Success stories

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We work with organisations from all walks of life, with different ambitions and requirements. Explore how we’ve helped them reimagine everyday, and align technology with their culture and business goals.

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IT support: How to improve first call resolution

Find out how to improve your IT support's first call resolution times by reading this blog post.
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IT outsourcing: benefits of working with a UK IT service provider

What are the benefits of using a UK based IT outsourcing partner rather than offshore IT service companies? Find out here.
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What IT support does your business need: 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th line?

Find out here whether your organisation needs 1st, 2nd and 3rd line IT support. Explore the differences between support levels to discover the best options for your business.
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Outsourcing: can it help you build a small business?

Explore what business services and functions you can outsource to help build a small business.
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How to build an effective IT service desk

Learn how to build an effective IT service desk and the key systems needed to ensure it runs smoothly and delivers the service your end users expect.
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IT outsourcing FAQ

If you have a question our IT outsourcing FAQ will help. From "what can I outsource?" to "how can I measure performance?", get the answers here.
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The importance of customer-led IT service desk teams

What are the advantages of a customer-led IT service desk, and how do you know you're getting one from your Managed Service Provider? Answers here.
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5 jobs your start up should be outsourcing

What business functions should a start up company outsource? In this post we explore 5 key areas that can contribute towards making your business more efficient, productive and profitable.
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5 reasons you should be outsourcing IT

In this article we explore 5 common reasons for outsourcing IT functions to a Managed Service Provider. Learn more here >
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6 risks to address when outsourcing IT services in the banking sector

What are the risks that banking firms need to address when outsourcing IT services? Read our blog to find out and for key steps to evaluate the risks.
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IT support: How to improve first call resolution

First call resolution is a mantra, a golden rule in the world of IT service desks and IT support. No one wants to keep waiting for answers. Especially when it’s something urgent, such as an email system crashing or WiFi going down.

Whether you work with an internal or external IT service or help desk, almost everyone on your team will initially go through to frontline staff. Known as first line support agents, they need to do one of two things quickly: resolve the issue, or refer/escalate the ticket to the relevant line of support.

Larger companies usually have the full bench of support available to them, which makes the frontline team’s role even more important. It should be standard practice to avoid escalating an issue unless the first line resolution team are unable to help. At the same time, frontline agents should be able to identify when an issue needs passing up the chain to ensure resolution times stay within service level agreements (SLAs).

Thinking about outsourcing your first line IT support? Get a high level quote here to find out how much it could cost >

5 ways to improve first call resolution times

For those managing IT teams, or struggling to ensure an IT partner adheres to first contact resolution timescales, here are a few ways you can improve response times:

#1: Fix recurring issues 

When the same calls, emails or online support tickets keep recurring, maybe the issue is not the service desk. Every ticket is or should be logged. With this data, you can see why staff keep asking for IT support.

Analyse the issues over a three month period, then ensure technical fixes can be applied wherever possible. When this isn’t the case, but minor issues keep recurring, such as forgotten passwords, move this over to a self-serve platform so that service desk time can be spent on other priorities.

#2: Improve self-service support 

Self-service in IT is changing the way IT departments and external partners work with customers and employees. People are more inclined to try and solve a problem themselves than pick up the phone or send a message.

Make it easy for your staff to avoid first call, pre-empting a ticket with self-serve. With automated systems, FAQs, AI-powered chatbots and other tools, there are more ways than ever to empower team members with solutions they can find and implement themselves. Just make sure people know they exist, and if they’ve tried self-serve and can’t resolve the problem, make it easy for them to contact IT to avoid prolonged downtime and reduced productivity.

#3: Ensure IT teams have the right training 

It can be frustrating to make a call only to find the person at the other end doesn’t know very much and really can’t help. Especially when you can’t work thanks to a technical issue. Unexpected downtime can cause havoc to busy schedules, client needs and overall productivity and morale.

Regular training and technical refreshes are essential to ensure IT teams are equipped to handle new challenges. Staff need to be up-to-date with new technology, operating systems and software. When picking an IT partner, make sure they’re committed to training and upskilling their staff. A key advantage of using an IT support provider is the knowledge and skills they bring to your business.

#4: Encourage collaborative issue ownership 

There are times, especially in IT, when ‘first call’ means an analyst will look at an issue then call a customer back with a resolution. This is meant to happen within a specific timescale, to avoid a customer needing to call back again or it exceeding SLA response times.

To guarantee high-resolution rates, IT staff need to work in a collaborative atmosphere. The analyst who took the call or received the ticket should take ownership. But at the same time, they should be encouraged to work between themselves to solve more complex problems or call upon second tier support as needed. Resource allocation should not prevent team members working together to deliver the best results possible for users.

#5: Improve support structures 

Support structures work both ways. IT teams and external partners should support their staff and give them the resources they need to meet and exceed customer needs. Staff who need help should be supported in other ways, with fit-for-purpose IT training, self-serve and managers with enough knowledge of basic and recurring IT issues to ensure downtime is kept to a minimum.

