With the many and varied costs involved with starting a new company, entrepreneurs are usually wise to look for areas that they can outsource in the most effective and efficient way possible. Information technology is one such area.
If you take a new business with an average headcount of 20 people, they should be looking at around $2500 per month to outsource their entire IT function, compared to $30,000-60,000 a year for a dedicated IT person. By electing to outsource your IT function you’re not only saving on the overheads; you’re gaining the shared knowledge of an entire company, with 24x7 support, and contingencies to cover sick days and holidays.
If you don’t want to have any internal IT functions at all, then a managed service provider will be your best option. They will structure your system according to your needs, pro-actively monitor it and provide the required day-to-day support.
When it comes to selecting your outsourced partner there are some key things to consider:
• What role will IT play in your business? If you have a window washing business, then you’ll need IT for accounting and invoicing but not customer service. Conversely, a digital print business will rely on the IT function from sales through to delivery and after-sales support.
• What type of partner are you looking for? Ask to meet the team and get a feeling for the people who will be responsible for strategy, support and account management. And a prospective partner will ideally be a team of people. One-man bands are less likely to support your business 24/7.
• What do you need? Compile a brief for prospective partners based on your business requirements and assess their proposals based on their understanding of your business, whether they have worked within your budget and whether they offer any additional business advantages.
• How much should it cost? Work with your chosen IT provider to set the budget, and ask for explanations as to cost, but avoid cutting corners, as in IT you get what you pay for.
Ultimately you should be looking for a partner with a very solid support structure. Ask for a service level agreement (SLA) that you are comfortable with, and get the answers you need to feel confident.
And finally, use branded hardware and software with extended warranties. Get licences for all your software to ensure reliability and support, use cloud-based services where possible to minimise overheads, and use proven mainstream applications, as bespoke solutions will be difficult to support.