#ExplainIT – Outsourcing your IT
We’re back with the next episode of #ExplainIT! Steve, Matt and Harley chat about what outsourcing your IT really involves, and how outsourcing can send productivity through the roof, make your office manager’s life WAY easier, and help you kick goals as a business.
Here are the top three things you need to know:
- Lean on outsourced services such as your IT to free up you or your office manager’s time.
- IT is supposed to work and make your life easier – if it’s not, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.
- Look at the long-term value – would you rather spend your money on constantly fixing things, or on improving your systems so your business can scale and grow?
Short on time?
We know the feeling! Check out these snippets from the episode or read the transcript below for a quick overview.
- Explaining managed IT services in 100 seconds
- Why hiring internal IT is costly: advantages of external IT
- How outsourcing IT boosts productivity for small businesses
- Making your office manager your IT quarterback
- Boosting your existing IT department with external help
Harley: Welcome to episode three of activIT systems’ #ExplainIT. Today we’re going to talk about the benefits of outsourcing your IT; why do it, what’s the point of doing it, and what can you get from doing it. So let’s start off with Matt. Matt, what is outsourcing your IT?
Matt: Outsourcing IT is when you get a third party to come in and handle all of your IT for you. They manage your computers, your antivirus, emails, internet connections. Everything that is to do with your computers, all of those parts of your business and the wheels that are turning behind the scenes that keep you going, all of that you can outsource to a team of professionals who do that for you to let you focus on running your business.
Harley: Of course, and that’s the bread and butter of activIT systems, your company, and how does this look for a company that might not be doing their own IT, or not even engaging in IT activities, how does this contract look Steve?
Steve: Yeah so effectively what needs to occur is, number one is the client has to effectively give all of their trust and all of their systems to this third party which they may not know from a bar of soap. Quite often that’s a little bit of a hurdle that we need to overcome, because when it boils down to it, the client has basically entrusted us to run everything for them. If you have a look at what has recently occurred with the coronavirus situation, IT’s been in a lot of demand in keeping businesses afloat or you know mobilising to work from home and so on. But effectively, rather than having your internal IT department take care of those types of things, you’ve got this, this team of people that can do the same. It’s usually for a lot less cost than employing people directly, you’ve got a lot more skill sets to play with, and in many respects you’ve got a lot more kind of brain power and more eyes that you can look on a particular problem or a solution. So you start to get a bit of an economy of scale going on. We’ve got a team of 15 people here, and effectively it costs less to get our team involved than it would to get one or two, you know, permanent kind of IT people in-house. The smaller side of business where they’re trying to do a little bit of it themselves, that’s great and you can save a lot of money, but you might end up (or you generally end up) with solutions which aren’t actually fit for purpose, might be hastily implemented, and not quite right for what the business needs to achieve.
Harley: Absolutely and when I started in my business, personally I thought “IT, I can do that myself”. I set up my Gmail, my Google business account, or G-suite as it was called, and thought “great! I don’t need anything else, I’ll just buy an internet plan and off I go”. Then two years in, I thought “actually this is the time. Let’s go into IT, let’s get a contract and actually manage it” and I realised there’s only about $300 bucks per month roughly in that initial case for me, it’s since gone up as I’ve scaled up. For those companies that have an untrained business owner or an untrained office manager who’s just kind of doing the little pieces, what would you say you add to what they do? How do you make them sharper and increasing productivity, security, and those key things?
Steve: Yeah I’ll tackle part of this question. The first one is for the office manager. So one of the great things that we do is basically save them a ton of time. Quite often the office manager is the liaison between themselves, their company and IT, and in many cases we’ve been able to remove a lot of the pressure and stress that office managers are put under to deal with little IT niggles, because they know that they can basically handball that off to the IT team and they’ll get it sorted. I think one of the huge benefits from that is it’s not taking up the office managers to [deal with] “oh my monitor’s not working, oh the printers jammed,” all those little types of things. They’ve got this team of other people that can deal with the problem, [which] lets the office manager or the business owner get back to actually what they need to be doing. In a business owner perspective you know that’s running and developing a business, not dealing with IT niggles and little problems. In a more practical sense I suppose, Matt can continue on with what we do on a day-to-day basis to make their lives a bit easier.