First call resolution response rates are a good indicator how well IT is performing. If you are having issues with this, or your staff are struggling to get back to work after encountering technical problems, it might be time to look for a new solution to improve productivity.

IT outsourcing: benefits of working with a UK IT service provider

Deciding to outsource a business function, such as IT, can be fraught with difficulties.

In the early years of the new century, hundreds of British companies, from small and medium enterprises to multinational brands, including banks and telecoms giants, outsourced operational business functions to India and other fast-growing developing economies. Saving money was one of the main motivating factors.

Sending jobs overseas is known as offshoring. Whereas, there are other ways to outsource business functions, including mid-shoring, when work takes place in countries with favourable rates of tax, such as Ireland, some European countries, Singapore or Hong Kong. Captive outsourcing is another way to offshore business functions, where a company owns the offshore service provider thereby making it easier to manage processes, quality and resources.

Some of the main functions that were sent offshore in the early years of the new century included IT support and customer service, with the telecoms and financial services sectors keen to reduce costs in those operational areas.

IT outsourcing – the problem with offshoring

Sending operational functions abroad – either through offshoring or captive outsourcing (mid-shoring is less common) – did not prove a huge success with end users. Operational costs were dramatically reduced. Businesses could invest money into other areas. Workers overseas were paid good rates, with foreign direct investment from the UK supporting growth.

However, consumers – unhappy with hit and miss customer service – and business users did not always get the service they expected. In the early days, offshoring could not deliver the same results consistently.

Some companies started to pull operational functions back to the UK or adopt a captive outsourced approach, to improve quality.

Within IT companies, some functions, such as 1st and 2nd line help desk functions are still managed abroad. In many cases, cheaper costs prevail. 3rd line is almost always in the UK. Over the years, service quality has improved, thanks to more training, upskilling and captive outsourcing. In other cases, IT companies mid-shore help desk functions, to receive tax benefits whilst maintaining UK response rates.

However, while improvements in the quality of service have made IT offshoring an option for some businesses, a buoyant UK IT outsourcing sector offers many reasons to keep IT functions at home.

The benefits of IT outsourcing to a UK provider

Firstly, with HMRC taking an increasingly unfavourable view towards any company trying to dodge tax or use tax loopholes, now is not a good time to mid-shore business functions in tax havens.

Secondly, with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) fast approaching; have you stopped to consider data protection implications of outsourcing a mission critical function to any country outside the EU? IT is responsible for protecting data, cyber security and communications. Businesses are still struggling to get ready on time in the UK.

Offshoring IT to any country with different data protection laws could put your customer data at serious risk. Risks most businesses cannot afford, not with fines set at 4% of turnover or €20 million – whichever is greater.

There are other benefits too, such as:

#1: Service Level Agreements implemented in the same time zone. 

Some offshore providers will have staff work during the primary business hours in the UK, but that will cost more. Working with a UK-based IT provider ensures they are working when you are, so you can just pick up the phone as needed and have your problem solved according to your SLA.

#2: Complex problems solved quickly 

Companies working with an offshore provider may find that they need to on-shore a particularly difficult problem. At least this way, you know if an issue does need escalation that the same provider is managing it and communication will be clear up and down the chain.

UK-based IT providers can also work with you on high priority projects, such as business transformation. Making it easier for your internal IT teams to focus on growth and customer-orientated projects.

#3: Cultural alignment

A key criticism of the offshoring model has been a mismatch between different cultures and issues with language and basic communications. While many offshore providers have addressed this in their recruitment strategies, this has had an impact on costs with more skilled and fluent staff costing more.

Offshore providers also find it difficult to embed themselves within a business to truly understand the company culture and key business objectives. While you may not think that this can affect IT support and other operational functions, it does. Understanding what a company’s priorities are, their approach to business, the brand reputation, and how they like to communicate with customers and staff is very important when dealing with incidents or prioritising support.

UK IT providers have much better opportunities to successfully on board their clients and really understand the business.

#4: All of the benefits, none of the headaches

Working with a UK-based IT provider means you can save money and free internal staff from front line support, whilst not being tied to expensive staffing contracts and other costs. Outsourcing in the UK gives you the same benefits as offshoring without headaches or extra stress.

What IT support does your business need: 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th line?

Making sense of IT support means clearly understanding what your business needs. Larger, more complex organisations usually have more complex IT needs.

Digital transformation, staff using their own devices and app, programmes to remove extensive paperwork and manual filing usually make companies more reliant on IT support, but this doesn’t mean you should sign up to complex, lengthy and expensive contracts.

When trying to plan IT support, whether it means working with an internal IT service desk, external partner, or a mix of both, you may have heard of 1st, 2nd and 3rd line support. These are the most common forms of IT support, with the 4th line a reference to external software vendors or senior IT consultants with decades of experience.

Some IT companies also refer to 0 Line, which means self-service systems, such as FAQs and other ticketing models that don’t involve anyone with IT skills fixing a problem, since they are designed to ensure customers can resolve issues themselves.

