Working in or around small to medium businesses, you are no doubt well acquainted with the concept of professional services outsourcing. Engaging the services of a separate business entity to fulfill a role that would otherwise require a highly trained or specialized (read as: expensive) employee is what allows many SMBs to stay competitive. Although a large organization would have a payroll department, corporate attorney(s), and a staff accountant, most SMBs choose to outsource these services. This allows the SMB to not only save on the cost of these specialized services, but to leverage outside expertise.
Take for example, a staff accountant within your business versus an accountant at a CPA firm. Both of these individuals would be providing your business with a service in preparing your taxes. An accountant that works for you knows your books—and only your books. This is contrasted with an accountant working for an accounting firm, who has multiple clients and deals with a wide breadth of issues. Although payroll, accountancy, and legal services are all professional services SMB owners are comfortable outsourcing, IT services are often handled non-professionally.
“I’ve got a guy.” “My wife’s cousin’s son is really good with computers, he’ll set this all up for me.” I’m sure you’ve heard or made statements similar to these over the course of your career. Now, contrast them with other critical aspects of your business’ infrastructure. “He watches a ton of Law and Order, he can write the contract for us.” “She just passed 8th grade math, let’s see what she can make of this tax return.” Seem ridiculous on its face right?
Consider how critical your IT infrastructure is to the day to day operations of your business. Why are we so eager to trust it to amateurs, or indeed, to ignore it entirely? The problem, I believe, is one of perception.
Computers and the software they run can seem at once esoteric and stable. You can look at break-evens and tell that something isn’t right, but your computer throwing up a weird error message just seems perplexing and slightly inconvenient. Or, conversely, those of you that have an IT guy may be thinking that he or she is always trying to get you to spend money. It is time that we challenged this perception.
I cannot imagine that many of you see your CPA as an unknowable cost center, the same can probably be said of your payroll company. It is imperative that business owners shift their perception of IT—those that wish to grow and adapt to a constantly shifting marketplace understand that IT is not only a critical part of their business infrastructure, it is another area to leverage professional services outsourcing. To tie back into the earlier example of the CPA firm versus the in-house accountant, IT management companies can leverage a depth and breadth of experience furnished by their variety of clients that is just not accessible to the in-house “IT Guy.”
Moreover, this additional experience usually comes at a lower price point than a full time employee, just like utilizing an outside CPA firm. Finally, the It management company model lends itself to the SMB marketplace—they’re all about efficiency, because what they’re selling you is their time. It behooves the provider to create as stable an IT environment for your business as possible, to minimize downtime and their time spend maintaining it. It’s also in their best interest to resolve your IT related issues as quickly and efficiently as possible—their margin depends on it.
As I stated at the beginning of the article, I have a vested interest in our organization, and the industry as a whole. That is not to say however, that we’re looking to run the “IT Guys” of the world out of business, nor drive every SMB into the warm embrace of an IT management company. I humbly ask that you change your perspective—in the immortal phrasing of Apple Computers, “Think Different.”