When does it make sense to outsource IT?

By Datalink

The term outsourcing seems to stir up mixed emotions in people.  Very positive images come to mind with the thought of costs savings and operational efficiency. Extremely negative things come to the forefront when thinking turns to security risks and frustrating communication channels.

This begs a couple of questions.  First, when should you outsource?  Second, how do you approach it in a way so as to not go down the path of the negative outcomes associated with outsourcing?  We’ll start with answering the easy question for now: when should we outsource?

“We” in the services business have likely done an injustice to the consumers of services by making the term outsourcing so complicated.  Are we talking about BPO?  Maybe your scenario calls for ITO?  Have you been introduced to managed services?  Is it KPO?  Is on shore, off shore, or near shore best for your situation?  In addition to complicating what outsourcing is, we’ve complicated the question of when to outsource.  Is this function core or non-core to your business?  Do the costs justify the risks or vice versa?  Will taking this leap provide you a competitive advantage?  Will outsourcing provide a mechanism for competitive advantage?  Is this a commodity service?  Is this a specialized service?  I’m convinced that much of the negative outcomes associated with outsourcing are due to the fact we’ve made it so complicated to figure all of this stuff out.

Let me cut through the clutter and offer a simple definition of outsourcing that is easy to understand.  Quite simply, outsourcing is getting someone to help do something you need to get done.  Let’s face it, whether in our businesses or personal lives, we all need help and because of that we all need to outsource from time-to-time.  To me, merely admitting help is needed renders all of the questions mentioned above, unimportant. 

If you’re in need of help, does it really matter if the function is core or non-core?  If help is needed, the business is not reaching its full potential and is operating in a state that is not optimal.  If you need help with something, the question of competitive advantage is already answered --you don’t have a competitive advantage.

So, can you answer this question:  Do you need help?  If the answer is yes, it’s time to discuss outsourcing.  How to outsource and what to outsource may be the more important questions to ask.  Need help with that?

Lee Whitaker, Director of Managed Services