With decades of IT experience, we’ve put together this handy quick reference guide for companies unsure what level (or tier) of IT support your business might need.

Lines of IT support

Tier 1 IT support desk

Increasingly, we are seeing a shift from Tier 1 to self-serve, since traditionally, problems that Tier 1 handled now include things that customers can fix themselves, such as password resets. Automated software and systems are taking over a lot of the basic, easy issues, which means Tier 1 is about problem-solving and escalating to other tiers of support as needed.

An industry-wide practice, for Tier 1 is to focus on a quick resolution. If a problem takes longer than 10-15 minutes to fix, then an escalation is needed. This is important for maintaining service level agreements (SLAs) with clients and internal customers and to ensure those with the right skills and expertise can resolve complex issues; whilst freeing up front line to look after customers with more immediate, time-sensitive challenges.

Tier 2 IT support desk

Tier 2 calls either come directly through from Tier 1, or they handle escalations when a fix isn’t something that can be implemented quickly. Tier 2 IT service desk analysts often have software or hardware expertise specialisms, with a broad and deep base of IT systems, device and connectivity knowledge.

Tier 2 can provide support to Tier 3 or receive help from Tier 1, as needed, especially when working on complex problems or long-term projects, such as a digital transformation.

Once escalated to Tier 2, a case can take longer to resolve, which means an internal or external service desk should inform customers of a new resolution timescale, within an SLA.

Tier 3 IT support desk

Tier 3 is when it gets more difficult. Often, the knowledge required at this level goes far beyond walking through a resolution process. Specialist knowledge is almost always needed, with IT engineers focusing on different systems and hardware (e.g. Linux, Cisco, etc.), often with little to no crossover with other skills and specialisms.

At this level, they will have a deep repository of IT knowledge, skills and experience, but they will usually rely on Tier 1 or 2 professionals for more general expertise. In most companies, a Tier 3 support engineer will be the go-to person for a particular system, hardware, databases, server network and infrastructure.

Tier 3 professionals often lead, usually working with a technology manager, external vendors and IT companies, digital transformation and other long-term technology projects.

Tier 4 IT support desk

Tier 4, alongside Tier 0, are not commonly used expressions. It often means escalating an issue or long-term project management to those with more expertise outside of an organisation. Often, this means software or hardware vendors, or IT partners and suppliers.

With the right partner relationships, an external provider can either deliver every tier of IT support or work to implement technology projects that can transform an organisation and find efficiencies that managers and owners don’t know exist.

Outsourcing: can it help you build a small business?

A comprehensive guide on the what, when and how to outsource for your small business…

When Joanna Briggs left her corporate job to launch her own business, she knew from the beginning that there were certain tasks she didn’t want to handle. As the owner of a firm that helps companies to economise their practices through outsourcing, Briggs practiced what she preached from day one, hiring key skills from outside. Within months, her business revenues reached six figures.

Outsourcing for small businesses

Most small business owners have great talents but many think they can do it all, and this can really stall the growth of the business. By outsourcing the day to day back-office tasks, the business owner has more time to focus on generating income.

Entrepreneurs have long seen outsourcing as a strategy reserved for big business, but technology has now made it more accessible for small businesses too. For some small companies, outsourcing has made a powerful impact on their growth, productivity and levels of profit.

More small businesses are outsourcing tasks because technology has advanced to the point of professionals being able to work from anywhere in the world with availability and accessibility. These tend to be extremely qualified professionals (who have decided to leave the corporate world) such as Marketing Directors, Virtual Assistants, Solicitors, Web Designers, Human Resources Consultants, Bookkeepers, PR Consultants, IT Specialists, and the list goes on. These freelancers come on board and save the small business owner the costs associated with payroll taxes and expenses such as health insurance, pensions etc. Not to mention office space limitation issues that growing a company faces.

It requires good decision making, but figuring out how to build your business with the help of outsourcing can offer increased efficiencies and economies of scale. Progressive entrepreneurs realise the power of outsourcing to handle functions of their business that are essential but non-core activities. Small businesses, augmented by a global pool of human resources, can compete directly with the biggest players in their space, and win.

When should you outsource non-core activities?

The correct time to outsource is different for each company. Some businesses have in-house staff to handle daily activities, but may need outside help to undertake new projects that don’t warrant another full-time employee. When you and your current employees are unable to manage the day-to-day business of your company and you have the desire to grow to the next stage, it may be time to consider outsourcing.

What should small businesses outsource?

