Thanks to Andrew Baxter for suggesting this blog subject as a follow up to Alan Conduct’s post on Why you should outsource first line IT support. Andrew flagged up how enterprises that focus on the lowest cost IT outsourcing providers are at risk of damaging IT’s reputation within the business.
It’s an important point and has the potential to erode trust in the internal IT team’s ability to deliver other functions such as more strategic IT projects and 2nd, 3rd line support. Here I share my thoughts on the subject.
For many users, 1st line is often the only contact they have with your enterprise’s IT function. This is what will inform their opinion of the IT team and their perception of whether they get value, the help they need at that moment, from IT.
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When business leaders make IT outsourcing decisions based on the lowest cost IT support provider, and get a poor service in return, IT’s reputation in the business can be severely damaged. A poor service will cost the business in productivity loss, business continuity and other often intangible costs.
Once IT’s reputation is damaged and users no longer have trust in 1st line support, the business could be throwing money at a service that's underused. Even more alarming could be the risk, and associated costs, of users attempting to resolve IT issues themselves. Remember too that trust in IT’s ability to deliver on internal projects is also damaged, users won’t differentiate between poor 1st line support and other IT functions.
Choose 1st line IT support based on value, not cost savings
I think the IT outsourcing industry is partly to blame for this ‘race to the bottom’ approach to buying services. Cost savings are a key benefit of outsourcing IT support but perhaps we’re guilty of overplaying our hand? There are many other benefits that deliver far greater value to an enterprise, if we spent more time on highlighting these we could prevent IT teams from suffering the reputational damage a poor service provider can inflict.
So what’s the problem with going with the lowest cost service provider?
There may be an assumption that 1st line IT support is the same, whatever service provider you use, and therefore why not go with the cheapest on the market?
However, IT service desks are not just about counting tickets, removing the log from your internal team and handing it to someone else to worry about. It’s about making your colleagues’ lives easier by resolving IT issues, reducing downtime, increasing productivity and providing solutions that have a positive impact on performance of users and the business. That’s what a service desk is for, delivering resolutions not logging tickets.
To do this your IT service provider needs an in depth understanding of the business so they can prioritise tickets and deliver the resolutions that have the best outcomes. 1st line needs to be aligned with business objectives, company structures and, of course, the business’ IT infrastructure and operations.
Will a cheap IT outsourcing provider do this? No. In the race to the bottom they will have stripped out all processes and services that cost their business time and money, such as in depth discovery and on-boarding.
If you want to go cheap, do so at your own risk! The onus is on your IT team, stakeholders and decision makers to identify providers that are the most capable and the best fit for your enterprise.
A different approach to 1st line IT outsourcing: what should you be looking for?
Capability: of course you need to outsource to a provider who has the skills and capacity to provide the service levels you require. Whether it’s 24/7 or out-of-hours cover, specific technical expertise, native speaking service desk analysts for a multinational workforce, or standard day-to-day service desk requirements, this is a given.
Cultural fit: what’s often overlooked is cultural fit. To users, your colleagues, 1st line IT support IS your IT function and so analysts and technicians must act like an extension of the team. IT providers that don’t share your values or don’t invest in discovery and on-boarding are unlikely to be able to provide this level of service.
Value: let’s stop viewing IT support as a cost centre and look at how it can deliver value to the business. The right provider won’t only resolve tickets they’ll also look for solutions that provide long term benefits. For example by providing self-serve options for reoccurring issues that can be easily resolved by users. Their focus will be on driving efficiencies to increase performance (of the service desk and business overall) and have a positive impact on the bottom line.
Enterprises can expect cost savings with the right provider. The outsourcing model when compared to retaining 1st line in-house will deliver savings. However a poor service can cost the business reputationally and financially, so choose your provider carefully. Put cost savings aside and focus on what the service desk can do for your enterprise, and protect IT’s reputation by partnering with a provider that can deliver.
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