Over the years we’ve worked with quite a few high-growth companies that developed past their single-person IT company and their in-house DIY (Do-IT-Yourself) employee, both affectionately known as the “IT guy”. I asked them, “What is the value of outsourcing your technology to an IT firm versus having a single ‘IT guy’ handle it?”
Below I’ve summarized their responses to this question (in no particular order):
- Team with Multiple Hands (and Brains) – One of the most obvious benefits of outsourcing to an IT firm is having multiple people to tackle projects, put out fires, and to strategize about the big picture. Wouldn’t it be nice if IT issues happened sequentially and were spaced out over time? Per Murphy’s Law, we know what can go wrong will go wrong, and usually all at once! When this happens an IT guy usually can’t keep up. However, a good IT firm can dynamically scale as needed for troubleshooting multiple technology issues, or for big projects like moving your office, and do this all at once.
- Range of Expertise – An IT guy may have a fair range of experience, but like any solo person, he will have his strengths and weaknesses. Also, he may not want to perform certain types of work because it's “beneath him” or possibly “over his head”, and you’ll find some potentially large gaps with your IT support. With an IT firm, you’ll get the entry level IT professional, network administrator, subject matter expert (like HIPAA or cyber security), CTO (Chief Technology Officer), plus others, usually for the price of a single hire. This range of expertise provided by an IT firm ensures your needs are taken care efficiently; using the right person to fit the task at hand and making sure all of your IT needs covered.
- Responsiveness & Efficiency – Ever had to wait for your IT guy to come from one of your remote offices across the state to look at your problematic server? Because a good IT firm has multiple hands to do the heavy lifting along with the expertise you need, the work will get done faster and more efficiently. With an IT firm you gain a team that can work in parallel to solve your problems at the same time. Plus, a good IT firm will solve most issues immediately (usually remotely) without effecting the users’ productivity. Most companies don’t realize how much end-user productivity they lose when their IT guy is tied up with an issue, while employees wait in line for their turn. All of this wasted time adds up across the company and can really start to cost you severely.
- Proactive – Most companies often find their IT guy is great at staying busy, putting out fires (we call them “fire fighters”). A good IT firm will build its foundation on being proactive and working on preventing the problems from happening in the first place. They do this with advanced monitoring tools that can show trends with your network and IT issues. They can determine (and report) why these issues are occurring, and make excellent recommendations to you on how to prevent them from happening in the first place. In other words, a good IT firm will work on finding and preventing what causes the fires to happen.
- Vacations & Sick Days! – Many companies admit to praying and hoping nothing big happens when their IT guy goes on vacation, especially because they don’t know what to do without him. They know that this isn’t the best way to run a business, but don’t know how to fix it. You’ll find that a good IT firm does not run into this issue, even if several people are out, because they have good documentation and processes in place, and a trained team ready to cover their missing colleagues. (Plus, IT should be more planning than firefighting.)
- “Hit by a Bus” [Documentation] – A huge challenge for the single, reactive, “fire fighter” IT guy is he never has time… well, to document most anything! And even if he does build some kind of documentation, how current is it? What if your IT guy is suddenly not there anymore? Do you have (up-to-date) documented access to key passwords like server passwords, vendor passwords, and any other admin related passwords that you may, or may not know about? (How about the password that encrypts your backup jobs?) At a good IT firm, multiple hands have to interact with your technology, so it must be well documented, and always up-to-date! Having things documented makes troubleshooting issues more efficient, more accurate, and faster. Unfortunately, most companies do not realize how vital this step is until it is too late.
- Standards & Practices – Much like the documentation needed for your specific office, good IT firms follow best practices and industry standards that a single IT professional may not even know about. You’ll find that good IT firms refine their processes and use best-in-class resources to deliver better results. A good IT firm will invest thousands of dollars on tools to save hundreds of hours of labor, which creates great efficiency for everyone. This efficiency saves both the client and the IT firm money… a win-win for all involved!
- Up-to-Date Training – A good IT firm has a team that wants to grow their collective and individual expertise. In many areas, the firm requires ongoing training and continued education on technology and processes. Over time, a lack of training will suddenly lead a top notch solo IT guy to either make poor choices (due to a lack of knowledge) or to deliver more and more excuses as to why things don’t work as efficiently anymore. This is never an issue with a good IT firm and you shouldn’t have to pay your IT guy to learn everything on the job.
- Know the Players [Vendors] in Tech – A good IT firm should be able to help you select a new technology vendor, whether it’s an internet service provider (ISP), phone system vendor, copy machine company, or a core work application. You’ll find a good IT firm will not only know the players in the industry without having to research them from scratch, but will usually know the quality of their work as well. This experience greatly helps you make the best decision on which vendor to pick, as well as saving you time and money.
- Business-minded – A good IT firm should bring to you a strong understanding of business processes, and not just technology. A good IT firm can help you with the bigger vision you have for your company and be able to bring multiple ideas to the table. Most owners and CEOs feel alone at the top of a mountain and want to interact with peers for their insights and different viewpoints. A good IT firm understands the long-term impact and ROI of each decision, and are not obsessed with the latest “shiny object” in technology.
- ROI – Hopefully, now that we’re towards the end of this article, this one is obvious! Yes, figuring out ROI (Return on Investment) of a single IT guy versus using a good IT firm is important! A telltale sign that you’re with the wrong IT guy is getting wildly fluctuating invoices because you’re billed hourly for reactive fire fighting instead of a predictable agreed upon price from a proactive IT firm. Because of our previously mentioned training, processes, efficiency, vacation days, etc., you’ll find a good IT firm will give you a much higher ROI than an individual IT guy ever can, especially over time. With a good IT firm, you should see your ROI continuing to outgrow a cheaper solo IT guy over time, giving you a much higher ROI!
Overall, size and the collective experience is the real value of outsourcing your IT to a good IT firm. Firms give you their vast expertise, many hands, better processes, documentation, and numerous other things, therefore, changing your company’s IT philosophy from “lets be the best fire fighters we can be” to “lets prevent fires before they happen!”