For the first three years that SMR was in business, I did all the bookkeeping. And why not? I was intimately familiar with the numbers and it gave me a sense of control.
But as we grew, I realized that it was taking too much of my time and so I decided to turn things over to an outside person.
Almost immediately, I felt a huge weight off my shoulders. Not only did it give me the space to work on more valuable activities, but I had to admit, the professional bookkeeper did a better job.
Now, two decades in, we outsource lots of things, including payroll, marketing, legal, office cleaning, and more. We even outsource some of the highly specialized IT-related tools that we, as IT professionals ourselves, rely on.
We are not unusual in this regard. Most small and midsize companies are too big to do it all themselves but too small to run everything with in-house staff.
IT is a Good Fit For Outsourcing
Let’s talk about why IT is particularly well-suited for handing off to the experts…
#1. Staying Current.
It’s virtually impossible for your in-house team of one or two IT people to keep up with the latest trends, threats, and tech innovations; they are focused on keeping the ship running smoothly day to day. Education is necessarily a secondary consideration.
When you outsource, and assuming it’s to a quality firm, you gain immediate access to the collective knowledge of a group of people who are invested in keeping current. That translates into more secure, higher quality service for your organization.
#2. Better Coverage.
Outsourced IT companies have the resources needed to offer 7/24/365 support. Chances are, you don’t. Instead, you are continually juggling work schedules to cover vacations, sick days, turnover, and the simple fact that your “IT guy” isn’t awake 24 hours a day.
Further, outsourcing allows you to match the level of support needed based on your growth (or decline) over time or during varying periods of demand (e.g., seasonal businesses such as those in education that need more/less help at certain times of the year).
#3. High Stakes.
If your cleaning service makes a mistake, well, that’s unfortunate, but it’s not an existential threat to your business. IT, however, is a critical function of your company; a single stumble can cause tremendous damage.
For example, if there is nobody making sure that your computers are sufficiently protected against cyberthreats, or that your backups are running properly (to name just two common oversights), you could lose critical data or worse.
#4. HR Considerations.
Staffing comes with a lot of administrative overhead: hiring, firing, training, managing, compensation negotiation, and more. You need this to some degree of course for those functions that must remain in-house. But when you outsource IT, you also outsource all of the HR oversight that comes with it, giving you fewer headaches and greater flexibility if you decide to move to a different vendor.
Further, and while there is often an implicit assumption that it is somehow “safer” to keep IT in-house, as a practical matter, if one employee holds all the keys to your IT-related assets, you may be at higher risk of being compromised or otherwise disadvantaged if you decide to let this person go.
The generally accepted rule of thumb is to outsource whatever is not central to the work you do and the value you provide.
On the subject of IT, however, there is one additional, very important thing to keep in mind: Make sure that a senior person within your organization knows and understands what’s going on. They don’t have to be highly technical, but they should have a general knowledge of the different systems that are being used and know what is kept where (passwords, domain name ownership, etc.). Make sure as well that you have a commitment from your IT vendor for an orderly transition, should you decide to leave at some point in the future.
Outsourcing is helpful — at this point, our business could not operate without it. If you are not already doing so, I recommend considering it for your IT needs.