create a solid base for any future decision that will be made when times are less tough and spending capacity rises, increasing the efficiency potential of IT for business purposes.

Tony Rice, Service Delivery Manager

NEWS: Plan-Net wins 5-year IT outsourcing deal with Davenport Lyons

October 31, 2011

IT Services provider Plan-Net plc have agreed a 5-year IT outsourcing contract with the west end law firm Davenport Lyons.

Plan-Net will provide Davenport Lyons with a new virtual infrastructure and 24/7 support delivered from an onsite team and dedicated legal IT support centre based in central London.

Plan-Net Director Adrian Polley commented:

‘We are extremely pleased to be adding Davenport Lyons to our growing list of legal clients and look forward to delivering the high levels service required in this sector.’

  • For more information contact:

Samantha Selvini

Press Officer, Plan-Net plc

Tel: 020 7632 7990

Email: samantha.selvini@plan-net.co.uk

  • About Plan-Net

A specialist in transforming IT operations into high-performance, cost-efficient platforms for business success, Plan-Net works with clients of all sizes and needs to help them maintain high levels of service while still meeting demands for a reduction in IT spending.

Plan-Net has helped to enhance performance, flexibility, security, cost-efficiency and, ultimately, user productivity at clients large and small over the two prosperous decades of its existence.

Website: www.plan-net.co.uk

Blog: https://plannetplc.wordpress.com/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/PlanNetplc

The GLOCAL IT Service Desk

June 27, 2011

‘Stay local, act global’ is the new mantra for IT departments

With companies becoming increasingly international and IT support more and more remote, the IT Service Desk finds itself dealing with a user base that often extends to an EMEA or global level. The idea of outsourcing to a service provider seems now more than ever a convenient and cost-efficient solution to many organisations – in fact, the IT outsourcing industry in the UK is now generating over £40 billion a year, accounting for 8 per cent of the country’s total economic output, an Oxford economics research recently revealed. Delegating management of the IT Service Desk allows companies to focus on their business whilst leaving IT-related matters such as Incident, Problem and Request management with their associated headaches – to the experts.

It is, however, wrong to think that a ‘global’ desk has to be based in India, China or Poland. Such an off-shore or near-shore solution might not be safe enough for those companies which need to keep a high level of control over the data and IP processed by their IT system, such as those in the financial, legal and public sector. But an outsourced Global Support team does not actually have to be physically located abroad – the service just needs to be able to reach offices and branches across the world, which surprisingly can be done even from Sevenoaks, London or from your very own headquarters.

In addition to this, choosing a managed service rather than a fully outsourced solution can prove an even better arrangement. In fact, whereas with full outsourcing and offshoring the level of control over the IT department can never be full because the whole infrastructure usually belongs to the provider, a managed service can provide a safer solution for those organisations which are very careful about security, such as those whose very sensitive or precious data cannot risk being stolen, leaked or lost. Many companies simply see value in knowing the people responsible for assisting their business.

Although a solution which is 100% safe does not exist, retaining ownership of the infrastructure and keeping the Service Desk in the office or near the premises means that there is a lesser risk of data security issues getting out of hand, being reported too late or being hidden. By using a trusted provider and retaining a certain level of control over the department, the chances of a security breach are therefore minimised.

A Gartner research published last month revealed that IT outsourcing is increasing all over the world: global IT spend by businesses increased 3.1% in 2010 amounting to $793bn, a slight rise from the $769bn that was spent in 2009. This shows that the market is slowly going back to pre-crisis levels of 2008, after which it fell by 5.1%. Companies are spending more even if the economic climate continues to remain uncertain and the fear of a double-dip recession is still in the air – clearly they believe IT outsourcing is worth the risk, and this could be because of the flexibility it allows them to have.

Some Support solutions, in fact, enable organisations to increase and decrease the size of their IT Service Desk according to need. This could not be so easily done within an in-house service: engineers would have to be kept even when not fully utilised, meaning inefficiency occurs, made redundant during low service needs or made to work harder and longer at peak times. If we apply this to a global scale and the implication of different employment law for each country, it gets unnecessarily complicated.

A Support services provider should be able to add and take out engineers and move them around flexibly, and some even have a multisite team hired expressly to go where needed at short notice within the provider’s clients. With this level of flexibility, the ties that bind organisations to providers can be more an advantage than a disadvantage during global expansion or difficult and rocky economic times.

Martin Hill, Head of Support Operations

IT Support: grow-your-own or buy organic?

May 12, 2011

IT support staff are for many companies what vegetables are to your body – essential elements for efficient functioning and critical to avoid major failures. Exactly like cultivating your own greens, having an in-house IT team may give you a sense of trust and control unlike other solutions. However, it is also expensive and time-consuming, therefore not always convenient.

A ‘home-grown’ solution may suit larger organisations that either have the need to train analysts to use their self-developed software, have security or strategic reasons to have total control over the IT department or have the resources (financial, human and time-related) to train and manage a large IT personnel base – although this is quickly moving away from the norm for even these sizes of business.

Other organisations, smaller and more prone to seeking cost-efficiencies even outside of the office, might find an outsourcing or managed service solution more suitable. Of course, getting engineers from a service provider is like getting veggies from a market stall or through online shopping – it is generally easier and cheaper, but the risk is that they are not trustworthy. The engineers provided by a third party are completely out of your control: you don’t know where they come from, if they were trained correctly or if they will harm your company by stealing data.

But this might not be a huge problem for small companies for which IT is not strategic. A full outsourcing or offshoring solution could suit organisations which do not need engineers with very specific knowledge or strict SLAs and for which data security is not a major issue. However, companies which do need security and efficiency, but also to cut down cost and access expertise they lack internally, would need a solution that merges control with delegation.

Going back to the vegetables metaphor, to balance the need for quality and reliability with the desire to delegate cultivation and management, you would probably go to a trusted organic greengrocer’s, where products feature quality labels, PDO and organic certificates, and a reliable, experienced source.

It is in fact important to carefully choose a support provider that can meet your specific needs, with certified, trained and up-to-date engineers able to meet targets measured through KPIs. Managed services, moreover, will allow the organisation to keep some kind of control over the IT department while leaving its management to the experts.

All in all, there isn’t one best choice: an organisation might find advantage in keeping the department in-house, having a co-sourced solution or outsourcing management or the whole department to a third party. The important decision is to choose carefully based on the organisation’s features, needs and goals so that IT can be used as part of their overall strategy for business success.

Pete Canavan, Head of Support Services

This article has appeared on Computing magazine and Computing.co.uk: http://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/opinion/2069345/support-grow-organic