Matt: Yeah so especially just going on your point about office managers, you know that’s just it’s really a symbiotic relationship because they’re going to be the person that a lot of their staff have been coming to with these issues, and it also insulates management, like you know the owners, directors from those discussions as well. So there’s a lot of benefits to be gained there if you do have an office manager in that position, to have them be the point of contact for activIT or your IT department. But yeah, as far as day-to-day goes you know, there’s so many little things. If you think about internet outages there’s a lot of questions that can come up. It’s like “what’s going on? Why is the internet going slow?” or “why can’t we connect? What’s happening with these connections from people that are working remotely still through these trying times through COVID?” And sometimes those questions can lead to a lot of frustration, and just being able to get some answers, and you know, talk to someone about it and they can investigate and they can say “oh, there’s a reported outage at your point of internet connect with the NBN, and that’s why it’s out, and this is the expected restoration time”. It just brings a lot of surety and you know, just peace of mind to the staff as well. But just being able to consult on things like getting new equipment, getting printers, making sure that everything is fit for purpose? It just really helps make sure that you can focus on running your business, doing your jobs, and being as productive as possible, without having to you know, worry about you know “is this piece of equipment that we’re going to pick up from a retail store going to last us for 12 months or you know 48 months?”
Harley: Got it. And knuckling down on those benefits, what does having this arsenal, effectively, of IT professionals behind an office manager – I like that wording as well, a bit like you guys are the weapons for them – so having you guys behind them as their ‘firepower’ so to speak, what does that do for productivity in an office?
Steve: It goes through the roof! Without being biased or anything. I suppose effectively, if I draw parallels with like an office manager or like a one or two person internal IT team, versus like a team of ten or fifteen outsourced IT experts, the internal guys they’re within their own little bubble you know this is the only complete environment that they’re looking after, they’re gonna know it very very well, but they don’t necessarily have the exposure to everything else that’s going on out in the world and no other environments or IT environments I suppose, to compare against. With an outsourced environment, so we’re a managed service provider, we’re looking after 100, 200 different environments for our clients. We see benefits that one client might be doing which we can then potentially implement with another client. We’ve got a very very kind of broad spectrum of what is going on in the world. Some clients, I suppose the smaller ones, they’re more willing and flexible to be early adopters of newer technology and willing to give it a try, because the cost and impact is a lot less. You know for five people that’s easier to implement something than it is for 50. But in our role we can say “OK, this worked really well for this team of five to ten people, this can actually scale up, and you can run this in a 50 person, 100 person organisation.” Whereas when you’re in the internal IT bubble you’ve kind of, you’ve got not limitations or such, but it’s not as easy to get those types of things either across the line or get them in front of management, because we’ve got the living proof that “yeah this system works, these particular changes they actually do work, this client has done it – have a chat to them if you like” so that helps with productivity and all those types of things. We’ve got a case at the moment where one client, they’re about to buy a bit of gear from a big-box retail store. We would normally supply them gear but they’re having a look at a bit of a bargain – but it’s not quite fit for purpose, and by the time we adapt that hardware to make it fit for purpose, so upgrading Office licenses and Windows licenses and so on, it’s gonna cost the same as a regular old PC. So they’re not actually saving anything, but they are spending a lot of extra time to make that happen.
Matt: And having extra headaches as well, rather than just saying “we need computers, make it happen” and that’s something that IT departments, outsourced IT is really good at. You don’t only offload the work, you offload the responsibility, the hassle, you just say you know “hey, this is the outcome we’re trying to achieve, do it”. There’s a consultation process, you can be involved in the decision-making at whatever extent you wish, we have some clients that effectively just give us you know creative freedom and say “hey, we trust you, here’s the budget, here’s what we can afford to spend on this project – make it happen, give us the best solution that we can get” where others really want to be involved in that process and go through it with a fine-tooth comb and make sure that they understand everything that’s going on. Neither of those approaches is wrong, they’re both suitable for different businesses, different management styles and we are happy to cater to both of them.