It is likely that parts of your business are already outsourced, such as payroll administration or background / criminal checks for employment. As almost any task can be outsourced, and with so many qualified professionals leaving the corporate world to become self-employed, the possibilities are endless. However, these are the key business services we recommend you explore first:

  1. Information technology (IT) – technology enables small businesses to scale so outsourcing your IT requirement can not only save you money, but also give you the flexibility and agility needed to grow your small business.
  2. Accounts / Finance – payroll is the most commonly outsourced business service. Bookkeeping and accounting are also business critical services that are often more cost effective to outsource.
  3. Marketing – for most small businesses it is not financially feasible to recruit a marketing professional with the necessary expertise, let alone a whole team. Outsourcing to freelancers or an agency is more affordable, gives you access to a range of specialist skills and delivers better results.
  4. Logistics – handling fulfilment, warehousing and delivery internally results in people spending too much time managing stock and packaging, and not enough time spent on driving sales and growth. 3rd party providers can handle this for you.
  5. Customer support – ensuring your customers are happy, can use your products or services, and are getting value for money is vital. Hiring an internal customer support team is not always viable. However, outsourcing to a customer support desk, helpdesk or, in the case of technology companies, IT service desk is. They work to industry standards like ITIL and the Service Desk Institute accreditation scheme, ensuring your customers get the service and support they deserve.

How to build an effective IT service desk

Building an effective IT service desk is not easy. With technology evolving so quickly, and companies reliant on a complex mix of hardware, software, cloud-solutions, broadband, telephony and legacy systems, you need an IT help desk that can provide support and proactively grow the business.

An effective IT service desk can do so much more than fix your email when it goes down. For the service desk to deliver great service – both supportive and proactive – your analysts need a range of skills and solutions to operate smoothly. Remember, without IT support; business can’t function. Digital systems, from cloud-storage to communications keep businesses operational.

Is your service desk 4 star? Download our check list based on the Service Desk Institute’s standards to find out >

Systems and hardware determine the service desk skills you need. And of course, larger companies and those whose business is technology – such as tech companies – need more support. So although it’s somewhat difficult to outline the specific skills your team need, an effective IT service desk requires at least one member of staff who is dedicated to delivering support to your end users.

Next, you need to consider the systems they use to run the IT service desk.

What you need to run an effective IT service desk

#1: Self-service portal

Internal customers don’t always want to make a call. An online ticketing system is essential. It also makes it easier to log and track issues, then prioritise them against everything the service help desk is trying to solve right now.

#2: Live chat and social media

Live chat and/or private social network or messenger options, such as Yammer, are another way to help fix problems quickly whilst documenting issues in the process. Not only is this useful within the context of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) when a problem is easy to resolve, but end users feel they are getting a better service. Everyone can get back to work sooner when technical issues are resolved fast.

#3: FAQ & self-service centre (Knowledgebase)

End users are more technical and digitally empowered than ever before. An online FAQ Knowledgebase reduces some IT service desk workloads whilst giving end users the knowledge and tools to solve issues themselves. Proactive service desks should provide these for staff or clients, to show them that not everything needs a support ticket.

#4: Remote assistance solutions

However, some problems do need support tickets. Remote assistance is an essential part of the average service desk toolkit. Instead of asking a staff member to follow instructions, your service desk team can take over a desktop or laptop (Mac or PC) and resolve issues remotely.

Carefully review the options, to ensure you are using a highly secure piece of software since some remote systems have been used to steal customer and company data.

#5: Ticket prioritisation system

Even with one service desk member of staff, they need a prioritisation system to ensure that tickets can be organised according to the impact on the company and need for a resolution. Prioritisation systems are also a useful way to keep everyone on the same page and manage expectations.

#6: Reporting and analytics

Service desks and those they serve need to know whether SLA standards are being met. A robust reporting and analytics system is the most effective way to track response and resolution times and keep improving.

#7: End user feedback

Another essential system for IT service desks is a tool to get feedback from end users. Even staff working for the same company are, from the perspective of a service desk analyst, a customer. Treat them that way. Feedback, alongside a reporting system, is the most effective way to monitor performance and implement continuous improvements.

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IT outsourcing FAQ

As a leading, global IT outsourcing provider we get asked many questions daily. We have compiled below some of them that we hope will help you make your IT outsourcing decision:

Why outsource Information Communication Technology (ICT) services?

Unless you are an IT or communications company, it is unlikely that ICT is a core competency for your business!

We strongly believe that you should outsource any non-core competencies, such as IT, Finance, Legal and Marketing. You can benefit from the expertise of others while you focus on your specialism.

What can I outsource?

You can outsource any function that is a non-core competency within your business!

In terms of IT, you can outsource either your entire technology department, or a single service such as service desk, end-user support, server maintenance, email management, application support, IT security, telephony system support, network management, hosting of servers, ICT projects etc. for example.

Does outsourcing IT means I lose control?

No, not at all!

We work with complete transparency, you will have 24×7 online access to your own personalised company portal, where you can monitor the status of any incidents, problems or changes raised across your business, with full reporting and access to a “live” person 24x7x365.

This in addition to regular face to face or conference call service review meetings, where all aspects of our service are discussed. Your outsourcing agreement will also include a Service Level Agreement which outlines the minimum service commitments you can expect from Cloud Business.

Can I outsource my entire IT department?

In short yes!

Your IT staff’s employment status is protected by Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations, generally referred to as ‘TUPE’.

Will outsourcing save our company money?

In almost all cases, yes! If you already have an in-house IT team, then we can demonstrate cost savings over the medium to long term, and also the very short term.

