Embracing the in-house/outsource hybrid

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This is a classic conundrum for many small businesses, whether to outsource functions (HR, IT, Marketing, Finance) or to keep it all in-house. There are pros and cons to both arguments, but there is a 3rd option that we find works very well, embracing the mix. As a ‘lone marketer’ working for an SME I have personal experience of this, I look after all the marketing for ramsac however I outsource certain elements of marketing to expert agencies, who I am not too proud to say can do a better job than me at certain parts of my job!

How Does the Hybrid Approach Work?

In my case, as I have already said, I use an agency to help me with of the more specialised elements on my job e.g. search engine optimisation. In the case of IT, at ramsac we work with organisations who have outsourced their IT to us completely and some who also have an in-house IT Manager, who we work alongside, to plug any skills gap, provide advice at a more strategic level or assist with certain projects e.g. office moves. We are not replacing the in-house resource, we are there to compliment the service they provide. This hybrid approach has many benefits, although it can also bring challenges which cannot be ignored.

What Are the Pros to Embracing the Hybrid Approach?

Saving Money – Instead of paying high prices for experts in all fields, you can bring in the specialist for a short term to solve an issue. It also means saving on training costs. Instead of attempting to send one person on an excessive number of training courses to try and make them experts at everything, you can focus on nurturing the skills they excel in. Plugging the Skills Gap – This makes financial sense and also means that a company can bring in a specialist absolutely focussed on the issue at hand, whereas a full-time employee would likely have a more general set of IT skills that could be applied to a variety of situations. There are so many disciplines in IT and so many skills needed it is impossible for one person to have all the most up to date training all the time, so using an agency for some projects can plug any skills gaps. 24/7 Coverage – you may need support 24/7 and you can’t expect your lone IT Manager to be on call all the time, it is useful to know weekends, nights and annual leave can be covered by a team who understand your business. Loyalty – not fully outsourcing and keeping that In-house employee means the organisation can feel more secure in knowing the job will be done well as the employee has a personal investment in the company and would go above and beyond to get the job done.

What Are the Cons to Embracing the Hybrid Approach?

The Costs – this may seem odd but money pops up in both pros and cons and perhaps for some organisations the pros and cons cancel each other out. But it is worth laying out why they appear on both sides of the argument. Organisations will still have recruitment and head count costs, in addition to the cost of using the agency and if not kept in check these costs can spiral. Losing (some) Control – any time you outsource (whatever the extent) you are at risk of losing control, which is why it is important to work with organisations who are have the right skills at the right level, who are trustworthy, affordable and available when needed, and who get on well with the internal resource to create a solid team. Alienation – Using an external IT provider when you also have a lone IT manager can leave the internal employee feeling alienated, vulnerable or unsure about their position. It is important to help them see the benefits to them of essentially extending their team Finding the Right One – finding the right agency/provider to work with your internal resource and compliment their skill set can be time consuming and a bit hit and miss, we recommend involving the internal resource in finding the agency to ensure they are invested in the decision.

Best of Both Worlds – the Hybrid Approach

Most IT managers (and lone marketers) tend to be generalists, they can’t be experts in all areas of their field – and if they say they are I would be sceptical – jack of all trades, master of none, springs to mind. A good IT manager will understand their strengths and their weaknesses to let the organisation know where there are skills gaps. They can manage the relationship with the external agency to ensure the company gets the best service by creating a team with the outsource agency. With all marketing agencies I have used over the years, I have seen them as an extension of my marketing team and have fostered close working relationships to ensure the organisation gets the best possible service. There is no right answer and it comes down to the individual organisation to work out what works best for them, but if your IT manager is struggling with workload and you are debating‘to outsource, or not to outsource’ the hybrid approach should be given serious consideration.

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