Steve: I suppose I look at it, I’ve been in the game a long time, and I look at it from a very large picture kind of perspective. So let’s say you’re a business you got 40, 50 a hundred staff or whatever and you’ve got you know one internal IT resource. If you’re watching a video and you’ve got one IT guy within your company at that size, you’ll know that if they’re sick or if they’re on holidays or otherwise busy on something, maybe trying to get a bit of training done, that they are not available to look after the staff within the business. One person can only do so much, however, the cost to have that one person employed is going to be probably, well most likely it’s going to be higher than having you know a team of 10 or 15 available. It’s all about economies of scale and things like that. So one of the things that we can do, and other MSPs around the country, you know if someone rings up with a helpdesk type problem, we’ve got guys which are available to answer the phone straight away. You’re not necessarily waiting hours and hours and hours for someone to get back to you for a simple type problem, because we’ve got multiple people here. Whereas if you’ve got one IT person or two you need to balance you know, their annual leave, sick leave, training, they still need to learn new things, they might be working on a project and their focus on the project detracts from day-to-day repairs and maintenance type thing. Or they might need to forego maintenance because they’re so busy repairing things, or the project gets delayed because they’re so busy focusing on the repairs and day-to-day type stuff. There’s only so much one person can do in eight hours. Whereas you know we’ve, I don’t know the sums what we’ve got, I don’t know maybe 100 hours a day or probably 80 to 100 as a real technical capacity that we can actually get things done in you know.
Matt: Yep, we have some clients that will consume 40 hours in one day and then zero hours the next day, and if you’ve got internal IT you know you have to average that out, you don’t have a choice. We’ve got a lot more burst potential.
Steve: Exactly right, yeah.
Harley: Got it and that’s something, that leads quite well into my next point which is doing things properly. One thing that happens when you have more time, is you get more time to do things properly. So if you’re one of those office managers or business owners who’s trying to do things on their own and IT would form maybe four hours of your week, let alone your day, not doing things properly could have security implications as well as productivity and efficiency implications. So, how do we as a business, how does activIT systems fix security problems, particularly through having more time to work on these problems?
Steve: Yeah I think one of the biggest aspects is security and cybersecurity is front of mind for us, you know, it’s one of the big concerns in the industry. Whereas in a business owner or office manager they’ve got other things that they’re worrying about, more pressing matters. So let’s say a client was to come to us and say “hey, we need a solution to do this. We’re setting up a new office over in you know Victoria or something like that, or we’re about to expand, or we just want to change the way we’re doing things”. So immediately our thoughts are “okay. Is it actually feasible, is it actually going to work, what are the security implications surrounding that?”
So in many cases it’s security or cyber security by design, it has to be built in to whatever the solution is gonna be. Because we are thinking about that constantly, it’s second nature for us and we understand all of the situations and the problems that can occur by not having it done right. So I think there’s, I can’t remember the chap who said it, but basically he asked the question, which is “why would you do this job to save a wage, when you could be focusing on something else?”
In this case if you’re a business owner, why would you be spending time figuring out what software is gonna work for you, and implementing it and all those types of things, when you can be focusing on business development and sales and you know looking after your team and then get the experts to do that job for you? And we would be able to get it done a lot faster.
Matt: Yeah there’s definitely a point there as well, with leveraging the experience and the economy of scale with having outsourced IT as well. If someone has a IT, internal IT guy who’s been working there for five years and they want to do a security review. You come in and you know, he can look through documentation, and he can read up on what’s going on, find all the best practices, familiarise himself with them, and effectively learn it all from the ground up and then do this single implementation that he’s only ever going to do once, and it’s gonna be at your company, and it’s going to work. But the amount of groundwork, the amount of training that needs to go into it – it’s already done. All of that is done behind the scenes for us, because we need to roll it out to you know fifty, a hundred different clients to various degrees, so we don’t need to relearn all of that stuff every time and you don’t need to pay us to relearn it every time we want to roll something out for you.
