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IT - The Outsource vs.In House Debate

5 Jun, 2010 By: Eric Stavola, Witt Company imageSource

IT - The Outsource vs.In House Debate

The copier/printer industry has been for the most part, a copycat-focused industry. Disagree? Just take a look at some of the main focuses over the past 15 years: Color, Printing, Docu-audits, Convergence, Document Management, Security, and yes, Managed Print Services. One aspect of our industry where I do see some major differences is in the area of Professional or IT Services (IT). From dealership to dealership, I think this is one focus that is vastly different, depending on the company.

In fact, I am amazed at the discrepancy between companies; some outsource their IT needs, or only have one individual on staff to truly support a total solution, while other companies have a whole department with both pre and post sale engineers! Here, and in a series of upcoming articles, I will take a detailed look into IT services and discuss the benefits and negatives of dealerships outsourcing IT vs. developing it in house. Let’s start out with the basic reasons.

Reason #1: Expense
As an example, a few weeks ago I received a phone call from a friend who owns a large dealership in Southern California. He told me that he has decided to release his IT specialist. When I asked why, he stated, “He was too expensive.”   We assume that industry certifications ensure, at least on paper, that your company’s equipped to handle any size account and situation. However, these certifications and the individuals who have them do not come cheap. Thus, a smaller dealer looking to cut cost has to outsource due to that expense. Some dealer owners feel they can get by with a technician who knows how to connect a printer or set up scanning vs. keeping a “solutions engineer” on staff. Other dealer owners think of professional services simply as an added expense to their customers and sales reps who install a piece of equipment.

Reason #2: Flexibility
I have spoken to a lot of dealers who like the flexibility of being able to outsource their IT needs. When asked the main reasons of why they said:

IT Staffing
• Staffing levels can be adapted quickly to client requirements, thereby avoiding gaps due to attrition, business growth or economic downturns.
• Retention of technically qualified in-house personnel is more difficult when external job opportunities are rapidly changing.

Improved Cost Management Controls
• IT costs become more visible as all billable hours must be accounted for.
• Outsourced services are utilized as needed, and organizations pay only for what services are actually used.

Reason #1: Investment
By having in house It specialists, you are facilitating the overall needs of your sales staff and customer base, yet more importantly you are sending a message that you are investing in them. Many successful dealerships have the understanding that to deliver a value added service to a customer, the servicing dealership should have a good understanding and expertise in three key areas:

            1. Potential Customers Business Environment (Workflow).
            2. Potential Customers Network Environment (Infrastructure).
            3. Your Products And Software (Integration).  

With the newer products that we sell, most can tie into just about any workflow the customer may have by having a Java or web-based Language Functionality and back end connectors to allow venders to really provide a multi-application platform to customers. Do not underestimate the investment in an IT specialist who can provide flexibility, security, and customize MFP’s into the IT’s ever evolving world.

Reason #2: Credibility
In the solutions/connectivity world, we strive to gain credibility with both our products and personnel. One sure fire way to gain credibility with IT/MIS personnel, is to have industry- certified personnel on staff. AS an MCSE myself, I want to know I am having conversations with individuals on my level of expertise. Not to be egotistical, I just don’t have the time to deal with level 1 & 2 tech support. I want to work with an expert. This type of mentality needs to be understood when dealing with IT/MIS. I have seen too many deals lost because a prospect or company’s perception of your technical staff was lackluster. Proper in house IT support allows for all aspects of the sale and/or implementation to  transition smoothly, providing evidence of a clear understanding of the customer’s environment and workflow needs, and which allows dealers to better match up the most efficient product and services. Upon review, either side of the issue to choose “outsource vs. in house IT” has its pluses and minuses, depending on a dealer’s needs. Next month, I will take a more in-depth look as to the overall impact this decision has on a company  - and on its competition!

Eric Stavola is IT Director, Professional Services for a California-based dealership. He is a former network solutions manager for Kyocera Mita, and consults nationwide. Eric holds a Masters Degree in Information Systems & holds the following certifications: MCSE,MCSA, N+,CDIA+. At 619.379-3009.

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