In-House or Managed IT Services is the Wrong Question
If you’re looking at your options for IT support and asking yourself if you should go with in-house IT or managed IT services, you might be asking the wrong question. A better question to ask would be: How should we staff the IT function of our business so we have the right capability in our IT department?
The reason why this may be a better question is because gaps in your IT capability can create roadblocks that stifle your business success.
What Does a Comprehensive IT Department Look Like?
There are generally six different disciplines that need to be included in an IT department to cover all of your technology bases.
- Technology Strategy
- Cyber Security & Centralized Services
- Backup & Disaster Recovery
- Proactive Maintenance & Monitoring
- Help Desk/Reactive Support
- Project and Architecture Services
In-house IT: Whether you have one, two, or five internal people, they’re going to have to wear more than one hat in order to cover every discipline. Technology evolves at a rapid rate, so staying up-to-date with knowledge and training is a part-time job itself. When issues arise in areas where your people don’t have deep knowledge, they may not be able to get to the root cause, or if they do, it will take a lot of time and experimentation to find the solution.
Managed IT Services: When you resource your IT department with the right managed IT provider, you get every expertise. If you have an issue, chances are good that someone on the managed IT services team will have the knowledge and experience needed to find a solution. In addition to expertise, the team could have more sophisticated tools at hand that help them prevent problems, and respond quicker when issues do arise.
How Talents and Personalities Play Out in Your Team
You probably picked your profession because it suited you. There were aspects about your personality and your inborn talents that made you gravitate towards certain jobs and away from others.
The same is true with people who work with technology. What’s more, different disciplines in IT attract specific personalities.
In his book, “Do IT Right”, Accent’s founder Marty Kaufman talks about staffing an IT department being similar to a baseball team. Each person has been selected because they’re good at their position, which is a result of training and talents. If they sent anyone other than the pitcher to the mound, that person might give it a try, but they’re just not going to live up to the expectations that you have for the designated pitcher.
In-House IT: When your team is small, you’ve always got someone playing a position where they’re not an expert. Furthermore, people will naturally focus on what they’re good at and what they enjoy, so some tasks are inevitably going to get pushed to the back burner.
One key capability that is usually missing is strategic leader. That’s like fielding a baseball team without a pitcher.
Managed IT Services: Every base is covered with your managed IT services team. Different personalities complement each other, and have greater effect on results when combined. For example, successful implementation of new technology is a combination of the efforts of the IT strategist, the security specialist, the technology architect, and on the day you flip the switch, the reactive support expert.
In-House vs. Managed IT Services Cost Comparison
Imagine that you had one person covering each of the six IT disciplines mentioned above. That would be six full-time positions that you would have to cover. That’s six salaries, and six benefit packages. Don't forget training and professional development for six people.
In-House IT: It’s just not practical for most small businesses to have an IT team of six. First of all, it’s not affordable, and second, you probably don’t need a full-time person for each role. Another factor to consider is turnover. You won’t just have to find a way to ramp up your new person in the role, you’ll have to continually work on your pipeline for new talent.
Managed IT Services: You get each discipline in the amount that you need. Not only that, it’s easy to scale up or down as your business grows or your operations change. Executives who are used to paying for a team of one or two people can see cost savings right away as they move to managed services. Turnover is no longer your problem.
In-House IT & Managed IT Services: In some cases, a combination of In-house IT and managed IT services makes the most sense. This usually means that an internal IT person handles the reactive support and support for any special applications (such as an ERP or EMR system), while the managed IT services team takes care of the areas where the internal person doesn't have the expertise or time to do those tasks. The cost here is usually reasonable as well, since the cost of the managed IT agreement would go down based on the services being provided, and the companies typically have a limited IT staff on payroll in this scenario.
The Result of Asking the Right Question
Businesses that rely on technology need access to expertise in all areas of IT in order to assure that technology is not slowing them down. The consequence of gaps in IT capability shows up in all departments and in business results. As your technology goes, so goes your business.
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About Courtney Casey
In an industry dominated by men, Courtney Casey, Director of Marketing for Accent Computer Solutions, Inc., is making her mark on the world of information technology. Courtney has been immersed in the IT field most of her life and has been molded into the tech savvy expert she is today. She began working for Accent while earning her Bachelor's degree from California State University, Long Beach. Known in the Inland Empire as the "Tech Girl," Courtney is a regular columnist for the region's newspaper of record, The Press-Enterprise. Her columns address topical news trends, new technology products, and offer advice on how to embrace technology or avoid common IT pitfalls.