Steve: Yeah it’s very much second nature for a lot of things that internal IT wouldn’t necessarily know, because we just got, we’ve got that exposure. And it’s the same with MSPs around the country and the world you know, so because we’re doing it all of the time, we don’t need to be you know relearning things for once-off type jobs. One of the big ones which pops up a lot is in terms of accountability and complacency with internal, it sounds like I’m bagging internal IT teams, I’m not, a lot of them are really good. But when you’ve got that business which is like teetering on that edge of like one or two kind of internal IT staff, unless they’re really switched on and management understands the IT, generally what we’ve found from experience is, those guys are a little bit complacent because no one is holding them accountable, management doesn’t understand what is going on in the technology, they’re just kind of leaving it up to the IT guys to sort out, and they can almost fall into like this comfort zone type situation. They know everything like the back of their hand so they don’t need good documentation, they know that “yeah the boss isn’t really gonna care if I don’t patch this system, they don’t even know what patching is” maybe. So they can fall into this kind of like little complacency trap. I’m not bagging out internal IT, but it’s something that we have seen – no one is – not always do they have people holding them accountable to what’s going on. In the MSP type space like that we’re in, so we’ve got a helpdesk team, we’ve got a service delivery team, we’ve got service managers and you’ve got like myself, and the accountability you know flows downwards. So you know if one of the guys on the help desk is not doing the job right, then other people on the team are going to know about that pretty fast and we’ll take you know, proactive steps to remedy that. But if you’ve got one or two guys in IT, something could maybe get swept under the rug that went wrong.
Matt: Yep there’s a lot of you don’t know what you don’t know as well
Steve: I’m not bagging them out
Matt: Correct, correct. And that’s the type of stuff which I see fairly frequently when we go have a look at, you know, prospective clients and things like that.
Harley: Yeah definitely and as you see a lot with business, when it comes to remote help, accountability is kind of the what is the key worry of them. So what I see a lot with businesses that when they come for remote help, in the case of my business and we’re a remote marketing agency, what we tend to see is that they have a little bit of distrust where the things get done from the start. So in terms of remote help and helping businesses from your location, especially in the work from home era that we’re in now where everyone is remote, how do you guys structure a remote IT agreement, and how do you actually make that effective?
Steve: Yeah I’ll start this one off then hand over to Matt. It’s all about transparency, in terms of – the client can’t see what we’re doing 90% of the time. Even when we’re on site they probably don’t really understand what we are doing. So it’s all about transparency and we’ve got a lot of reporting and so on, but I’ll let Matt can continue on.
Matt: Yeah, so I mean one thing that we see a lot of the time is you know we see – not only from internal IT but from other managed service providers, where there’s not a lot of transparency, there’s not a lot of documentation, notes coming through about what is actually being done. They’re just being charged hours and hours of labour. And so we find that it’s really important to make sure that everything you can do is justified, and one of the things that we talk to with our techs on the team is you know – if you can’t justify your time to us when we review it at the end of the month, how are we gonna justify it to the client? So we’re always, in many respects, part of my job is to go in to bat for the clients, to make sure that before those invoices go out, everything is neat, tidy, and accountable.
Steve: Yeah it’s all got to be tickedy boo. So quite often I’ll go have a chat to a prospective client, and they might have had a bit of grief with their IT provider, so I’ll say “okay show me some of the job reports that they might have sent through recently”. Really when it may be dealing with a specific issue, “have you got any job reports or any kind of info that they’ve sent through?” and they go “no we’ve got nothing, they spoke to us on the phone for a minute and gave us a real brief rundown but I don’t really know what’s going on”. Whereas from our end, and a lot of the good MSPs around the country, you’ve got a very detailed reporting of what we do. We need to basically have almost a line-by-line type situation: these are the things that we’ve done, these are the things which have worked, these things maybe haven’t worked, and this is the outcome, confirmed it with a client “yep everything is cool” give it a couple of days, wait for them to come back if they just need to confirm anything, yep. Only at that stage is the job ticket you know ready to close as such. But having said that there’s, throughout the course of a month there’s a lot of information and things that we do which clients don’t really see, so a lot of maintenance and things like that which happen. It’s all important for the upkeep of systems, and I suppose safe and productive IT environments for their staff. So some of the extra things that we do is, we’ve got you know a whole bunch of executive reports that go out, and there’s nice graphs, and “these are the number of tickets you’ve had this month, these are the jobs we’ve got scheduled for the next two weeks, and these are the number of PCs that you have, these are the ones which have been patched, patches missing or antivirus status etc”. So we want to be as kind of open and transparent with what’s going on as much as we can. Even if it’s purely just to instill trust with the client, that okay yes these guys are doing what they’re saying they’re doing, because most of time they can’t actually see what we’re doing. It’s a very hard one to get I suppose across the line we with and build up that trust and rapport.
