What Is IT Outsourcing?

By Mark Watson|26 June 2018

Few businesses today can operate without a comprehensive range of IT solutions. For many, it would be impossible to communicate with clients, employees and suppliers, get work done or deliver products and services, without a robust IT infrastructure.

Maintaining and managing this infrastructure was once the exclusive responsibility of the IT department. However, in the last few decades, businesses have sought to streamline internal operations and drive efficiencies by using IT outsourcing providers, migrating to cloud platforms or using a combination of both. Many companies have also increased the amount of activities they outsource to specialised IT providers, as the ROI makes a clear business case for doing so. Last year’s 2017 UK IT Outsourcing Study revealed that 35% of business respondents plan to outsource more IT activities this year (2018).

IT outsourcing is a solution many businesses are turning to, especially when it comes to managing IT services.

But what can you outsource? Essentially any IT function can be outsourced to an IT partner. From the total management of your IT department, to outsourcing a single component like your service desk. Infrastructure management, cyber security, IAM, etc. etc. are all functions that IT outsource providers can support your business with.

Why outsource IT?

Reducing costs is one reason for outsourcing IT functions. With the emergence of cloud computing, IT is no longer something that needs expensive capital investments, on-site servers and hardware. Cloud platforms and services, such as software as a service (SaaS) solutions, have shifted the IT cost burden away from capital to an operational expenditure.

Now you can run a business from anywhere in the world using a mixture of software, systems, storage, security and computing power hosted in the cloud. With so many cloud platforms around, and hundreds of vendors supplying SaaS, IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service) solutions, businesses wanting to evolve their IT have sometimes struggled to implement a digital transformation.

Working with external partners can help companies understand and implement the right cloud solutions for them. Instead of going straight to an IT vendor and then attempting to fit a solution to the businesses’ requirements – a common mistake with digital transformation plans - an IT outsourcing provider will first assess what your objectives are, your existing IT infrastructure and estate, and tailor solutions to your needs. 

Benefits of IT outsourcing 

As well as driving down the costs, there are other reasons businesses choose to outsource IT. These include:

24/7 support – IT and network mangers like to go home at the end of a working day, but what happens if systems go down out of hours? Many businesses have employees and customers accessing their IT systems at different times of the day or night - working remotely, in different time zones, or if they are a B2C businesses. IT outsourcing can ensure that systems are monitored 24/7, and support is available in the event of any incident or query.

Quicker response times – most internal IT departments have limited resources in terms of staffing and capacity. Prioritising activities can be challenging, and balancing operational vs. strategic activities even more so. IT outsourcing ensures that incidents or planned activities are addressed in an acceptable timeframe, for example if IT support is outsourced your employers or other users have a dedicated service desk team dealing with any issues they have, not a network manager trying to provide support and at the same time patch systems or perform back ups and everything else that goes with that role. 

More expertise – IT outsourcing allows your business to access specialist support. Whether that’s analyst who has in depth knowledge of the systems you use, or a cyber security expert who can help ensure that your business balances risk, user experience and costs when exploring information security solutions. For most businesses having this level of expert support in house would be prohibitively expensive.

More cost savings – IT outsourcing saves companies money in a number of areas. The cost of IT infrastructure and technology is lower, especially when using cloud platforms. Solutions can be scaled according to your requirements, switching on and off services to reduce costs when demand is low. Staffing costs can be reduced, even when using onshore IT providers like UKN Group. Potentially businesses can reduce their internal staffing levels, and the associated costs (holiday, sickness etc.) or use their team more strategically for revenue creation activities.

Strategic consulting – IT outsourcing providers can also support business objectives and strategic plans. With years of experience working across different companies and industries, as well as keeping current with the latest technology, they are well placed to advice IT directors and CEOs on their future IT requirements, aligning recommendations with the businesses’ objectives.

Getting started with IT outsourcing 

Deciding what areas of IT to outsource needs to be done the right way. Do you only want to outsource your IT service desk / support? Or are your company’s IT needs more extensive? Do you want to overhaul your IT infrastructure and the applications your teams or customers use? What about security - are you equipped to handle modern cyber threats? 

Focus on what you want to achieve before outsourcing any IT functions. Have a clear understanding of how you would want to work with an IT partner, the role they're going to play in your business and the value you want to see. IT outsourcing providers use service level agreements (SLA), to ensure that all parties understand how their services will be delivered. It’s really important to make sure you have the right SLA in place to meet your needs. 

Depending on what you outsource, IT partners can improve operational efficiency, streamline communications, make it easier for staff to collaborate, improve security and make your company more efficient.

For more information about IT outsourcing, download our whitepaper Outsourcing - Can it help you build a better business? to explore how to outsource for your business.

Further Information

Outsourcing - Can it help you build a better business?

A comprehensive guide on the what, when and how to outsource for your business.

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