27 Apr 2011

DIY versus outsourcing

So you have a growing business on your hands. Chances are, it’s growing too big for just your hands. In fact, you’re probably at that point where you’ve decided to hire another member of staff, either to add to an existing team or to start a team in a department.

When it comes to your IT department, the choice between hiring another staff member versus outsourcing the services is a competitive one.

The trick is to think like a start-up: when your business was a start-up, you had to make some tough decisions about whether to do something in-house if it was not absolutely core, especially if it drained time, money and resources. It follows that if IT is not your core business, you should consider delegating this element.

You’re an expert at what you do and IT service providers are experts at IT functions. Whether you should consider hiring someone for your own staff will depend on how much you need them: if running IT operations for your business is a full-time job, then having an in-house person is certainly handy.

If you go the in-house route, you need to ensure that the person in charge of this area knows what he or she is doing, which means you will also need to be up to speed on the basics so you can assign tasks and monitor performance. Consider how much this will cost you as well—in salary, overheads, your time, and so on—and weigh that up against the benefits you’ll get from having someone on staff in this role.

The alternative is to outsource. The best part about outsourcing is that you still have an IT expert on hand full-time—even 24/7—but you needn’t pay for overheads.

If you decide to outsource this role, you need to ensure that the contractor you hire knows your business needs and has a service tailored to suit you. You’ll also need to know some of the basics and ensure that SLAs are in place to govern the relationship and ensure accountability, but since you’re not expected to be ‘the expert’, you can always ask questions and learn from your service provider.

Another bonus is that outsourcing to a company will mean no downtime over weekends, public holidays and annual leave as there would be for a staff member as there should be a contractor on hand to cover these periods.

If you’re not an IT expert it is more time and cost effective to hire someone who is, so you can focus on your core business. DIY or outsourcing—it’s your call.