When it comes to client/manager expectations, there is a world of difference between the IT consultant and the internal IT employee. For an in-house IT specialist, the main challenge is to prioritize “core” tasks over “chore” duties and to perform on par with other internal employees. An IT managed service provider, on the other hand, must constantly be seeking out new ways to make clients’ businesses more effective – to do otherwise would be to risk falling behind competitors. Failing to exceed client expectations could mean a lost account. I do not know of a single company leader who would pause for more than a moment to change a less-than-stellar IT supplier. In contrast, letting go of a full-time employee requires careful contemplation.
IBM has created an infographic with these different expectations in mind. The IBM infographic reviewed common IT headaches – budgeting downtime, and deadline accountability. Below, we examine what business leaders expect of IT employees versus IT consultants when it comes to these common IT challenges.
Percentage of Budget Dedicated to Operations and Maintenance
The IBM infographic found that most businesses spend about 70% percent of their IT budgets on operations and maintenance. Unfortunately, this is a model that dooms many businesses (and, indeed, IT consultants as well, as we shall see in a moment.) The problem with spending so much on operations and maintenance is this: These funds are generally focused on service requests and incident management, leaving very little for structural problems, vendor management and change management.
Some IT consultants must abide by this allocation of funds, and therefore find it difficult to move a company forward technologically. However, if an IT managed service provider is allowed more input on how IT spending should be distributed, he or she can usually produce far better outcomes. An IT consultant has years of experience in which budgeting approaches will work for different types of companies. He or she can also take into account larger structural spending and system inefficiencies that can save money down the road and free up funds.
In any case, the spending expectation for internal IT and IT consultants is somewhat different; IT employees must purchase according to internal budgeting decisions, whereas IT consultants must operate within pre-determined spending limits or risk losing a client.
Time Required to Establish Hardware and Software Infrastructure
The misallocation of IT spending can also force hardware and software improvements to take far longer than expected. The second IT headache cited in the IBM infographic was that it often takes 4-6 months for in-house IT workers to put new hardware and software systems in place. Another compounding factor for internal IT employees is that they are often juggling dozens of tasks, many of which must be prioritized before software and hardware changes. When you’re constantly putting out fires, it’s hard to focus on improving overall IT architecture. IBM emphasizes this point with a second shocking fact: Two-thirds of in-house IT professionals fall behind schedule when putting new IT solutions in place.
On the other hand, it would be unacceptable for an outside IT management service provider to take so long to install new hardware and software. An IT consultant would likely lose the account if he or she failed to meet client deadlines. This is yet another area in which the expectations for internal and external IT diverge.
Incidence of Downtime
The IMB infographic states that 55 percent of in-house professionals experience downtime when performing an infrastructure upgrade – an IT headache to be sure. Downtime wastes employees’ time and employers’ money, while destroying overall productivity, yet it’s inevitable with internal IT. On the other hand, many an IT consultant has been “fired” for failing to meet a client’s project timeline.
The bottom line is that IT consultants and internal IT employees face very different expectations from company leaders. If you’re hoping to complete structural projects on time; if you abhor downtime; if you hope to balance IT operation spending with IT investments, it would be wise to hire an IT consultant rather than bring on another internal employee.