WOOF! Newsletter

March 01, 2012

The 4 IT Staffing Models: Pros & Cons

Your IT Staffing Model determines who you hire (and when) to build and support your technology infrastructure. What's the best approach: full-time workers only? Outsource to IT consultants? A mix of both? And how does the Cloud play into it?
For years a debate has raged. What kind of staffing model should we use to handle IT needs?

Hire full-time IT staff? Outsource the work to consultants? Or do both? Nobody seems to agree on the best approach (not even IT professionals!).

And recently a fourth option has entered consideration: the Cloud. With the potential to change the other three staffing models – permanently!

So it's time to revisit the debate. What are the advantages of keeping full-time staff, despite the labor costs? What disadvantages come with consultants? Which choice works best for your organization? Where do cloud services fit in?

This month's WOOF! examines these questions, by weighing out the pros & cons of all 4 potential IT Staffing Models.

Model 1: All Internal IT Staff, "Local"

Hiring full-time staff for handling all IT duties. Relying only on internal employees for every IT-related situation. This is the long-time standard, favored by small businesses that grow slowly over time and don't have extensive technology needs.

 Pros of Model 1
  • Technical support is always on-hand.
  • Full-time staff is trained for your IT environment.
  • Staff can play multiple roles as assigned.
  • Speedy workflow; employees are all familiar with one another's work styles.
  • Loyalty, dedication to company.
  • Able to identify and propose the need for new solutions before catastrophic failures occur.
Cons of Model 1
  • Overhead (almost 75% of the average IT budget goes to labor).
  • Benefits, insurance, technical training costs, and paid vacation/sick time.
  • Costs for coverage when IT staff is in training, on vacation or sick.
  • Some employees may stick with solutions in their comfort zone (which can rapidly become outdated), leading to eventual security and hardware failures.
  • More IT staff may be needed to augment existing expertise.
  • Must work to retain staff (ranked as the #2 priority by CEOs in a 2011 Gartner survey).

Model 2: All External IT Staff, "Consulting"

Outsourcing all IT-related issues to IT consultants (local or remote). No full-time employees on-site (though sometimes a desktop support technician is hired for everyday maintenance). Fast-moving startups like to use this staffing model.

Pros of Model 2
  • Broad range of skillsets available, continuously updated in the field so they have working knowledge of many approaches to apply to your network.
  • Established relationships with vendors that they can use to your benefit.
  • No benefits, payroll taxes, insurance, or training costs/downtime.
  • You only pay for hours they're working, so that means cost savings to you, and motivation for them to work.
  • On-demand workforce.
Cons of Model 2
  • More consultants may be needed as problems grow.
  • Hourly rate for consultants is higher on average than full-time workers.
  • Time required getting onsite in emergencies, though this has been reduced through remote server access in recent years.
  • Rates may change.
  • Some IT companies offshore their consulting work which can lead to quality issues and communication-related errors.

Model 3: Internal/External IT Staff, "Hybrid"

Best-of-both-worlds approach. You hire full-time staff for certain core IT functions: network administration, support/help desk. Then you add IT consultants as needed, for special projects and/or short-term staff augmentation.

All 6 of the Hot IT Jobs in 2012 (according to CIO.com) can be done either internally or externally. No surprise that this staffing model is the most popular choice for companies over 50 employees.

 Pros of Model 3
  • Flexibility – task-based outsourcing, without interrupting everyday systems.
  • You benefit from the ever-growing expertise of consultants AND the long-term dependability of on-site staff.
  • Full-time staff can gain cross-training from consultants with field-proven expertise.
Cons of Model 3
  • You must prioritize who does what.
  • Must maintain a cost/ROI balance.
  • Internal staff may not cooperate with external consultants (feelings of 'encroaching on their turf').

Model 4: The Cloud/SaaS Question

Model 4 is actually an addendum to the other 3. With cloud services rapidly growing in number and capability, you can now move apps/information/servers to cloud systems instead of hosting them on-site. This relieves pressure on IT by covering certain functions (e.g. backups, file servers, remote access).

The question is – how much of your IT needs will you move to the cloud? And how much will remain in the hands of local staff (full-time or consultants)?

 Pros of Model 4
  • Very easy to scale cloud services.
  • No hardware to purchase.
  • Server maintenance and updates are handled by the cloud provider.
  • Can act as a substitute for some IT support roles.
  • Allows for fewer full-time staff and/or IT consultants.
  • Your datacenter turns into storage space!
Cons of Model 4
  • Monthly hosting fees.
  • Bandwidth must be monitored (some providers charge extra fees for going over threshold limits).
  • Limited high-level support or consulting capabilities.
  • You may need to upgrade your office's infrastructure and bandwidth to harness the full power of cloud services.

What's Your IT Staffing Model Now? What Will it Become?

Hiring for IT roles is slowly increasing as 2012 continues. If you're planning to hire, take a moment to think over what model would best serve your organization's priorities. Does it make sense to take on new full-time staff? Would you be better served with a consultant? Would a cloud service beat them both in terms of ROI?

These pros & cons should help you figure all that out!