Harley: Definitely and the results speak for themselves. At the end of the day you guys do great work, and that’s something that the client will just have to come and see. And that leads me perfectly into the last question which is: if we’ve got businesses watching right now, if you’re one of those businesses watching right now you’ll be thinking “is this for me?” or “this sounds like it’s for me,” what should my next step be?
Steve: Give us a call. Yeah no no they probably fall into two categories. One of them would be they’re just starting to have a look at outsourced IT, in which case by all means yeah give us a call, we’re happy to have a you know free chat, there’s no obligation anything like that. We’ll buy you coffee or donuts or anything that that the team likes to chow down, on no problems. Filet mignon maybe? Or you could be watching because you’ve already got an IT provider looking after things at the moment, maybe not doing a fantastic job. It’s always worthwhile getting a second opinion, there’s a lot of things that we can pick up that they may or may not be doing right, even if it’s purely for peace of mind we’re happy to come in and basically provide a bit of an assessment and a bit of advice as well yeah. So you know give us a call, check us out on the web.
Matt: It ties in pretty heavily with the last session as well on shadow IT. If you do have someone who is just going along and doing everything internally, you don’t know what you don’t know. So I mean if you think of you know a teenager who has picked up his parent’s car keys, and he’s like you know “I can drive across town, I’ve been in cars, I’ve seen like cars in TV shows and in movies, I can do that” and they might get there, they might get to their destination, but they’ll never know how much risk they were in, how much trouble they could have gotten into. And that’s very true for IT as well, you don’t know how much you have at risk, or how many security flaws there are, or how bad your systems might be unless you get someone to come in and have a look at them. Or you find out the hard way and you suddenly are being told that you need to provide ten thousand dollars’ worth of bitcoins to get your files back.
Steve: Yeah yeah that’s right. I’ve actually got a, just that I suppose to cap it off, I’ve got a really really good example. When we started working with a client about two years ago, they were putting up with a lot of problems on a day-to-day basis, so all types of IT problems, non-stop. They weren’t really getting any kind of resolution with those problems, they would reoccur, they’d pop up a couple of weeks later or the next day, and the IT guy wasn’t being transparent about what he was doing. It was a single outsourced IT guy, nothing against one-man bands. But no one was holding him accountable, and the company thought that this is normal, this is the norm. They were so accustomed to having these problems on a day-to-day and week-by-week basis, they felt like “this is how IT is we’re just gonna have to live with it” and yeah it’s not how it should be at all. Without tooting our own horn we came in and within a few months the client’s like “we can’t believe you solved all of those little problems that this guy had been struggling with for ages. We never realised that IT should actually work so well,” and it blew my mind away. I don’t know how a client could put up with that in the past. I just couldn’t get over it. So I guess that’s one of my favourite examples, of having like that that larger team, with different sets of eyes and minds, looking at a problem or multiple problems can get to the nitty-gritty of them and get them resolved. Whereas I feel bad for this poor guy, but the problems didn’t need too much involvement, they just needed different thinking and a bit of accountability behind the things you know.
Matt: And it’s something I mean that’s obvious an extreme example of what’s going on, but we do see it a lot, and part of the executive reports that come out, you know, you see these repair ticket trends just going down over time because you’re not only band-aiding solutions, but you’re actually getting to the core issue, getting them solved and getting them closed off once and for all to put it in a kind of neat way. So yeah, it’s not until you start to look at you know, long term trends that you can really start to appreciate some of the value that you get from outsourced IT.
Harley: Awesome and that’s exactly why a lot of companies look to outsource their IT and having that arsenal as were saying before is what creates the strength behind businesses in their IT departments and makes it seamless, and that downward trend in repair tickets, is exactly what I think a lot of businesses would be interested in – less problems, single fixes you know, your one fix does the job
Steve: That’s right. So if you’ve got a thousand bucks to spend on IT a month, would you rather spend on getting things fixed, or getting things improved so your business can scale and grow? It’s a no-brainer.
Harley: Yeah absolutely. Well that caps off episode three I believe of ExplainIT. To find out more about activIT systems’ services please head to their website, aitsys.com.au. Thanks, guys, for tuning in; thank you Steve, thank you Matt – it’s another great episode and we’ll be back again, thanks.
Steve: Thanks, Harley.