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Mark Petty

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Mark Petty: Sales & Marketing Director at Littlefish

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8 questions CIOs should ask before saying no to outsourcing


Growing numbers of CIOs see outsourcing as a solution to the talent crisis. What’s holding you back?

Whether you’ve never seriously considered the option, or been stung by incompetent providers, here are the eight questions you should ask before saying no to outsourcing:


1. Do you lose talented developers by overloading them with maintenance?

Do you have trained (and expensive) coders doing IT support simply because it’s within their skillsets and there’s no else to do it? Have you got valued developers sinking time on those legacy systems (you know, the ones that just happen to provide valuable data and business-critical processes)? If you have talented and knowledgeable developers you can’t afford to lose, outsourcing the mundane tasks can be the ideal way to keep them on board while ticking the business continuity box.


2. Are you matching your people with the right tasks?

Talent management is about making sure all your people are working to their (and your business’s) best advantage. Check your people are being used effectively, in accordance with their skills – because it’s not just good for your technical resource, it’s good for employee retention. Start by looking at the broad alignment between what your business needs and the talent you have to deliver it. Pick the right external partner, and you’ll put hours back into the days of your talented people.


3. Is there a creativity gap in your IT team?

Give everyone a chance to innovate. Outsourcing can give your team the mental space it needs for the biggest value-add of the lot ‒ creativity and innovation. After all, your in-house team knows your company best. Let them use that knowledge to improve performance. New ideas for new processes, different ways of getting things done; all come in abundance – if people have the time and resources to develop and test them.


4. Is your team unable to deliver the 24/7 provision needed?

If your team is stretched to breaking point trying to support the business round the clock, look for a 24/7/365 external provider, with real human beings always ready to offer their assistance. Compare the anonymous ‘Call Centre’, against best practice IT partners who offer a designated team of named individuals you can get to know over time, and who’ll learn the personality of your company and anticipate problems by building personal relationships with your team.


5. Are your processes mature enough to bring in external providers?

Look at all the parts of your business that follow consistent processes. If it can be described and numbers attached to it, it’s often ripe for outsourcing. There’s little strategic value in high-cost people spending time each month scheduling upgrades. Critically assess which parts of the information infrastructure could be effectively assigned elsewhere. The more regular the task, the stringer the argument for assigning it outside. Write them down.


6. Are you paying in opportunity cost for the resourcing you don’t have?

Be honest with yourself about opportunity costs. We’re not going to quote famous economists at you, but one basic rule of business life is that you shouldn’t do yourself what costs less to do elsewhere. So highlight all the functions and processes that an outside specialist could take over, which would free up your full-timers so they can perform more business-specific tasks. What could your people achieve if they had 10 extra hours each week?


7. Do you think external providers create more problems than they solve?

When this happens, it’s generally down to their lack of understanding of your business. So look for a partner with a track record for getting an in-depth understanding of the businesses they work with. Only then will a partner start to own your problems and goals. And when your external partner takes as much interest in solving your challenges as you do, that’s when you’ve hit outsourcing nirvana. If you can find the right external resources, and align them with your own business drivers and performance objectives, you can achieve deep integration between your corporate goals and your IT services.


8. Did your previous external IT providers run the extra mile?

If not it’s time to think again ‒ your past experiences might not be the best indication of what’s available now. There are still countless providers who refuse to look beyond that issue they’ve resolved for you. But these days they’re easier to avoid, as there are others on the market that will actively seek routes to optimise the delivery of services to your users, not those who merely follow a pre-agreed procedure.

The search for IT talent is a global one, and without skilled people, CIOs have no hope of delivering the exciting apps and digital journeys that businesses are desperate for. If you’re always saying “no” to outsourcing, it might be time for a rethink. Do the people you need all have to be permies? And do we set too much store on the number of FTEs when planning the resource we need? More and more talent-strapped CIOs are saying yes to outsourcing.

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