Naturally, you will achieve cost savings through the transition of service delivery to a blend of both remote and desk-side delivery. For example, if you require extended service hours, then an outsourced service will allow you to achieve this at a significantly lower price point than recruiting the staff in house. Whether your IT department are over-loaded or not fully occupied, outsourcing may allow you to economise more effectively.

How quickly can I outsource my IT?

If your company is without IT support, then we can implement our services within a week.

If you are moving from another supplier, we typically transition the service during the month of the incumbent suppliers contract end. All parameters are customer specific and bespoke to your requirements.

Based on your recommendation, what should we ‘not’ outsource?

If you have a bespoke application that is vital to your business, you can consider keeping this service in-house.

If your ICT and communications systems are failing on a regular basis, you may expect an improvement project ahead of smooth service delivery.

How do I measure my IT outsourcing provider’s performance?

We have rigorous set of market leading service reports and measures to help you measure and monitor this service. This coupled with 24×7 access to a full reporting suite, regular face to face service and performance review meetings, regular communication.

You should also only consider service providers that attained industry recognised certifications in the specific discipline you are looking to outsource such as Service Desk. This ensures all aspects of the service is benchmarked against a rigorous set of pre-defined standards and the best in the world. The Service Desk Institute is one such organisation.

What other standard measures should we consider reviewing?

  • The availability of your critical applications, e.g. email, database, business line
  • How available is your network
  • The number of calls answered within service level
  • The ongoing reduction in problem calls being logged
  • Financial trends such as cash flow
  • A measurement of downtime.

Got any more questions? Please get in touch if you need further help.

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The importance of customer-led IT service desk teams

A key differentiator between IT service desk providers is how successfully they embed themselves into your organisation, and build strong working relationships with your employees, IT team and other users.

The value this provides should not be underestimated: reducing incidences and ensuring that any issues are addressed in a way that is optimised to reduce downtime to your individual business systems and operation. 

In this post I thought I would outline the processes we use at Cloud Business to build customer relationships and provide an IT service desk that meets different organisations’ bespoke requirements.

Find out how much outsourcing your IT service desk would cost. Get a quote here >

Customer led IT service desk providers

At the heart of our on boarding and transition process is culture training for our IT service desk analysts. This is so that they understand exactly how our clients’ IT infrastructure, systems and applications impact on their business, and therefore can take a proactive approach to ensuring business continuity.

If you’re weighing up the pros and cons of different IT service desk providers, I would recommend requesting information about the following key points to get an idea of how customer-led their service desk actually is:

  1. Matching IT service desk teams to the clients’ technology estate

Ask how IT teams are assigned to each client. Is it a one-size-fits all approach or do they ensure that analysts with specific skillsets and expertise handle their client accounts? The latter approach will ensure that both the transition process and on-going support will be streamlined with your IT specification. Also will you be assigned a named Service Delivery Manager – a first point of contact if you need to discuss your service or specific issues? One of the key reasons clients move their service desk to UKN Group is because of a lack of continuity with other providers, especially those with a high turnover of staff.

  1. Business overview

Providers who are customer-led will be hungry for information about your organisation so they can tailor their service to your needs. This will not only include information about the key applications the business uses, but should look at how these are used day-to-day and week-to-week. Look for an IT service desk provider who takes a proactive approach that will help them manage demand and pre-empt issues before they become a problem.

  1. Culture and philosophy

We believe that it’s important that our IT service desk analysts really embed themselves in our clients’ organisation so that we can deliver a service that is aligned with our clients’ core business objectives, ethos and values. This involves client ‘culture training’ that we initiate with the support of the client to ensure ourteam become part of their extended team.

  1. Technical training

No IT service desk provider should be happy to take on your existing systems and applications without some kind of training. While service desk analysts will already have relevant skillsets and experience, they will still need customer-specific training. This normally involves the customer passing on relevant documents and, where appropriate, Teams or conference calls to further their knowledge.

  1. Knowledge bank

IT service desk providers should be continually updating their knowledge and have a knowledge bank that provides support for their teams, tailored to each specific client. They should also be interested in any resources their clients can provide that can help them deliver an excellent service. You may also want to find out whether they provide resources for their clients too, such as user guides and other IT information.

  1. Tailoring the service

It’s all in the detail. To integrate your service desk with other areas of your business and deliver great customer service, the provider should be interested in offering a tailored service. For example setting up a dedicated phone line, dedicated voicemail messages, tailored greetings for when analysts answer the telephone, or even dedicated email signatures and email addresses.

  1. Service review meetings

Finally, look for a provider who wants to build their relationship with you and provides the channels for regular communication. This starts with knowing who the IT team is that supports your organisation and may involve site visits to meet with key stakeholders. Ask potential providers about the transition period and what to expect in terms of updates and regular meetings to ensure that this is kept on track. Also find out what happens once the service is live; how often are service review meetings and will the provider be proactive in advising your business on issues such as improving IT performance, security and other IT factors?

