The word cost effectiveness, has been often quoted, especially in the context of sales and marketing initiatives on the World Wide Web in recent years. However, this article will seek to explore the cost-effectiveness and wider significance for implementing external ICT support for your small business or organisation.
There is a large body of evidence, collated from both academic and corporate sources, which highlight the positives of incorporating external ICT support into your business – especially if you’re a SME.
At a theoretical glance, externalising your IT support – i.e. moving away from in-house functionality to a cheaper on-demand external function – is without doubt a great way for an organisation to reduce costs. Jiang and Quershi (2006) argue that SME organisations can increase structural security whilst enhancing financial responsibility by adopting external IT support mechanisms. McLellan and Marcolin similarly argue that external IT support “was found to have profound effects on the expenses… in terms of downsizing operational costs on conditioned projects or services” (1995: p112).
Elements of cost-effectiveness have been investigated by Swan and Young who found that a correlation existed between cost reduction and improved product performance in ICT support systems outsourcing exercises (Swan & Young, 2011). The research found that organisations, especially SME ventures, would gain external knowledge sources whilst similarly reducing operational overheads. The biggest success of externalising IT support is the breakaway of the ‘bunker’ mentality – the in-house ‘bunker’ mentality – which can help free up an organisation in operational and structural ways.
However, the choice of IT support service should not be based purely on cost. Industry and sectoral accreditation is another concept in understanding and quantifying talent. In terms of the ICT support industry, the ISO20000 for IT Service Management is a bedrock accreditation and one that your service partner should have. The ISO 20000 “is the International Standard for service management. Part 1 of the ISO/IEC 20000 Standard lays out a specification for a service management system (SMS). Part 2 provides guidance on SMS implementation” (UK IT Governance, 2013). The centrality of the ISO2000 accreditation surrounds the importance of having an international standard and therein an IT support services partner with the aptitude and ability to perform to international industry regulated standards.
IBM Research Labs recently argued “the single most important component of technology support surrounds the notion of the 24/7 ‘always-on’ dynamic” (IBM, 2013). Cisco, similarly argues the availability of outsourcing alternatives helps to increase the productivity of on-site staff through the creation of symbiotic reliance on externalised support and internal accord (Cisco, 2012b). In plain English, gone are the days of the angry in-house IT techie. However, DELL and Hewlett-Packard have published data that points towards a changing landscape within the SME environment. The reality is that with cloud-based alternatives, companies are downsizing in-house reliance on old fashioned operational structures (Dell, 2011c; HP, 2013a).
A key point to consider is that an IT support service is more than just troubleshooting hardware! Microsoft conducted a survey of SME ventures in Europe and found that 33.8% of all senior management time was spent on IT issues that could be outsourced and could help increase team productivity (Microsoft, 2010). Furthermore, Oracle Research found that externalising software support allowed for a greater sense of collective awareness for ICT platforms – as a move to the cloud or using external support requires staff to become aware of ICT systems in a more comprehensive fashion (Oracle, 2011c).
Therefore, if you are a small business owner or proprietor, why not start thinking about future-proofing your business needs? The frustrating nature of being a small business owner or manager means, you need to stay ahead of your competition, run your business and worry about your IT needs. However, by externalising this complex operation – by using accredited IT support services – you can help increase productivity and help reduce your IT spend and increase cost-effectiveness of your IT infrastructure, freeing you up to do what you do best: Run your business!