Choosing an Effective IT Outsourcing Partner
Hiring an IT Outsourcing Partner might seem like a tough decision and more so if you take into consideration that the wrong software partner could cost you time and money. That being said, there are some criteria you can take into consideration to make the decision easier and make sure you pick the right partner. In this post, we’ll touch on the benefits of IT Outsourcing, what you should look for when outsourcing, and some of the risks you should keep in mind when outsourcing your IT tasks.
What Is IT Outsourcing?
As we know, IT Outsourcing is the practice of acquiring information technology services and resources from outside your organization or company not only to help your business’s bottom line, but also to make processes more agile, or get outside expertise you can’t get locally. In the past years, many companies have turned to outsource for IT staff augmentation when they have tasks that require more sets of hands than they have available.
Nowadays, IT outsourcing is viewed as a collaboration between the hiring company and the IT service provider as it’s really important to be on the same page and communicate effectively to have the best outcome, so defining your goals for your IT provider is key to having a productive business relationship.
Benefits of IT Outsourcing
There are many benefits to IT outsourcing, such as the expertise you can get from outside providers, the cost-effectiveness of not having to hire and train an employee, or depending on the size of your operation, employees, or even the scalability for when your business grows or when you have a particularly busy season. Let’s go a bit more in-depth and learn how these benefits can help your organization:
One of the greatest reasons to outsource your IT efforts is the broad range of expertise you can find outside of your area. Nowadays expertise can be found anywhere, and it just makes sense to find the best people that will do the job in the best way possible, no matter if they’re local to you, if they’re in another state, or even in another country altogether. A good IT partner should make sure they have the best people and keep an eye on team development to meet your business’s needs.
Cost-effectiveness is another reason why IT Outsourcing just makes sense. Hiring a whole department to take care of all of your needs can blow up your costs by several thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the department, but finding the right software partner can really help you cut down on costs while having the best team in place to meet your needs.
Outsourcing your IT needs also means you can scale your operation much easier and quicker than if you did it all yourself. Maybe your business growth can’t keep up with an in-house IT team, or maybe you’re at a stage of team development where it just makes sense to scale up. Having an IT software partner means being able to scale up at a drop of a hat, without it cutting into your company’s bottom line, and allowing you to focus your resources and time in other areas that you might find much more profitable like operations or marketing.
Before Choosing a Partner, Outline Your Goals
Setting goals for any business relationship is key for it being productive. So before you start looking for an IT Outsourcing Partner you need to sit down and decide what matters most to you in your deliverables. These goals can encompass everything from accuracy, to timeliness, to quality. Ask yourself what’s most important for your organization to work properly.
One way of setting attainable goals is using the SMART framework. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based which can help you be clearer with what you expect from your partner.
- Specific: A specific goal helps you plan effectively.
- Measurable: Having clear evidence you expect to receive to see progress and decide if the task needs to be reevaluated.
- Attainable: Make sure that the goal can be done in a reasonable timeframe.
- Relevant: Making sure that the goal aligns with your long-term objectives.
Example of a SMART Goal: “We want 10% less IT Complaints in Q3.”
Setting SMART goals with your software partner can help you avoid unnecessary back and forth for your projects.
What to Look For When Outsourcing Your IT Tasks
There are five important aspects to look for when outsourcing your IT Tasks. Think of this process as interviewing someone for your team, you need to know what their experience is like, what technical expertise they have, you’ll probably look at references and their track record with other companies, and finally, you’ll probably have a part of the interview to evaluate how compatible they are with your work culture. All these aspects are crucial when choosing your software partner, let’s tackle each one of them.
First and foremost, you should look for industry experience, looking for a partner that has experience in IT, but also in your industry will know better what your company needs as every industry has different characteristics.
Looking at their experience in your industry will also help you decide if they’ll be able to handle the processes in place for your business. A way to assess this is by asking how many projects they’ve worked on in your industry, how many were successful, and inquiring into the experiences of the project manager that will be in charge of working with you.
Technical Expertise and Communication
Secondly, technical expertise and the ability to communicate it is key to having the right software partner. Technical expertise will ensure you that the partner in charge of your company has accreditations in project management, as well as quality control, as they will be in charge of tracking and managing projects.
