Selective outsourcing set to increase
The increasing pressure on retailers to drive down the costs of their ownership of IT equipment, is forcing many of them to consider the selective outsourcing of ongoing support or specific tasks related to the IT function.
That is the message from Nottinghamshire-based retail IT services specialist Retail Assist, which is reporting a major upturn in the number of enquiries from retailers requiring additional support of this kind.
"As with many other areas, outsourcing of IT functions and support can bring specific benefits, particularly in areas where the amount of support required can vary, or where specific tasks can benefit from being undertaken independently", commented Alan Morris, Business Development Director at Retail Assist.
"The 'lean team' approach means retailers are often reluctant to add to their in-house resource, while the use of agency staff can not only be costly but leads to a 'drain' on knowledge acquired when the need for these staff comes to an end."
Morris added that the trend towards selective outsourcing is increasing both within the company's existing client base and as a result of enquiries from other retailers looking for the first time towards the selective use of an external resource.
"We are finding that clients who have come to Retail Assist for support in one particular area are now keen to investigate the possibilities of outsourcing additional aspects of ongoing support, or 'out-tasking' one-off projects.
"Clients such as Ottakar's are benefiting as we are able to gain greater knowledge of their current and future needs, while still being able to advise from an independent standpoint."
Retail Assist are now providing Help Desk and hardware maintenance support to Ottakar's following an initial independent review of the company's IT network which led to the implementation of significant technical enhancements.
Morris continued: "It is abundantly clear, from the overall number of enquiries we are receiving, that the trend within the retail industry as a whole is towards seeking more flexibility and greater added value from IT support functions.
"In many cases this can only be provided by external specialist suppliers, able to call on specific experts or additional manpower as and when they are needed by that retailer."
Morris concluded that he expects the trend towards selective outsourcing to continue given the continued investment by retailers in IT equipment, on which they are under increasing pressure to achieve a return.
"As areas such as e-business and the 'shop within shop' environment' continue to expand, so will the need for retailers to be able to access cost-effective, flexible resources able to manage peaks of activity, provide good quality advice and implement recommendations on the retailer's behalf."