Adding Fuel to the MSP vs. In-house IT Debate

Recent changes to employee support delivery options and more reliance on third-party cloud services help make a stronger case for MSPs. Here’s a look at the pros and cons for both sides.

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The in-house IT vs. managed service provider (MSP) debate continues to be an ongoing topic of discussion with legitimate pros and cons on both sides. Most recently, changes to employee support delivery options and further reliance on third-party cloud services adds ammunition for those in the MSP camp. Let’s look at these new wrinkles in this debate — and see if they’re enough to overcome many of the drawbacks of third-party managed services in enterprise IT infrastructures.

The diminishing importance of personalized support

IT service desk offices had traditionally been known to be a hive of activity. That is, until the COVID-19 pandemic forced many employees to begin working from home. Now that most have settled into their remote work routines, receiving remote technical support is not nearly as foreign as it used to be. Employees that were more likely to “drop in” to receive in-person IT assistance are now more comfortable receiving similar services in a virtual manner. Thus, it raises the question of: Does it really matter where I get my IT support?

For most business leaders, their gut instinct would be to answer in the affirmative as plenty still believe in the in-house IT support model. There are two key reasons for this. First is the thought that some employees prefer to establish in-person relationships with their IT support staff. While similar levels of support could be obtained through remote support methods, some employees simply feel more comfortable working with other trusted employees for their technology support needs.

Second is the assumption that in-house staff have a far better understanding of the business –- and how employees use various technologies, applications and data to achieve specific business goals. This, too, is a completely appropriate response. It’s also an answer that usually ends most debates.

Yet, if employees have now grown more accustomed to remote IT support methods, all it leaves is the insistence that in-house IT staff are better suited to support unique business technology requirements. While this argument still holds water in some situations, leaks in this logic are beginning to form. The evidence for this is the continued proliferation of third-party cloud services — specifically, software as a service (SaaS). With SaaS models, companies are finding the following impacts on in-house IT support staff:

  • SaaS is limited from a customization perspective compared to home-grown or privately managed commercial applications, servers, data and services.
  • Because of a lack of visibility in underlying SaaS infrastructure layers, IT support becomes limited in what support staffs can do from a troubleshooting perspective.

The dirty little secret is that IT support staff are far less in control of their infrastructure than ever before. This means that troubleshooting problems — or seeking application customizations to create business efficiencies — almost always includes a reliance on service provider technical support. If this is the case, in-house IT support becomes nothing more than a messenger that relays wants/needs of the business to the SaaS provider.

Planning for a new generation of IT departments

It’s safe to say that the benefits of in-house IT continue to shrink from a value perspective. Yet, it must be pointed out that not all in-house IT can or should ever be outsourced. In fact, the key to outsourced managed service success will be to fill the right in-house IT roles. This will likely consist of a small team of IT professionals at the architecture level that can work with business leaders to identify business goals — and find the appropriate mix of MSP technology that will help fulfill those ambitions. It’s similar to what’s happing now with in-house IT and SaaS providers — just on a smaller and more calculated level. So, even though some IT departments are likely to shrink due to continued MSP acceptance, the idea that IT departments and roles will completely go extinct should never be the end goal.

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Andrew has well over a decade of enterprise networking under his belt through his consulting practice, which specializes in enterprise network architectures and datacenter build-outs and prior experience at organizations such as State Farm Insurance, United Airlines and the … View Full Bio

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