IT outsourcing can help charities simplify their IT operations, cut costs and improve their service levels. As with all change projects, the execution is as important as the design. However, outsourcing IT comes with its own set of risks; choosing the right partner is not just about reputation, but also about whether they are the right fit for your organisation. Are they the right size, do they have a complimentary culture, and do they offer a reassuring SLA and commercial arrangement? There is also a question of what should be actually outsourced? Is it the department in its entirety or is it certain sub functions or teams? Adam Monks, Co-founder of Charity IT specialist, Smartdesc, recommends that charities and non-profit organisations should consider the following six tests when considering outsourcing their IT.
A 100% outsourced structure and a hybrid structure both work well when executed correctly. As with most projects, a big-bang transition is higher risk than a staggered transition. To reduce risk, think about outsourcing a sub-function or team, or even one or two roles to your selected partner of choice. As trust grows with your partner, outsourcing more of the department may be a compelling option, but as long as the six tests are followed, the structure of the arrangement can vary.
Procuring the right partner can be de-risked by looking carefully at their reputation. Be cautious of brand and slick sales presentations, instead ask for evidence of the following;
- The partner’s growth rate and how the growth has happened. Evidence of organic growth through reputation is preferable.
- Check out the other customers the partner is working with and their alignment to you.
- Have existing customers re-signed for extended contracts?
- Are there any trusted bodies recommending the partner?
- What certification does the partner have such as ISO27001 and ITIL
Ask for reference sites and if you can speak to some of their customers to find out more about the potential partner.
3. The right set of Experts
Potential partners vary in their own specialisms. Consider whether their expertise aligns with your current technology or the type of technology you are wanting to evolve to. Discuss what your partner’s views are on technology trends and how they can move your organisation forward with them. Ask for evidence of Charity IT projects that have been delivered previously.
When it comes to cost, try to share as much risk as you can with your partner. If it truly is a partnership, then the commercial arrangement should go some way to reflect this. If you have a Commercial Director, they will be able to use their experience to scrutinise the contractual arrangement. If you do not, then consider whether your charity can use a recommended consultant for a couple of days to help get this right. Always be cautious of low-cost flat rate outsourcing arrangements. The right partner will be well versed in finding the charity discounts and funding for Charity IT projects.
The commercial arrangement, contract and associated SLA are your legal rights, but it is the culture of your partner that will make or break the relationship. During the pre-sales process, have culture at the forefront of your mind and test it as much as possible along the way. Speak to as many of the partner’s team as you can, find out about staff retention rates and consider if the partner’s values align with yours.
Outsourcing is a transition for your whole organisation, not just for the IT team. It is human nature to be cautious about a new partner; the relationship will only truly blossom as the new structure beds in and colleagues spend time together. The first few months are vital and the way in which the new partner is introduced to the organisation is extremely important. If you have an internal communications manager, they will be able to support the process and advise which channels will work best. Be upfront, transparent and honest about why the changes are being made and what the new opportunities will bring.
Overall, the more attention you give the six tests, the lower risk the transition will be, and you will have a healthy and successful IT outsourcing arrangement in place for the long-term for your charity or non profit organisation.
Author: Adam Monks, Co-Founder of Smartdesc