Are you looking for ways to minimize increases in long-term staffing commitments, yet want to position yourself for growth once the economy recovers?
Outsourcing is a great way to create flexibility while meeting current demands in the organization, particularly in small and mid-sized businesses. (Throughout the remainder of the article I’ll refer to small and mid-sized organizations as SMBs).
In trying to solve current issues, companies may create new issues by turning over their IT department to an outsourcer without oversight, or negotiating outsourcing agreements solely to cut costs. Costs escalate because normal updates or company growth wasn’t included in the contract. Perhaps the IT strategy no longer supports the business strategy.
Part-time contract programmer. Interim CIO. Off-shoring. There are many variations and implementations of outsourcing. Efficient organizations use outsourcing to:
* Fill peaks in staffing needs that are temporary.
* Take advantage of expertise not affordable or available on staff.
* Provide independent input.
* Focus full-time staff on activities that create competitive advantage.
Temporary Peaks in Staffing
It’s very frustrating when your staff isn’t busy. This situation is often created when staffing plans aim to solve peak demands rather than normal workloads.
Examples of situations where peaks in staffing can be fulfilled via outsourcing include:
* Large projects which require additional resources to complete. Once the project is complete, a smaller staff can support and enhance the system. Team internal resources with consultants so the knowledge transfer happens during the project, not after.
* A project like replacing PCs can create a significant amount of work for the network staff beyond their day-to-day support work, resulting in lengthy roll out timeframes. Hardware vendors like Dell can preload a software image before shipping so set up is simple and fast once the PCs arrives. Also consider hiring interns or students from your local community college to help.
Expertise Not Available Internally
SMBs are likely to have generalists on staff as they often cannot justify the salaries or additional FTEs that specialization requires. Using consultants can provide the best of both worlds for SMBs.
* At the technology management level, SMBs may not be able to afford full-time strategic leadership. Programs such as Part-Time CIO or Outside CIO offered by CIO consultants provide strategic insight to the executive team without full-time commitment. The Part-Time CIO can provide vendor management and IT staff management depending on size and situation.
* On large projects, an experienced project manager may be helpful as long as the person is paired with a business sponsor who understands the organization’s culture and politics – both critical to success project management.
* Technical expertise is critical when installing hardware new to the internal IT team. The internal team may also escalate difficult issues to technical experts to speed problem resolution, particularly when the issues involve business-critical systems.
Consultants can provide a fresh viewpoint. They understand risk and best practices. The best ones consider the SMB’s culture and unique business situations when making recommendations.
Audit. Just like a financial audit, an external IT assessment can give the executive team a report on staffing, processes and technology and make strategic recommendations on how to best support the business strategy and its priorities.
Change. An outside consultant who is respected for his expertise can sometimes better facilitate projects and culture change within an organization as they are unencumbered by internal history and politics.
Not sure where your business is headed and don’t want to add staff? Consider moving day-to-day support activities to an outsourcer and focusing your internal staff on new, high priority projects. The internal staff’s business knowledge and access to business leaders will add significant benefit to the projects without getting distracted with supporting the existing systems. If IT does not add competitive advantage, it may make sense to outsource all of it.
Today’s business requires staffing flexibility, competence and efficiency. Businesses cannot afford to ignore the benefits of outsourcing. From outsourcing an entire IT department to outsourcing for expertise, all organizations should consider some level of outsourcing.
About The Guest Author: Laura Pettit Rusick helps small and mid-sized businesses enable growth, reduce costs and improve efficiency by optimizing business processes and technology. For those interested in benefiting from business process efficiency projects, sign up to receive the PDF “Ten Critical Success Factors for Optimizing Business Processes”. Laura’s website is www.optsolutionsinc.com.