Digital skills and IT outsourcing. An introduction
Why you should keep up with digital technology
The pace of change in technology can feel dizzying. New apps and software solutions pop up and can quickly attract a large base of users. Cloud service providers sometimes announce hundreds of new features in one go. Cyber security risks continue to evolve. And artificial intelligence is becoming more common in our everyday lives.
But businesses of all sizes have a lot to gain from considering how to leverage new technology. The Federal Government’s Towards 2030: Positioning Australia as a leading digital economy and society report stated “small businesses have much to gain by investing in digital tools to streamline back-end processes, increasing their online presence and transforming how goods and services are delivered.”
There are many examples of digitisation for business, which show why small businesses today are using digital technologies to:
- improve business efficiency
- increase productivity
- lower operational costs
- better meet customer demands, and
- help protect their business online.
DIY or outsourcing? How to get the digital skills to stay ahead
Working out what’s important for your business, and how to upskill can be a challenge. If you want to improve your business’ digital capabilities, there are several ways to gain the skills you might need.
You may use a range of approaches based on what you want to prioritise, your existing resources and your capacity. It could make sense to upskill in some areas while leaning on external experts for others.
Tips for finding trusted support
Here are some tips for deciding how best to get the digital skills you need, and how to find trusted support.
Think about what you need to do, and what others can do for you
Businesses should have a view of what capabilities are important to have in-house, and which you can bring in when you need them.
For example, you may feel it’s important for all employees to have a certain level of cyber security training. But, if you feel you have a high level of operational complexity or risk, it could also make sense to partner with a managed security services provider for ongoing support.
Evaluate the skillsets of your in-house team and any suppliers
Once you identify any missing skills, decide which you need most. Then you can search for solutions with a clear set of requirements.
The DIY approach
Training can be a useful way for you or your team to build skills for the long term. Professional learning can inspire employees, or help you fill gaps in your knowledge if you are responsible for multiple functions.
If you want to upskill yourself or provide training for employees, here are a few places to start.
- Check local government support for businesses in your area
- Seek out workshops or webinars for digital skill-building
- Explore training tools offered by your existing software providers
- Consider online training platforms for affordable, flexible and accessible courses
Another option is to bring in skills by hiring new people with the capabilities you think your team is missing. Recruitment might be the best option if the capabilities you require are a core part of your business.
Partner with experts
You can also partner with external technology experts to take advantage of their capabilities. Outsourcing may be a good option if:
- you require specialist skills and capabilities
- it’s a one-off project where investing time and resources in upskilling your team doesn’t make sense
- you want to reduce your day-to-day jobs
- you’re not sure what’s required or where to start with a new area
If you consider outsourcing, there are different ways to engage third parties. The most common terms used are outsourcing, professional services or consultancy, and managed services. While they are all a type of outsourcing, there are nuances in their meanings.
IT outsourcing is an umbrella term for using third parties to provide IT services. Yet, it also refers to the practice of getting a partner to provide a specific function or complete a time-limited task. Larger businesses may outsource their customer contact centres. Smaller businesses might outsource web development by engaging a freelancer to build a website.
Professional services and/or consultancy
Professional services refers to the use of consultants on projects focused on a particular goal or a challenge. For example, you might use a professional services firm to build an integrated eCommerce solution. They may also help you with the installation and set-up of new solutions. A digital consultancy service can help you use technology to get a competitive edge.
Managed services refers to partnering with an IT service provider on an ongoing basis. Managed service providers have specific responsibilities, such as managing devices on your network. This could also involve supporting your business with applications and security.
Managed Services take a more holistic view of how their work affects wider business operations. They can include proactive and/or reactive support. Proactive support is important to help stop problems from occurring and maintaining your environment in optimal condition. Reactive support can help you troubleshooting when issues arise and make sure users get any help they might need with technology.
The benefits of outsourcing
There are many benefits of outsourcing for your small business. We explore some of these below.
Free you and your team to focus on your core business
Partners can take on the demands of day-to-day IT or complex projects, so you can focus your time on running your business.
Access to specialist digital skills and capabilities
Consultants and managed service providers invest in building specialist skills so they can serve their customers better. This means you can lean on them rather than having to continue to upskill yourself or your team in every specialist area that may become important. You may also benefit from their access to digital capabilities and tools that otherwise might not be cost-effective for you to use.
Flexibility to scale support as and when you need it
Outsourcing can enable you to scale your digital support up and down as your business needs change. If you find you are growing and doing more of the digital work, you can expand your outsourced support without having to hire more people.
Consider if you need to upskill or outsource now or in the future.
What are the priorities for your business? Can you stagger the work to give you time for upskilling? Or is it important to get it done fast?
Decide if you need expertise on an ongoing basis, or just for one project
When it comes to weighing up the different approaches, the length of time you need access to specific skills is just as important as the nature of the work.
Check what resources you have available
Explore resources you might already have access to. These could include how-to guides from software providers, or additional capabilities of experts you already work with.
Prioritise building relationships with others who can help fill in the essential skill gaps
Lean on the providers in your network. Expert support and outsourced solutions can help extend your virtual team.
CLUBMAP – A business that’s done it
CLUBMAP supports volunteer community and sports club administrators through workshops, online support programs and free webinars.
When the business rebranded in 2020, co-founders Terry Dillon, Mark Campbell and Chris Connolly outsourced their website creation.
“Outsourcing meant we were able to concentrate on our strengths while reaping the benefits of expert knowledge and experience,” Mark says.
CLUBMAP planned extensively before briefing experts to work on their architecture, user experience (UX), search engine optimisation (SEO) and webinar production.
“You don’t know what you don’t know, so research hard. You might not know the answers, but you’ll know what questions to ask when you speak to an expert,” Mark says.
“In technology, change is fast and inevitable. Get comfortable learning new things.” Mark Campbell co-founder, CLUBMAP.
CLUBMAP are 2023 Telstra Best of Business Awards, Victoria Building Communities Winners and 2023 Telstra Best of Business Awards, Victoria Outstanding Growth Finalists.
Reap the rewards of digitisation
Building digital skills doesn’t have to be a binary decision between doing it yourself and bringing in third parties. Whichever route you choose, having access to the right digital skills can help increase your productivity and engage better with your customers.
And the more you develop those skills, the more you may find new opportunities to reap the rewards of digitisation.
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