In the headlong rush to outsource IT infrastructure skills to the cloud or offshore to other countries with cheaper labour costs, we've witnessed a rapid decrease in these skills across Australia in recent years - and that's not positive for businesses or IT professionals.
Although outsourcing can bring many benefits to a business, this rush has meant that many have overlooked the importance of maintaining in-house IT infrastructure skills.
It's vitally important to retain some of those skills in order to maintain control and continually innovate, particularly within larger enterprises. Striking the right balance between outsourced and insourced IT skills is key.
Risk versus benefit
For the last decade, businesses have been trying to identify the most successful approach to cloud and hosting services. The ultimate goal has been to align resources and employee skills with the most value-added areas - such as delivering services or applications and business process improvement - rather than spending time managing IT infrastructure.
Over time, local IT infrastructure jobs have been increasingly outsourced to other countries, particularly by the financial services and telco sectors. As a result, these businesses suddenly had people all over the globe logging into their systems to keep them running.
This resulted in many businesses learning difficult lessons as they travelled along the hype curve. They found it was all very promising at the start - things were all very new and clean. But over time many outsourcers didn't add as much value as anticipated. They didn't keep the infrastructure current or upgraded and they often seemed more focused on managing customer expectations, changes and contracts.
Many Australian businesses soon realised that they were spending a lot of money and not getting much in return, but their hands were contractually tied.
They thought it was all going to be simple and that their overseas partners were going to strategically help them. But without the right in-house IT staff, many businesses had difficulty evaluating whether they were still receiving a good return on investment.
The lesson is that businesses need skilled in-house IT professionals to actually understand what this all means. When you hand off your infrastructure and process to an offshore entity, the risk is that your business:
- Loses those local IT skills and becomes wholly dependent on others.
- Suddenly faces geopolitical considerations such as data sovereignty, data privacy and so forth.
If we rely too much on outsourced IT staff - and don't get me wrong, it's good to do that in the right situations - what happens when those contracts suddenly stop? Or when there's a natural disaster or sudden civil unrest wherever your outsourcer resides?
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