When it comes to IT, it’s important to make sure you’ve got the right applications, an infrastructure estate that meets your company’s needs, and a robust cyber security policy to make sure you’re always protected. But who should you have looking after all this?
The role of the IT team has evolved hugely in the past few years, with businesses in every sector coming to rely heavily on digital platforms for everything from data processing and communication to ecommerce functions and marketing.
From everyday maintenance and problem-solving to system upgrades and developing next-gen tech, your IT team will be involved in virtually every step of your business output, so it’s imperative that they have a good understanding of your firm’s needs across all departments, and an eye on the future of tech.
In years gone by, there may have been a perception that members of the IT department’s main functions were fixing software issues and rebooting computers. On the contrary, your IT team will be responsible for providing and maintaining the entire infrastructure that your business runs on, as well as overseeing governance of operations, systems, digital architecture and more.
Maintaining, improving and developing the IT infrastructure is also a key responsibility; comprising everything from the network through to hardware, devices and circuitry. Issues of security and data management will also fall under the IT department’s remit, as will governing the overall functionality of digital operations for every department across your business.
When it comes to managing your IT team, different businesses and industries operate differently. Some may opt to keep personnel in-house and on-staff within the company proper, while others outsource IT operations to an external expert Managed Service Provider (MSP).
An in-house IT team consisting of company employees can have many benefits. First and foremost, being in charge of personnel hiring and HR processes means you’ll be able to handpick your team – you might prefer to hire a specialist in a specific field, for example. You’ll also be able to develop talent specifically curated for your business, which needless to say has plentiful long-term rewards. It may also be much easier to course-correct during projects, or finetune any issues you identify during IT work.
Furthermore, having your IT department based within your business itself usually means queries and technical issues can be dealt with very quickly. Depending on the size of the company, it may even be an option to hire a night-shift team to ensure 24-hour cover across IT.
With an in-house team, the executive team can control project management and work processes extremely efficiently. Additionally, since the IT department is based within your business, an innate understanding of the tasks, challenges, processes, systems and methodologies specific to your company will be extremely familiar to the team. This not only saves time in terms of briefing and training, but can lead to a more in-depth understanding of potential issues and more specific future-proofing.
Many businesses choose to delegate IT projects out to an external agency or MSP, which can have a number of pros.
Depending on the type of work the business requires overall, outsourcing to a specialist agency can be more cost-effective – rather than having to hire experts yourself, you can pay an agency rate to benefit from their experts’ knowledge and skills for a flat rate. Paying a per-hour or per-project rate can be economical than paying long-term salaries, depending on the type and frequency of work you require.
Outsourcing to an MSP can also mean access to a wider variety of expert skills from across a broader spectrum of specialities. This can be particularly beneficial for businesses with a specific project or task to work on; for example, businesses with an upcoming office move, new app launch or system transition may choose to employ the expertise of an MSP.
With all IT work and associated details (like holidays, sickness, absence and pay) dealt with by the MSP, often outsourcing can mean you save a lot of time and work on HR for your IT staff. By imposing a Service Level Agreement you’ll also guarantee defined standards of work which are easily enforced.
For larger businesses who may also have on-staff IT personnel, outsourcing for ongoing maintenance or a specific project can mean your in-house team can focus on long-term strategy, governance and architecture planning, without the distractions of additional tasks.
Ultimately, the decision on whether to keep all your IT resources in-house, outsource everything, or to utilise a combination of both methods will come down to the size, sector, projects and goals of your business.
Start-ups and very small companies often find outsourcing to be the most beneficial option. It reduces the need for office space, cuts down on costs in terms of both equipment and salary payments and also means the company benefits from all the expertise of an experienced team without having to add to personnel or in-house resources. Management of any issues and risks will be handled by the MSP on the business’ behalf.
Corporations and larger businesses will often have the manpower and resources to be able to fund and maintain an in-house IT team, without compromising on skill-level or cost efficiency. This can mean quicker response times, which for larger businesses are often crucial for productivity, as well as increased familiarity with systems, teams and software. Companies handling lots of sensitive data or with large-scale privacy concerns may also prefer to keep all IT staff in-house to mitigate any risks in terms of confidentiality and data-handling; an on-staff team also means the company has full control over personnel hiring and HR issues.
Larger businesses in certain sectors, such as manufacturing have a heavier reliance on software solutions such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software which often require heavy integration with the rest of the businesses software. This often means that an internal team is necessary, frequently backed up by external expertise.
Many larger businesses opt for a hybrid model, whereby an in-house team is responsible for strategy and development while an outsourced team works on a retainer for maintenance and troubleshooting. Equally, larger companies often choose to work with an MSP for specific technical or specialist projects, such as migrating networks or launching applications or new software.
For most businesses a hybrid solution offers the best Return on Investment (ROI) due to a mixture of internal resource backed by external experts in specific fields.