Growing businesses rely on IT, whatever they do. Ultimately, without communications, record keeping, job scheduling, payment management and the thousand other things we do with computing devices and telecoms systems, not a lot works!

As a firm gets bigger so the tentacles of IT reach further into more areas – and that needs managing. Traditionally this has been the job of a dedicated IT manager. That, ideally, should be a person who knows the technology you use (or might want to use in future) inside out, who would also remain current, have an eye on future trends but be familiar with the foibles of legacy systems too. They’d be a good manager of people and supremely organised – because loose ends don’t sit well in IT if it’s to keep working properly…

Anyone who has ever recruited anyone will recognise that finding someone who meets that brief perfectly is a really tall order. You might find the perfect people manager with a decent grip on aspects of IT, only to find they don’t know their Oracle from their SIP protocol. Or they will be the perfect tech geek, but unable to keep track of a packet of paper clips.

There’s also the consideration that services are increasingly online. Storage could now be spread with superb redundancy and resilience across data centres around world, instead of sitting on a server cluster in a cupboard. It still needs managing, but someone else is handling the hardware. Telephone exchanges can increasingly be internet-based, taking the old-style switchboard out of your building. And the fact that your customer relationship management software was created by Silicon Valley whizz kids who host, maintain and upgrade it from their leafy Californian campus means that you don’t have the same need for on-site software upgrades and patches that used to take so much time.

All that said, there are still many jobs that a tech-savvy person is needed to do. Hardware failures can’t be left to the office manager to sort out. Planning networks, handling security, researching and budgeting for ongoing and future IT spend are all still specialist jobs. The question is, do they require a wage, National Insurance and pension contributions to be spent on an individual who’s skills are those of one person and are only as current as their best efforts?

This is a bit of a “well you would say that” moment, we recognise that, because we’re going to tell you that you can outsource the parts of IT that are left in the building far more effectively and cost-effectively than having an employee to do it.

Best practice

In a good, robust network that, for the reasons outlined above, doesn’t need a person with a screwdriver and anti-static wrist strap on call the rest can be managed remotely for the most part, with on-site involvement when it’s needed.

The strength of a managed service provider is that they must stay current on best practice and have an eye on sector developments. They can tailor a team with broad expertise because they are serving a range of clients with varying needs, which means you benefit along with everyone else. They don’t all take a holiday at the same time, whereas your IT manager would no doubt have a few weeks of entitlement each year.

If you expect a salaried IT manager to be a jack of all trades, you could spend a lot of time and money on their continued professional development in multiple areas. The alternative is to let that slip – and then we’re back to the arguments above about the right kind of person.

The role of the IT manager is not dead, even with a rapidly changing IT landscape. Some firms will always need and be able to justify the role. But for businesses of an increasingly wide range of size, having the experts on tap without having to provide them with a desk and a car, makes more and more sense. Smalls firms can afford it, big firms can make significant savings while increasing the expertise on tap. If you run a business, we think it’s now serious food for thought.