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IT Outsourcing: Debunking the Debunkers OR Don't bother me, I'm just the IT guy

I’m a bit gun-shy when I see the phrase “outsourcing.” So when this little piece from an IT outsourcing firm came across my desk, I was more than a bit skeptical.

It lists what it calls six myths of outsourcing and attempts to debunk each. I’ve added my own take, as a reality check. I could be wrong. The outsourcing firm could be wrong. Let’s take a look.

Myth #1: You Have to Turn Over the Keys to the Kingdom: “IT execs often believe that bringing in an outsourcing partner means turning over control of their entire infrastructure to that partner – the exact opposite of what should happen. An outsourcing provider should be an extension of your staff….”
Reality check:
Sounds nice and cozy. Still, how much control will you have over that “extension of your staff”?  Will you have service level agreements that detail exactly the level of performance, skill, attentiveness, accountability, and responsibility the provider is obligated to offer? And will they matter?

Myth #2: My Staff is so Lean Today there is No Way You Can Save Me Money: “The shared resource model that a managed services provider employs spreads highly trained resources across multiple customers …. If you have a large SAN, for example, you don’t need a level three expert on staff, but you do need that person’s expertise some of the time – in this model, you pay only for what you use.”
Reality check:
Sure, it’s nice to have a guru to call on when the going gets tough. But in many organizations, that SAN expert, when not dealing with SANs, isn’t exactly sitting around twiddling his or her thumbs—he or she is helping out with other projects.

Myth #3: You’re Taking Away My Reason for Existence: “Most IT organizations, however, are spending nearly 80 percent of their time just keeping their infrastructure up and running, something a managed services provider can do cost-effectively, allowing internal staff to get back to what they do best – strategic IT planning.”
Reality check:
So you take away that 80 percent of time spent keeping the infrastructure up and running and let the outsourcer do it. Does that really mean your department is now going to spend that 80 percent doing strategic planning?

Myth #4: You Don’t Know Enough about My Business to be of Value: “What an outsourcing partner does know is how to efficiently and cost-effectively perform the day-to-day tasks – like break/fixes and patches – that keep an IT infrastructure running and available. This means the IT staff can stop fighting fires and concentrate on more strategic initiatives.”
Reality check:
See Reality check #3 above. But note: there’s a nugget of potential goodness in the paragraph above. I’ll try and dig it out at the end.

Myth #5:  I Need Someone to be On Site: “Today, most IT support tasks can be accomplished remotely using tools that monitor and report events to a service desk. In those cases where an on-site person truly is required, an outsourcing partner can usually accommodate that need.”
Reality check:
End-users love having an on-site person in addition to responsive remote support people. However, assuming there are no language, culture, or technology barriers, location of support should indeed not matter.  (Should is a wonderful word, isn’t it?)

Myth #6: I can Choose a Provider through an RFP based on Price: “Choosing an outsourcing provider is not as simple as acquiring a piece of hardware. They all have different core services, degrees of flexibility, and levels of security and compliance that won’t be evident in their proposal.”
Reality check:
I’m with them there. Watch out if your management team goes for cheap over appropriate. Use your native sense of logic and the “what if” skills you’ve gained in the IT world and make sure management is aware of all contingencies. Yes, the danger is you’ll be seen as someone who is just afraid of losing his or her job. Yes, the temptation might be to finally throw up your hands and say “the heck with them—they made their bed, let them lie in it.” But if you’re not laid off, you’ll be the one dealing with any problems that arise if the wrong choice in outsourcers is made.

So that nugget of potential goodness that I mentioned earlier in #4—here it is: You are that sliver of intersection in a Venn diagram between the circle labeled Technology and the circle labeled Your Organization. Right now, start doing inventory about what you know about the business you’re in, whether you’re doing IT in government, education, retail, energy, media, manufacturing, finance, healthcare, hospitality, what-have-you. What gaps do you see in your knowledge about what your organization and its employees do? How can you demonstrate your knowledge and expertise as it relates to your organization’s goals?

I’m not talking about taking the IT out of the pro. I’m talking about saving your job. Your profession is going to change in the coming years—that’s the nature of the field you’re in. We're working our butts off to get you content in print and online that we hope will help you do the IT part even better. But what are you doing about it?


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