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HomeBusinessManaging the relationship between in-house IT and an external provider

Managing the relationship between in-house IT and an external provider

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Lots of businesses find the decision between keeping IT support provision in-house or outsourcing to an external provider to be a straightforward one. In this situation, the chain of command, the set of core shared values, and the reporting structure are the same throughout the team, and remain crystal clear.

However, this is rarely the case when it comes to IT solutions. In-house teams are an appealing prospect, but their costs can be astronomical; relying on an external team might provide you with a greater wealth of experience, but you’ll be missing the ‘hands on’ approach that only a team physically placed in your offices can provide.

Businesses are increasingly making the decision to balance these two options, hoping for the best of both worlds, but it’s not always that simple. If you want your two teams to have a positive relationship that benefits your company, you’ll need to ask yourself some important questions – and work out what happens in-house and what should be outsourced.

Do the two teams share the same purpose?

The likelihood is that your business has a core set of values and ideals that dictate how your go about running your operation every day. While this is a great way of unifying your workforce, it can sometimes feel as though IT teams aren’t working within these goals – but why is that?

Essentially, it boils down to the role they perform within your business. Obviously your marketing, accounts, and sales employees wouldn’t be able to do their work without the IT systems up and running, but that can create a rift between them and the rest of the team. Are they just servants working for those doing the ‘proper’ work? Or are they driving the business forward in their own right?

Your IT team should be viewed by your business as just as valuable as any other area of your workforce; therefore, your staff and external provider should fit into this model of thinking too. Although you may largely see your IT support when something isn’t working right, it’s still important to create an atmosphere of togetherness in which you’re all working toward a common goal.

Having this attitude may mean that you involve your external provider in situations that they aren’t wholly relevant to, but if this ensures that they’re treated as valuable members of your community, then you can avoid any future confusions about the direction and priorities of your business.

Who’s making the decisions for your business?

Making the decisions for business in-house it and an external provider

Still, while it’s important to make everyone feel as though they’re a part of a team, it’s equally important to ensure they’re being governed by strong, effective leadership. When you’re bringing in external providers, these lines of command can become a little foggy, so you’ll need to clear things up and make sure that you don’t run into any problems based on confusion.

When an IT based decision is being made, you should make sure that the entire team knows who has made that decision, as well as why it’s been made and who will be directing other requests from there on out. It’s good to have initiative, but you don’t want to disrupt the larger business by having people make decisions that aren’t in line with broader, longer term goals.

How does your reporting structure look?

If you’re working with an external IT support provider, you’ll have to make sure that they use a similar reporting structure to the one that your in house team work with. IT works at its smoothest when everything moves together as one – think of it as the whole network, rather than just individual devices.

To unify your teams, create a reporting structure and make sure that both teams agree to abide by it – this reduces the chance for gaps and errors, as well as missed opportunities.

Is it clear who is undertaking each task?

Through cloud-based project management tools, it can be simple to assign particular tasks to certain users. However, if you’re working with an external team that don’t lie within your regular management structure, you might see some problems start to arise.

To avoid this, you should ensure that every single task required or your in house or external team is assigned consistently in the same way, even if the external provider end up doubling it up through their own methods. By doing this, you’re able to quickly glance at your plans and know exactly who will be dealing with your task, and more specifically if it will be outsourced or done in-house.

Is communication clear?

This question isn’t too ‘techy’, and is a key component of the success of any business: ensure that your two teams are communicating clearly, consistently, and effectively.

It might sound obvious, but it’s easy for communication to slip over time, especially if work is piling up or your business is experiencing an especially busy period. If everyone is getting on with their assigned tasks, then regular communication might not seem necessary, but it’s always worth ensuring that everyone knows where they stand and how everybody else is getting on with their work.

You can aid communication by setting up collaboration tools like Slack charts or Basecamp fires to have an area for staff to just chat!

Do your teams understand each other?

You might assume that you have a thorough understanding of the roles of individuals in your teams and what they might get up to on a day to day basis, but if you don’t stay up to date, you could be facing some resentment or tension between the two sides of your support.

Clearly establishing what each team is responsible for early on in the hiring process is crucial in helping each team understand what the other does on a daily basis. You also shouldn’t hesitate in bringing the two teams together to shadow one another if you want to establish a strong foundation or strengthen the relationship further. IT systems can vary enormously from one company to the next, and there’s no better way of clearing up complexities than having each team understand the other’s routine responsibilities. While this won’t necessarily result in interchangeable members, it does mean that they can have appropriate expectations of each other, and will know where to turn for some support if they need additional experience.

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