Your partner will also be in charge of communicating technical details clearly as they’ll be tasked with creating a plan, executing it, and showing results for your business, and it’s important that you’re in the loop every step of the way. It’s also key you set clear channels of communication from the beginning.
References and Samples
Make sure you get references and samples of previous work, this is not only for your peace of mind. Your IT Partner will be managing your businesses’ most sensitive information, so they should be vetted properly and this includes getting references of past clients. This is also a good moment to ask about obstacles the past clients had with the potential service provider.
Another way of assessing your potential software partner is by looking at past work samples. This might look like a demo where you can see their processes, or a case study detailing a project they tackled in the past. With this, you’ll be able to take a look at the quality of past work, and decide if it will meet the needs of your organization.
Communication and Cultural Compatibility
Often overlooked, communication and cultural compatibility is key to getting a partner who is not only easy to work with, but effective. Taking into consideration everything from time zones, to work culture, to communication styles is relevant to have a productive partnership.
Working with people overseas isn’t impossible, but your software partner needs to make sure that there’s overlap in working hours for both parties so that needs are met in a timely manner and when it makes sense for your business as not having someone who to communicate with during working hours can at best be cumbersome and at worse make you lose money.
If working with people overseas seems too challenging for your organization, there’s also the option of nearshore software development where the main characteristic is the location. Nearshoring means seeking the services your organization requires outside of your country, but in neighboring countries and regions. This assures you fewer problems with time zones and you’ll work culture will probably be more akin to yours because of proximity.
As mentioned above, you’ll need to set clear channels of communication from the beginning, so have a discussion with your potential IT partner and decide what types of communication channels you’re comfortable with, it would be by digital channels like email, messaging systems, ticket systems, or even by phone.
Once you have an assessment of every point mentioned before, it’s important you establish what costs will look like if you hire this software partner. Asking for a flat rate is the best way to avoid hidden costs, but each provider is different, so ask about the plans and get a detailed quote so you’re aware of the costs you’ll have to keep track of like staff training or project implementation.
What Are the Risks of IT Outsourcing?
As in any decision, there are some risks to IT Outsourcing, three of the most important ones are partners that have inexperienced staff, partners with outdated tech skills, and hidden costs that can damage your business’s bottom line. Keep an eye out for them when deciding.
One of the biggest risks companies encounter when outsourcing their IT tasks is realizing that there is inexperienced staff on the other end of the deal. At this point, you might want to run in the opposite direction and hire an in-house IT team, but keep in mind that your best tool against this is vetting your partner’s industry expertise and technical skills. This is the best way you can avoid hiring a partner that won’t meet your company’s expectations.
Outdated Tech Skills
Another common issue companies can come upon is the complete opposite of an inexperienced staff is a very experienced staff, but with outdated tech skills. This is common when hiring unreputable IT Partners. It might mean that your potential partner isn’t enough in training their resources to the newest protocols, or worst-case scenario doesn’t care about investing in training.
This is one of the biggest red flags out there. Tech can change in a minute and a good IT Partner will be on top of the newest software, the latest security threats, and the best practices to protect your systems. So you might want to look into companies that are open about their certifications, like a Gold Microsoft Partner.
Lack of Communication
When you have an in house IT team, solving problems might be as quick as walking over to someone’s desk to look for help, but how do you manage this when your IT partner is not only not in the same building as you, but maybe doesn’t even share time zones with you? This is why setting expectations in communication is so important from the get-go. You need to feel safe in knowing that when some problem arises, there will be someone at the end of the line ready to assist you.
To avoid this, other than setting expectations, you should look for a team that is responsive, that fixes problems quickly, and where you can reach out to someone over the phone if needed. There’s nothing worse than an IT team that doesn’t respond when you need to figure out some issue ASAP.
Lastly, one risk that can really hurt your operation are hidden costs. Think of things like extra charges for support, fees for hardware maintenance, software updates, or even extra costs like working on holidays, or weekends. Make sure you’re aware of these types of costs so it doesn’t come as a surprise when you get an invoice that doesn’t look at all like the figure you were set on.
To Sum Up…
Finding the right IT Outsourcing Partner deserves careful consideration. Outlining your goals, paying attention to their expertise, looking at past projects, how well they communicate, their upfront and hidden costs is the best way of finding a partner that will meet your expectations. Even if it’s a process that deserves your full attention, and might take up a bit of time to find the right software partner, it can pay off big time in the future.