I believe that it’s important to find an IT service desk provider who wants to form a long-term relationship / partnership with your organisation. One that will provide a flexible and scalable solution that can be tailored to your individual requirements and goes out of their way to understand your business. So when comparing different providers bear in mind the points above to help you decide whether they are a customer-led provider or not.

5 jobs your start up should be outsourcing

If you are in the early-stage of running a start up, you’ll be in the process of building a core team. This team will most likely consist of co-founders, product management / development, sales, and the ‘doers’; whoever makes a product or services a client. Chances are several people will be doing more than one job, and in some cases it might just be you and your smartphone.

These core roles will be your priority to get your business off the ground, focused on developing your product, building relationships and partnerships, and earning money. But for any organisation there are a whole host of other side tasks that need to be performed to support your core activities. Accounts, admin, marketing, IT management, all need to happen in the background to ensure that the business is run smoothly and has every chance of success.

How do you manage these additional jobs?

You might already have assumed some of these yourself, or perhaps other team members have taken on some of the responsibilities. But is this an effective use of your resources? Should you be doing the bookkeeping as well as winning that lucrative contract? Should your product development team also be trying to market the product?

Alternatively you could consider employing another team member. But before you do this you need to be certain that you have sufficient work for them, and that your investment will pay off. Staffing costs are the highest business cost of all, so this decision could seriously impact on your bottom line.

5 ways to fill the start up skills gap: outsourcing

Of course, there is an alternative – outsource your requirement. With this option you can buy in the skills of an experienced professional, freeing up your team’s time to concentrate on their core competencies, allowing you to budget efficiently by only paying for what you need, and saving you significant money that might otherwise be spent on staffing costs.

This means you can cut capital costs, keep flexibility, and improve business efficiency by acquiring each service on a monthly basis.

From my experience the following jobs are the ones I would outsource when starting up a new business:

  1. Finance and Accounts

From bookkeeping, payroll and tax returns, all the way through to financial strategy; these jobs can be outsourced to an expert who can either save you time by managing day-to-day accounting and regulatory compliance, or proactively drive your business forward with financial projections, cash forecasts, operating budgets, financial planning etc. For those start ups in a high growth mode a Chief Financial Officer to oversee an accounting team, could be a good outsourcing option. Companies with a more modest projected turnover might want the services of an accountant for specific jobs or projects, such as year end, audit preparation etc., and manage their invoicing and bookkeeping internally.

  1. Marketing

Sales and marketing tend to be lumped together. But while they are intrinsically linked, this doesn’t mean your sales team has the skills to perform a marketing function. Marketing is such a large area of expertise that even organisations with in-house marketing departments will often outsource parts of this remit to other agencies or freelancers. For a start up, the cost of employing an experienced marketing manager, compounded with the additional costs involved in creating marketing assets, can make it prohibitively expensive to do in-house.

  1. Human Resources

Managing your employees, from recruitment right through to employee policies, compliance, and even grievances, takes your core team, away from their role. Although you may have senior members of staff managing other employees, they should be focussed on enabling their team to perform at their best – not dealing with employment issues. In the absence of an HR Director this role tends to fall to a Co-Founder who will be on a very steep learning curve acquiring knowledge in employment law, best practice, contracts etc. In the infancy of a new business, outsourcing this function is a much better alternative.

  1. IT Support

One of the key benefits of outsourcing your IT is that you can outsource as much, or as little, as you need. This could involve management of your entire IT department, or just a single component such as data storage or service desk. For start ups this is a very scalable solution, allowing you to outsource more or less in line with the growth of your business. IT outsourcing also increases your core team’s productivity, not just by allowing them to focus on their core competencies, but also by reducing downtime because of system errors or IT outages.

5. Office admin

Cloud services enable start ups and established businesses to reduce costs and increase flexibility in their day-to-day operations. All of the jobs above benefit from the cloud, whether it’s the ability to share files and documents using cloud storage, or the use of cloud-based software such as project management and accountancy systems. Office admin is no different and for the start up has clear advantages. Whether you require diary services, data input, transcription, a telephone answering service, research or letter writing; all of this can be outsourced without having to provide a desk or a computer to the provider.

Perhaps the key advantages to the start up owner of the above outsource options is their flexibility. You might start off with just a few small tasks such as IT activities (e.g. network connectivity, data back up and software applications) in the early days of your start up. Further down the line when your company has proven itself and has reached a certain growth, you can outsource additional services like infrastructure management or service desk.

Either way it’s important not to ignore these jobs while focussing on your core business activity in the early days. They may not be directly generating revenue, but they are all contributing towards making your business more efficient, productive and profitable.

5 reasons you should be outsourcing IT

If your in-house resources are stretched to the limit you may be considering the benefits of outsourcing IT. Over the years I’ve talked to many customers about the challenges they face in business, and the benefits they derive from outsourcing their IT to a service provider. The list is long and varied but boils down to the following key benefits that really deliver ROI. 

