Outsourcing is widespread throughout the business world. After all, it often makes more sense to contract a professional or team just for the hours you need than to hire a full-time employee. IT outsourcing is especially popular because every company requires some kind of IT. Plus, these needs only increase as businesses grow, meaning it’s rarely feasible to manage everything in house.
However, since IT needs differ widely from one business to another, there are no standard solutions that work for everyone. It’s important to assess your own situation to ensure you’re making the right choices.
1. Decide If Outsourcing Is Your Best Option
When appropriate, IT outsourcing puts you at a competitive advantage by streamlining processes, improving productivity, and enhancing security. Nonetheless, there are pros and cons to IT outsourcing, meaning you’ll need to decide if it is the right option for you.
To come to a decision, you’ll need to figure out exactly what you need from IT services. This could be specific skills or technology or it could just be the chance to free up your team for other activities. Consider if all these make outsourcing worthwhile. If you need a large amount of hours, it could be better to hire someone. Alternatively, you may want to hire an individual or team (perhaps to work remotely) for certain IT tasks and to outsource the rest. Think carefully about what would be most appropriate for your unique situation at the moment and in the near future.
2. Identify Your Goals
You should have an overall goal of what you want to achieve by outsourcing IT. This could be to save money, improve the quality of services, or something specific, such as to develop a new product. In addition to setting these goals, decide how you’ll measure performance and how you’ll know the IT provider is on track to reach your targets.
3. Define the Scope of Your Project
The company you outsource to will need to have a clear picture of what you’re asking for before getting started. In fact, it’s always a good sign when a contractor asks plenty of questions about your business, the projects, and the outcomes you’re looking to achieve. This way, contractors can ensure they’ll be able to meet your requirements and fulfill your expectations before committing to your project.
To be able to answer such questions, you’ll need to have figured out the scope of your project from the start. Strive to be as realistic as possible. You may want to finish the project and see results from activities almost immediately, but failing to take into account complexity will only lead to disappointment — and could mean you fall behind schedule on work that relies on the completion of your IT project. Plus, only when you are realistic in your expectations can a contractor provide you with an accurate proposal.
4. Set a Budget
Whereas outsourcing should save you money, you still need to be careful about budget. After all, any type of outsourcing starts out as an investment — and it could take some time to see returns. Having said that, the last thing you want to do is choose the cheapest option available to you. The likelihood is that such a service will be low quality, making it more difficult to achieve your goals.
5. Choose the Right Provider for You
The key here is the provider must be right for you. A contractor may offer an excellent service, but if it’s not what you need, this is useless. Take just as long assessing each provider as you would choosing between candidates for a position at your company. Make sure you weigh the benefits of aspects like onshoring vs. offshoring (working with some in the same time zone vs. lower costs) and consider sending a request for information to all the providers on your shortlist.
The best contractors for you will have experience working on projects similar to your own and with similar types of businesses. Check out providers’ portfolios to confirm this — you may even be able to receive a simple mockup of your project. Also ask for references and talk to these clients about their experiences working with the contractor. Ideally, at least some clients should have been working with the provider for a while, as this indicates the contractor is able to maintain long-term working relationships.
In addition, look for providers who offer plenty of customization. Since there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to IT, it’s important a contractor is able to create a service that matches your specific needs.
Finally, find out about security policies. You’ll need to be sure the contractor is handling your data responsibly, such as by only providing access to those who require it and taking steps to prevent a breach. The most trusted providers will be certified to ISO/IEC 27001.
6. Understand the Contract
Before you sign a contract with any IT provider, be clear about what you’re agreeing to.
One thing in particular to look at is the exit terms. Even if everything goes well now and you decide to continue working with the contractor into the long term, there will likely come a time when you decide to go in a different direction. For instance, as you scale your business, you may need a more comprehensive package of services — or you may go in the opposite direction and decide to manage more IT in house.
Another important aspect of the contract is a clearly defined scope. This will prevent the contractor claiming that certain aspects were your responsibility and requesting additional payment to complete them.
Lastly, make sure the contract specifies that you own the work and its components and that you have the right to use the work in the way you wish. You’ll run into problems if you end the contract and find out your project belongs to the contractor.
7. Set Milestones
Ideally, you should seek a contract where the provider agrees to pay after meeting defined milestones. This will give you the freedom to pay only once the contractor has delivered the work to the standards you expect. A typical contract for IT outsourcing will request you pay 20 to 30 percent upfront and the rest over three or four milestones.
8. Start with a Small Project
Even if you have many needs you want to outsource to an IT provider, it’s best to start small. This will give you time to learn how to work together and see if you even want to continue your relationship.
9. Prepare Your Team for the Partnership
Onboarding an IT provider may be quite disruptive for your team. It’s important to prepare team members for these changes as soon as you decide you will be outsourcing. Discuss how responsibilities for certain people may change, stressing the benefits for everyone, such as the chance to focus on core work, greater efficiency, and improved outcomes for your business. It’s also worth assigning a project manager to act as a go-between for your team and the IT provider.
10. Maintain Great Communication
Once you start working with the contractor, you’ll need to keep the lines of communication open throughout your collaboration. Whereas it’s important not to micromanage (contractors tend to do a better job when their clients trust them), you’ll still want to retain some control over your IT. The best thing to do is determine how you’ll communicate from the start of your project, including who will be the point of contact, what means of communication you’ll use, and how often you can expect progress reports.
11. Continue Outsourcing Support
Even if you’re looking for an IT contractor for a one-off project, it may be necessary to keep your relationship with the provider to continue receiving support. You may be able to receive this support at a lower rate than the contractor charges for regular services — or even for free.
12. Stick to Just the Essentials
Bear in mind that IT providers may try to sell you additional services, pushing you to take on more than you intended. For now, you should just pay for what you’ve identified you need from the project scope. If you decide some services could be beneficial at a later date, you can always add on some supplementary services. However, these should all be services you’ve determined are useful and not those your provider tries to upsell you.
IT is far from the only thing you can outsource. In fact, many small businesses are finding that it’s not worthwhile hiring employees for several types of activities. The most cost-effective model is to contract one individual to do all your superfluous tasks — and that’s exactly what you’ll receive with a virtual assistant. When you choose MYVA360, you’ll receive the additional benefits of being able to add an extra virtual assistant whenever your workload is especially heavy and access to our extended team of specialists. Schedule a consultation to receive 10-percent off all our services.