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Hiring a computer technician or network engineer should be a standard hire, right?
After gathering the required skills list for the new hire, it turns out that the apparent low complexity of the network is not so low. A variety of skills are required, such as experience with cloud connections, wireless architecture for lighting up all the district buildings, database and software support experience for recreation management software like RecTrac or RecDesk, phone system support, along with having the abilities to manage all of your vendors and play the role of CIO for budgeting and planning of your annual IT spend.
A park district would see many benefits from fully outsourcing their IT department.
- Reduced Cost with Easy Budgeting. Enter into a full managed services contract that offers fixed pricing. The cost of IT can be more easily budgeted monthly, and often users have a wide-range of support options that will not cost extra.
- Expanded Skill Set. When a company is hired, you get access to multiple resources with different skills that can address each of the district’s technology needs at a professional level.
- Expanded Hours, Multiple Hands. Typically, the park facilities are open early morning, late evening and weekends, as well as traditional business hours. This stresses the abilities (or desire!) of the internal IT to keep those hours. IT companies are more prepared to deliver services beyond traditional business hours. And, when multiple issues arise, a team of engineers are available to work in concert to remediate the issues at hand.
- No vacations / sick-time. Small IT or one-man departments may be unavailable during crucial times.
- Tool Set. Running a network successfully requires advanced software tools. An established IT company has these tools configured and ready to roll-out as part of support from day one. Without these tools in place, the in-house IT person is often only reacting to problems and not preventing them.
- Best Practice Architecture. When a good quality, professional IT company is used, best practices are used to create systems that actually work and are secure, unlike those solutions cobbled together by the garage-based IT guy or someone’s nephew.
- Less expensive. Hiring an outside IT support company can many times prove less expensive. By the time salary and benefits are paid out, and lost production costs are factored (e.g. vacation and sick time, training and ramp-up time), as well as the cost of the tools needed to support your infrastructure (e.g. monitoring and remote support tools, as well as spam, antivirus and backup software, etc.), the investment into a monthly fixed price support agreement—which traditionally includes all of that—can be significantly less expensive.
Sometimes, there are reasons not to fully outsource IT for the park district.
- Shared IT. There may be instances where municipality departments collaborate to hire an IT department that covers multiple organizations such as fire, police, administration as well as parks & recreation.
- Availability. Sometimes finding a good quality local support company can be difficult for rural facilities (in instances like these, it may be worthwhile to consider a remote IT provider).
- Abundance of Work. If the position is really beyond a single person’s ability, sometimes hiring an internal IT manager that manages outsourced IT vendors and resources while being savvy on the keyboard, or in budget planning is beneficial.
Even with in-house IT on staff, there will be surely be times when bringing in an outside firm to do special projects or audits on systems is necessary. There are many smart IT people that can operate in multiple technologies, but no one can know everything. Even within IT companies, people specialize on specific platforms and software.
Avoid making decisions based on price alone.
Avoid the trap of hiring an IT company that is really just a single person, or the department will have the same problems as if it hired an IT person on staff. More times than not, doing it right the first time takes money, but saves time, money and lost production by not having to re-build or continually support a broken system.
It is my belief that every parks and recreation department should at least interview one or two IT support companies that can bring value and savings to the table.
It costs time to interview, but is well worth the park district’s efforts to speak with at least one or two quality IT service companies to at least broaden the understanding of what needs to go into supporting the IT.