IT outsourcing has been around for a while in various guises, ranging from a virtual assistant service to application service provision to full blown IT service provision. But does it work? The short answer is that it depends entirely on knowing what we are trying to achieve by outsourcing, and how we manage our providers. If you have a bank account you are to some extent outsourcing your finance function, but I doubt there are many organisations who don't check their accounts. Undoubtedly some organisations have used outsourcing providers with great success, whist others have decided to bring the outsourced functions back in house.

Is the objective to reduce costs, provide additional capacity or gain access to new functionality and expertise? To what extent does IT give our organisation competitive advantage? How do we measure the performance of our outsourcing partner? What are the implications, and redress if our partner fails to deliver. Do we have a member of staff with sufficient IT knowledge to manage the relationship with our provider? In my opinion we should not outsource anything unless we can answer these questions. And in my experience the most common reason why organisations fail to realise the expected benefits is because they don't manage the contract properly, and often that is because there is no one left with the necessary skills to do it.