Timing is everything.
How many times have you heard this phrase? If you take a moment to think about it, you can likely remember several times throughout your life (professional or personal) when timing made all the difference in the outcome.
Another saying that applies to what we’ll be talking about today goes something like “luck is when preparation meets opportunity”. Small and medium-sized business owners need to consider growth differently than other more well-established companies. Growing and maintaining revenue during growth phases isn’t a matter of luck, in fact, businesses that attempt to expand without proper planning often fall short of expectations.
There are many reasons that business growth can be stymied, but no matter the business the problem usually comes down to cash flow. So, what can be done when a business needs better performance, but doesn’t have the cash reserves to hire new staff?
This article is going to highlight some reasons why business owners should consider outsourcing IT tasks and areas that owners and managers might want to consider targeting for outsourced delegation.
Stop Fighting IT
As we highlighted previously, outsourcing isn’t a dirty word for businesses. Just the opposite, when a smart decision is made about selecting trusted vendors, outsourcing can have a positive impact on the operations of a business.
Many large companies outsource critical tasks, like customer service and even marketing. Small businesses tend to feel the relief that outsourced resources sooner than others – it’s important that the conversation is changed about outsourcing tasks and how executives view the benefits outsourced solutions provide for an organization of any size.
There are risks with trusting your infrastructure to a group of non-employees, but in our experience, the rewards far outweigh the risks (our clients agree). A common question we receive during consultations is around the timing of adopting outsourced solutions.
Generally, it’s never too early because there’s a good chance the business is outsourcing some aspect of their technology already (Gmail, Google Drive). A better question is how much an owner should consider delegating.
- Consider the economics of the business – As a member of the team, could you accurately say how much overhead is spent on IT services? How about administration? Or accounting? Understanding how all areas of business generate value is critical in the conversation about outsourcing IT services. Slow computers and outdated server technology will be sources of grief for the staff. It’s harder to quantify exactly how much potential productivity and potential revenue is being lost due to antiquated office technology. However, the cost of a new server, updated computers, or office software is easier to quantify, and it can easily exceed the budget of a small business. Outsourcing IT services can provide all the benefits of new technology with a fraction of the price tag.
- Consider the skillset of the team – Small business teams are just that, small. This provides some benefits for being nimble and implementing changes more quickly than large corporations. But this can also come at a cost of Meaning, a member of the accounting team can also be the in-house “tech-person”. This isn’t a dig at being resourceful, but in our experience, it has led to a large influx of patchwork solutions that don’t fix issues in the long-term. If the business is lacking a dedicated individual to handle technology issues for the business, bringing an outsourced resource on board is a smart choice. Not only will the common problems be fixed at the moment, but there will less instance of patchwork solutions blowing up later and causing even bigger problems. Fixing big problems later will always cost more than small issues now. If technology isn’t a businesses’ core competency, consider outsourcing it.
Tasks for Outsourcing
Hopefully, we’ve helped readers eschew the idea that outsourcing IT support is something to be avoided. But understanding where to embrace this type of support can also be confusing for business owners and IT managers stretched too thin. Not all IT support vendors are created equal and will bring different core competencies to the table.
What’s going to be best for YOUR business will depend on a variety of factors. It’s best to start with a consultation so that a vendor can get to know the business, its goals, and the current technology ecosystem. If a vendor attempts to get you to sign anything BEFORE a consultation, run the other way!
Here are some common areas that business owners or IT managers might want to consider when it comes to WHAT to outsource first.
- Infrastructure – Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a common area that an IT services vendor can provide value for a client. In general, IaaS refers to outsourcing things like hardware, servers and networking systems. While many businesses want the ability to offer employees telecommuting programs, few are set up with the proper infrastructure to do it successfully. Constructing and maintaining on-site servers with VPN capabilities is not cheap and comparing the budgets between in-house infrastructure compared to IaaS is enough to make any accountant smile (employees will be happier too).
- Cybersecurity – In this area, you can never be too careful. While business owners should take precautions to secure sensitive data on their own (employee training), outsourcing data security services from a trusted vendor can provide additional layers of protection. Not every IT vendor is also a cybersecurity expert, however, so ensuring their capabilities match what the security requirements for your business are is very important. A security audit is an excellent place to start – these provide a window into a company’s strength and weak points and how the expertise of the IT support vendor can cover those gaps.
- Future Planning – Ask 10 business owners about the vision for their company’s and you’ll get 10 well-thought-out answers. The “big picture” ideas are where these folks excel, but the “getting there” aspect can be more difficult. Especially when it comes to technology. We’ve advanced to the point where small and medium-sized businesses can take advantage of virtual executive services. Virtual CIO/CTO’s can help ensure that the current IT strategies and systems align with an organization’s goals as they grow.
An article in Entrepreneur published a bit of good advice about not going too far and outsourcing anything that helps make the company unique to customers:
Before choosing which tasks you can farm out, take a hard look at your business and determine your strengths and values. "Small businesses must identify their core competencies and capabilities and focus their own R&D, talent management and resources on being the best in their industry at these," says Marc Resnick, Ph.D., a small business consultant and director of the Institute for Technology Innovation at Florida International University. "Outsourcing any aspect of [these tasks] would be a big mistake because they would cease to offer anything that their own customers couldn't get elsewhere. So a small business that focuses on product design should not outsource anything related to developing its internal design talent or their design activities. But they should investigate all opportunities for outsourcing tangential processes like payroll services, IT and so on."
If this is the year that YOUR business takes a leap to outsourced solutions, make sure you get a consultation scheduled with the team at Continuous Networks. We’ve been helping business owners make smarter decisions about their technology for more than 20 years.