1: Cost and budgeting

First and foremost has to be cost. Although outsourcing IT will be viewed by your CFO as an additional operational cost, consider what the cost would be if you were to effectively service your IT in-house. Depending on the size of your organisation, and the demands on your IT department, this might involve paying the salaries of additional members of staff as well as on-going internal infrastructure costs.

Furthermore, you will need to manage and invest in your staff’s training in an area that is moving at a rapid pace. Keeping up with technology is a huge challenge for many organisations as they try to juggle the priorities of other areas of the business alongside technological developments. The advantage of using a service provider is that you do not need to invest in their CPD, update their system software and IT infrastructure, or any other associated costs.

As an IT manager you may also question whether your time is well spent resolving minor technical issues; is this a productive and cost efficient use of your time, or would it be better if you spent your time driving the business forward in other ways? In smaller organisations you may also be juggling different roles, in which case you must ask, “where is your time best spent?”

Outsourcing your IT also gives you much tighter control over your IT budget: inclusive monthly payments with no up-front costs make managing budgets that much easier through predictable costs.

Find out how much outsourcing your IT service desk could cost. Get a high level quote here

2: Freedom to focus on your core competencies

Whether you’re a legal firm, an education institution, a financial company or a retailer, your core business is not IT. Therefore why spend valuable time and resources on IT when you could be investing this in growing the business and delivering your core offering?

Of course, most organisations are heavily reliant on their IT to do just this, focus on their business. This means that when issues occur it has to be a priority to put them right, 24/7. The cost implications of doing this effectively in-house are significant, especially if your organisation has a remote workforce, or encourages flexible working; operates outside of conventional working hours, or across different time-zones.

IT managed service desks are staffed 24/7/365 by fully trained, experienced, qualified, certified, and culture-trained engineers. With a single point of contact, to all intents and purposes the service provider becomes an extension of your existing team.

3: Immediate expert support

Not only does outsourcing your IT provide you with expert support for minor incidents and critical failures, but you also benefit from the on-going support of a team of experts to advise you on additional IT solutions. For example, if you need to support an increasingly mobile workforce, or install a new telephone system, your service provider will have extensive knowledge of a wide range of available technologies, as well as a great understanding of your organisation’s day-to-day, and long-term requirements.

Even if you do have a small IT team, you can call on the knowledge of a more specialist team who are already embedded in your organisation, complementing the expertise you have in-house.

4: Keeping up-to-date

I’ve already identified “keeping up with technology” as being one of the major challenges businesses face. Even ensuring that you are using the latest software upgrade, and that it doesn’t cause any conflicts, can be a burden on an already time poor business or IT manager. Factor in keeping up with new developments and understanding what products and new technologies can benefit your organisation, and it’s no surprise that many businesses struggle to make sense of this ever-changing landscape.

Here too the IT support provider can add value, helping you negotiate your way through the latest technological developments. Furthermore with partnerships and accreditations with leading technology suppliers, your business will always be up-to-date.

5: Agility, flexibility and scalability

One of the most common problems I come across in businesses today is IT legacy. This can inhibit an organisation’s ability to grow, move into new markets or change operational systems without a significant investment in IT infrastructure. By outsourcing some or all of your IT requirements you can reduce the need for such a substantial overhaul, by using the IT supplier’s instead.

This is an extremely agile solution allowing you to scale up or scale down depending on the level of service you require. This allows your organisation to be truly responsive to change, whether that’s as a result of your business strategy or in response to external forces such as market forces.

If you would like to explore IT outsourcing in more detail with a member of our team, please get in touch.

6 risks to address when outsourcing IT services in the banking sector

You might not expect a blog post about the risks of outsourcing IT services from a service provider. But I believe that it is very important that all parties understand the potential risks involved, specifically in the banking sector.

With this understanding we can all take precautions to mitigate any risk, starting with a risk evaluation.

Risk evaluation by the Bank

The working group on Information Security, Electronic Banking, Technology Risk Management and Cyber Frauds has suggested the following three steps to mitigate risks:

  1. Identification of the role of outsourcing in the overall business strategy and objectives aligned with corporate strategic goals.
  2. Comprehensive due diligence on the nature, scope and complexity of outsourcing it services to identify the key risks and risk mitigation strategies – such as security practices and environment control of the service provider.
  3. Analysis of the impact of such arrangement on the overall risk profile of the bank and whether adequate internal expertise and resources exist to mitigate the risks identified.

Find out how much outsourcing IT support would cost your organisation, use our cost calculator here >

Risks involved in outsourcing IT Services by the bank

In my experience working with financial institutions and banking clients, the following are the most commonly identified risks associated with outsourcing IT services.

  1. Strategic risk – business conduct of the service provider can be against the strategic goals of the bank.
  2. Reputation risk – poor services of the service provider could be harmful for the reputation of bank and will harm customer relationships.
  3. Operational risk– technology failure, inadequate infrastructure or any error in providing IT services by the service provider.
  4. Legal risk – potential for a case of non-compliance with the privacy, consumer and prudential law.
  5. Country risk – due to political, social climate in the country in which service is outsourced.
  6. Contractual risk – risks related to compliance with the terms of the contract between service provider and the bank.

