By Steve Swiecichowski

Director of Service Delivery

In the age of outsourcing, I find that many of our clients are still pondering how important it is to have local IT support. Do you really need to have access to them? An argument can be made that advancements in technology and collaborative tools make it possible to use tech support from anywhere. It looks great on paper, especially on the bottom line.

Over the past 10 years, we have seen companies move past local to find cost-effective support, but I’ve also noticed that those who put cost savings ahead of proximity and, more importantly, culture, are finding that there might be a limit to how far you can outsource IT support.

The dynamics of today’s IT market make outsourcing a must for most companies. The pace of technological change and the onset of the digital enterprise are driving companies to focus internal IT on applications and processes that contribute to the bottom line. However, supporting  infrastructure and standardized applications such as email is still critical and requires high service levels. Thus, when it comes to outsourcing, there is much to think about, especially who will be providing service and where they are located are at the top of the list.

SRC has customers near and far. Below is a list of four things we ask our customers to consider when deciding how important local support is:

Will the outsourced company be interacting with your employees? If you are considering outsourcing Level 1 support, which will interact with your employees, you better ensure that the provider can fit in and become part of your organization. When something goes wrong and an end-user needs IT support, that person is usually irritated and will be looking for someone who is understanding and treats him or her with respect on the other end of the phone. If this does not happen, it could affect IT’s customer satisfaction. Usually, a local firm can connect with your employees better than a provider who is halfway across the country – or across the globe.

Do you want to meet with whom you will be working? Some people feel better if they have a face-to-face relationship with the person leading their support. It is common for IT providers to ensure their sales staff spends face time with you, making you comfortable with entrusting them to secure your business. But what happens once you are under contract? Who oversees the day-to-day service delivery? If you want to work with someone that will make a personal investment in your success, you likely will need to develop a relationship with them, which is much easier to do if you can meet face-to-face regularly with them.

Are they able to support your time zone and schedule requirements? Don’t underestimate the importance of having the same working schedule as your provider. While you will most likely be relying on them to provide 24-7 support, you will want to be able to conduct most communications during regular business hours. Think about the time difference between the East Coast and West Coast. In that situation, you only have five shared business hours. If you have a busy calendar, you lose flexibility.

Do they understand your business? While there are many benefits to being close to your IT provider, it often can be arranged to work with someone located in a different region.  Regardless of where your provider is located, it is critical that they understand your business, your goals and your executive team’s expectations of IT. If your extended IT support team understands these dynamics, it can provide support from that point of view vs. doing it based on its own company’s point of view, which could be very different.

Bottom line: When picking a support partner, don’t overlook organizational fit and personal connections as some of your main criteria. In the long run, happy end-users, infrastructure,  application availability, and ease of doing business carry value that should be considered, along with price.