As companies grow, having an internal IT department is a natural consequence of supporting all of the business operations necessary to continue to thrive. Leveraging the latest technology such as messaging, file sharing, and accounting tools, and the networks they run on can contribute to smooth operations while adding a degree of complexity. That’s when organizations bring in more technical staff. They need to maintain the ongoing functionality of those tools as well as introduce new technology that scales up to employee growth and the more diverse ways it’s being applied. More IT headaches arise. And CIOs often debate the eternal question, whether to keep IT operations in-house or outsource to an MSP (Managed Services Provider). A case can be made for both, but the pendulum doesn’t always have to swing back and forth exclusively to one or the other. Below are reasons why a hybrid model works.
1. Shoemaker’s Children Syndrome
A common problem among technology companies (SaaS and application developers) is they rightfully prioritize support for end clients over coworkers. Unless there is a separate IT department for internal and external users, someone’s going to be waiting. It’s not uncommon for technology companies to have a DIY approach to fixing a printer jam or Googling how configure their own Outlook settings. And for startups supporting their new app, it’s often the developers who provide “how to” support to clients when they could be fixing glitches or coding the latest updates. Either way, the technical staff’s primary focus isn’t always where it serves the most good. Offloading those tasks to another Managed Services Provider streamlines internal operations and keeps internal end users (i.e. shoemaker’s children) up and running.
2. Expertise Gaps/Special Projects
Considering the broad sweep of technology from the application to the cloud and relevant certifications, can your IT staff really be an expert on everything? Unless they have credentials in everything from A+, to ITIL, to MCSE or CCNA, there may not be enough in-depth perspective on strategic direction. Can they conduct penetration tests and help with industry data security compliance requirements? Sometimes special projects arise that require special skills or just additional resources when internal IT can’t be redeployed. Examples are new office network and cabling installation, companywide moves, hardware refreshes, and O/S upgrades. All demand extra smart hands or expertise if only in the short term. When 50 things need to happen with 50 contributors it might help to have a strategic partner manage, design, coordinate, and execute on those projects.
3. Unscheduled Absences, Vacations, and Turnover
No amount of workforce planning can ensure an IT department is fully staffed 24 x 7 in order to meet support demands. Unscheduled absences, vacations, and turnover happen. And it’s a rare stroke of luck when headcount aligns with ticket count. Luckily, outsourcing to an IT services vendor doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” proposition. When call volume spikes, overflow contacts can be routed to the other IT team. A valuable Managed Services Provider will “white label” the support. That means help desk agents identify as members of the same organization in greetings, following the same processes, and even leverage the same tools so support is seamless and indistinguishable from the internal IT team. If done well, end users won’t know the difference between remote support agents on either team.
It’s important to note that one reason IT companies experience turnover is an inefficient support model (see point 5). Technical staff experience burnout from doing too many low-level tasks. They seek challenges, not busy work. For example, a network engineer isn’t going to want to fix a printer just as a desktop technician isn’t going to want to sit at a desk resetting passwords. Unless the organization aligns staff with their skill set and career goals, internal IT staffing will be a perpetual revolving door. Then pulling resources to recruit and train replacements becomes a viscous cycle. Internal support frequently takes a back seat and further justifies the need to have an outsourcing vendor backfill the staffing shortage.
4. Workload and Walkups
Having IT staff on-site can be both a blessing and a curse. The good news is end users can shoulder tap their favorite tech every time they have a question. The bad news? Same. Roving desktop technicians often lament that they can’t even make it to their desk to log resolution procedures, place an order, or even close the support ticket they just resolved. They get snagged by “one quick question” after another. By the time they get to resume tasks or larger projects, they expend additional time to recover (i.e. figuring out where they left off). That coupled with the end user downtime caused by staff waiting for a favorite tech to return a phone call can all add up.
Some corporations have even tried to address this inefficient support request process by locking IT staff in a separate room. So end users have no choice but to make a call or submit a ticket versus walk in and interrupt their favorite technician. Having an off-site help desk serve as the first point of contact for remote troubleshooting reinforces this more efficient communication process.
IT staff are more laissez faire when it comes to remote monitoring and management of network and end user devices. It’s not because those tasks aren’t valuable. It’s a question of priorities. With only so many hours of the day, putting out fires usually takes precedent over more proactive tasks. Alerts and performance checks, security monitoring, software patches, network and mobile device monitoring tend to be secondary to incidents that often arise as a result of those delayed remediation tasks. So support agents end up treating the symptoms rather than address the virus.
5. Too Many Hats (Misallocation of Resources)
No matter how tech savvy, IT staff simply can’t be all things to all people and everywhere at once. There’s a reason organizations tier IT support functions between Level 1 (remote help desk), Level 2 (desktop, on-site) and Level 3 (network engineering, on prem and cloud). Separating duties not only makes sense from a data security and auditing standpoint, but enables staff to focus and work more efficiently.
Think of it like a technical issue resolution assembly line. The first point of contact (help desk agent) works from their desk and resolves issues that don’t require an onsite presence. Those that do are now properly triaged and documented in the trouble ticket. Then the tickets is sent down the line (i.e. escalated) to the desktop technician who is either dispatched or already located on site. Likewise, for technical issues identified as having a network related root cause, the ticket is forwarded to the appropriate network engineer.
Now imagine IT staff sharing all three roles. Staff would be bouncing around from desk to desk, floor to floor, or to multiple facilities. When IT departments deploy techs to the end user’s workstation, the help desk will be shorthanded for those inbound contacts. When they’re troubleshooting simple access and connectivity issues, they can be deterred from more impactful companywide projects. The momentary distraction can take extra time to resume project tasks.
Unfortunately, even corporate sized IT departments still use this support model to some extent. It’s inefficient and time consuming. And since organizations rarely track end user downtime or transitional activities of the techs, the all-purpose model comes with hidden internal costs. In such instances, it makes sense to outsource the bottleneck support tasks or the low-level ones that internal IT staff don’t want to handle.