Keep IT in-house

To outsource or not to outsource? This is a question posed time and again by companies regarding information technology. Often, they go with the former because there is a perception IT isn’t core to the business. They believe outsourcing is an efficient way to reduce costs. However, an argument can be made that keeping technology in-house is just as cost-effective as outsourcing, if not more so, because in-house teams bring a valuable strategic advantage to the table.

While a company may be paying less per hour for outsourcing, it can often take much longer to get tasks completed — which means outsourcing slows down processes. More importantly, you miss the opportunity to leverage internal business knowledge.

Say you are outsourcing your infrastructure management and ask for a development server. Odds are, you just get a server. If your IT team is in-house and has the advantage of understanding your strategic initiatives, it may ask a few more questions and then make recommendations on potential ancillary configurations. Outsourced IT will give you what you ask for, not what you really need. In-house IT has the context to make a better business decision for your company.

According to TechTarget, Atlanta’s Home Depot has its information technology department review and report on customer satisfaction scores. That’s certainly not your traditional IT responsibility. Similarly, Target is moving IT back in-house after realizing the strategic value of technology to the organization.

Demand for cloud computing and analytics has made in-house IT expertise a treasured asset. As a result, its job description has changed, as well as the department’s desire to align with the business users it serves. While technology professionals still cite lack of clarity on objectives as the top barrier between their department and the business, alignment has progressed by nearly 20 percent since autumn 2014, according to a survey our team conducted earlier this year.

What might surprise some is technology has played a tremendous role in furthering that alignment. The consumerization of information technology and rise of cloud-based automation software, for example, has enabled IT to step back from what are considered more tactical activities, like setting up servers and provisioning technology, and focus more on executing initiatives that have greater visibility and carry a larger impact throughout an organization. IT has embraced automation, in particular.

With IT in-house, there’s more of an opportunity for collaboration that can benefit entire organizations. The reality is, when a company outsources too much, it loses a significant competitive advantage. There is system knowledge, environmental knowledge and process knowledge; knowing how to pull all three together creates a leg up. Organizations that outsource IT don’t realize they’re hitting only one or two of the three and creating major gaps for their businesses long-term.

What can be done to keep more of these professionals in Atlanta, and furthermore, in-house? The good news is Atlanta is already off on the right foot because we are home to IT candidates from nationally ranked programs at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia State University. According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, our state is considered the fifth-largest IT employment cluster in the U.S., with 200,000 high-tech professionals.

As the role of information technology continues to shift from doer to strategist, more opportunities need to be created within organizations for IT leadership and growth.

Making information technology an inside job is the best long-term solution when you weigh the pros and cons. By cultivating an environment where IT has a voice and the chance to make an impact on the business, everyone wins.

Joe LeCompte is principal at PMG, an Atlanta-based information technology and services company.