Materiality of outsourcing

The Bank also needs to assess the materiality of outsourcing to ascertain whether an outsourcing arrangement is material to the business context or not. This will mitigate risk and ensure better control when outsourcing it services.

Materiality of the services outsourced can be determined on the basis of criticality of service, process, or technology to the overall business objectives.

Criteria that can be considered in determining the materiality of proposed outsourcing including:

  • Size and scale of operations which are outsourced,
  • Potential impact of outsourcing on parameters such as cost of outsourcing as a proportion of total operating costs, earnings, liquidity, solvency, funding capital, risk profile, among others, for the Bank,
  • Nature of functions outsourced,
  • Extent of control and oversight exercised by the bank on vendor managed processes – the ability of bank staff to influence day to day operations and decision making or to exercise sufficient oversight over the day to day activities performed by outsourced providers,
  • Degree of control exercised by banks on outsourced entities, regardless of a conglomerate entity structure,
  • Impact on data privacy and security – whether access to customer data has to be extended to staff of the service provider,
  • Whether the bank has adequate flexibility to switch service providers, so that the risk of being attached to a single service provider is adequately mitigated and the aggregate exposure to a single service provider.

Once a decision has been made about outsourcing some or all of the Bank’s IT services, and the risks have been properly evaluated, it is essential that the Board and Senior Management understand their responsibilities to the bank.

Role of the Board and senior management

While an institution may delegate its day-to-day operational duties to a service provider. The responsibility for effective due diligence, oversight and management of outsourcing it services and accountability for all outsourcing decisions continue to rest with the Bank, Board and senior management.

The board and senior management have the responsibility to institute an effective governance mechanism and risk management process for all outsourced operations.

The Board is responsible for:

  • Instituting an appropriate governance mechanism for outsourced processes, comprising of risk based policies and procedures, to effectively identify, measure, monitor and control risks associated with outsourcing in an end to end manner,
  • Defining approval authorities for outsourcing depending on nature of risks in and materiality of outsourcing,
  • Assessing management competencies to develop sound and responsive outsourcing risk management policies and procedures commensurate with the nature, scope, and complexity of outsourcing arrangements,
  • Undertaking a periodic review of outsourcing strategies and all existing material outsourcing arrangements.

Senior management is responsible for:

  • Evaluating the risks and materiality of all prospective outsourcing based on the framework developed by the Board,
  • Developing sound outsourcing policies and procedures for implementation by Line Managers,
  • Periodically reviewing the effectiveness of policies and procedures,
  • Communicating significant risks in outsourcing to the Board on a periodic basis,
  • Ensuring an independent review and audit in accordance with approved policies and procedures,
  • Ensuring contingency plans have been developed and tested adequately.

Selection of service provider by the Bank

Having carried out risk evaluation measures and with the full support of the Board and senior management, the next step is to identify a service provider who will perform the outsourced function.

Proposals submitted by service providers should be evaluated in the light of the organisation’s needs, and any differences in the service provider proposals as compared to the solicitation should be analysed carefully.

To access the capability of the service provider to comply with the outsourcing agreement, it is important to carry out due diligence. Due diligence should involve an evaluation of all information about the service provider including qualitative, quantitative, financial, operational and reputational factors, as follows:

  • Past experience and competence to implement and support proposed activities over the contractual period,
  • Financial soundness and ability to service commitments even under adverse condition,
  • Business reputation and culture, compliance, complaints and outstanding or potential litigations,
  • Security and internal control, audit coverage reporting and monitoring environment, business continuity management,
  • External factors like political, economic, social and legal environment of jurisdiction in which the service provider operates and other events that may impact service performance,
  • Business continuity arrangements in the case of technology outsourcing,
  • Due diligence for sub-service providers,
  • Risk management, framework, alignment to applicable international standards on quality / security / environment, etc., may be considered,
  • Secure infrastructure facilities,
  • Employee training, knowledge transfer,
  • Reliance on and ability to deal with sub-contractors.

IT services that a bank can outsource

In our experience here are the most common IT services that a bank can outsource:

  • Front line IT support – Service/Support Desk,
  • Activities such as Debit card printing and dispatch, verifications, etc.,
  • Technology Operations,
  • Banking Operations,
  • Cash Management and Collections,
  • Fiduciary and Trading activities,
  • Technology Infrastructure Management, Maintenance and Support,
  • Application Development, Maintenance and Testing,
  • Transaction Processing including payments, loans, deposits,
  • Sourcing, Leads Generation,
  • Customer Service helpdesk / call centre services,
  • Marketing and Research.

While there are clear benefits in the outsourcing of IT services to an external provider, risk evaluation is fundamental and you should expect any IT service provider to be focussed on this.

With the right IT service provider a bank can enhance its efficiencies in operations, by increasing the ability to acquire and support current technology; and allow management to focus on key management functions – such as better customer service and other core services.

If you have any questions concerning risk evaluations or outsourcing IT services in the banking sector, please get in touch.

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