Why It’s Essential to Augment Your IT Department With An Outside Provider
Being a successful IT Professional requires a lot of skill and a ton of patience. It’s patience that allows us to methodically work through the difficult technology problems often late into the night each and every day. That same patience is unfortunately something we often don’t have time for in our demanding schedules. But it’s strange how working through the difficulties and spending our valuable time is what often led to our careers as a skilled IT Professional. Somewhat of a vicious cycle we put ourselves through if you ask me. And to put it lightly, these computers never sleep, constantly change, and outpace us irrespective of our bandwidth and throughput.
Earlier in my IT career I would measure my successes from the rush of solving difficult problems. I also felt being an IT professional was about the ability to recite the registry key structure or navigate the entire operating system without using a mouse. The goal was to be a jack of all trades and with a little work become an expert in most someday. I figured 4–6 years should do it and I’ll know everything there is to know about technology. Unfortunately over time the more I studied a subject the more I realized there was even more I didn’t know. By educating myself in a topic the more I came to understand how far from an actual expert I truly was.
This wasn’t a moment of defeat but more of a transformation into reality. I can often measure true skills of an IT professional by asking them to rate themselves on a 1–10 scale in certain subjects. And if you’ve been banging on networking protocols for 4–6 years and tell me in an interview you are a 9 in networking chances are you are probably a 3. I’ve worked with true 9’s in networking skills, and they are on a different planet than most of us mere mortals.
Being an IT Professional should be about servicing your organization to provide the greatest return and value to the company. Unfortunately, what commonly plays out for most IT departments and resources is the day flies by with constant fire-fighting and reactive incident responses. It’s tough to balance what you want to get done with what you need to do right now. Partnering with a trusted outsourced managed services provider can bring many positive results to the organization ultimately contributing to the success of the entire IT team. However, it’s important the provider operate as a partner, is a strong listener and, most importantly, aligns their offerings with your needs. Too often outsourced providers attempt to sell you what is important to them instead of working together to see how they can help your team the most.
Using an outsourced managed IT services provider is not about buying or leasing solutions, such as backup software, that your team is ultimately on the hook for. A good outsourced managed IT provider is a partnership that should start with defining a clear set of on-going deliverables and expectations to assist and make your team shine the most. The deliverables from the provider need to be clear so you and your team can hold them accountable. And a mature provider should not only demonstrate the deliverables on a recurring basis but also the underlying supported data and performance metrics to show you how well they are doing.
Some important aspects an experienced outsourced managed IT services provider should be able to demonstrate include, but are not limited to, a deep bench of skills throughout the entire IT stack, expertise in your specific field or industry, mature and best in class technology management solutions, and a well-defined set of deliverables. A positive and empowered team of experts with experience in your specific industry utilizing top-notch solutions should be a minimum in today’s options. It’s important to vet the provider thoroughly. Otherwise, you could be their first true IT augmentation partner, or possibly their biggest client, or possibly their smallest…all of which have pros and cons you should consider.
The three highest value-adds related to augmentation we consistently see our partners requesting are to address what we call the IT-101’s of an environment, integrating and providing our best-in-class IT management solutions, and providing a deeper bench on the Sr. Engineering expertise.
The IT-101’s are paramount to the short and long term health of an environment but are often reprioritized or unable to be addressed consistently because of the more urgent problems that get escalated. IT-101 duties such as monitoring, antivirus, drive space, patch and asset management are tasks that get pushed aside for more visible fires. Its unfortunately not uncommon to see data protection issues 1–2 business days unaddressed because of higher priority items. Outsourcing these items to a mature provider should not only be relatively inexpensive, but ensures these tasks are getting done each and every day, regardless of how slammed your team is.
Often an internal IT department is under a tight budget constraint and unable to procure the Best-in-class IT management solutions available. It’s therefore common to see internal IT team default to an open source or home-grown ticketing or remote management solution built on PHP and a 2003 Access Database. Most mature managed IT service providers have invested a tremendous amount of money and resources in their IT management platform(s) and can offer tremendous efficiencies to an internal team by providing and integrating those same tools downstream in a way that works best for your team and entire organization.
Most internal teams have limited time and resources to do their jobs and it becomes difficult to be the expert in everything, especially newer technologies. Augmenting the team with a deeper bench of networking, server, storage, or cloud certified professionals who repeatedly perform migration projects and are dedicated resources to hone their craft is not a bad thing. In fact, it can often propel the entire IT team’s comprehension in limited time compared to the outsourced partner who most likely spent 100’s of hours digging through it.
Augmenting your team with the right provider allows you to specify those deliverables that are of highest value to you for a price that is fair to you. And once set in motion the provider is responsible to deliver day in and day out, just as any trusted ally should be, regardless of how crazy busy things get.
Jeremy Kurth is the CTO of Logically, an information technology outsourcing and consulting firm.